YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – With the heroin epidemic plaguing Northeast Ohio and the Mahoning Valley, it may surprise some to know that the drug had a legitimate purpose when it was first created in 1898 by the Bayer Pharmaceutical company of Germany and marketed as a treatment for tuberculosis.
According to the National Health Institute, the first clinical results were so promising that heroin was considered a wonder drug. Heroin was more effective than codeine in respiratory diseases, but it turned out that repeated administration resulted in the development of tolerance and patients became addicted.
Abuse became widespread and strict restrictions on its production were implemented and by 1931 there was a significant decrease in consumption and production.
By the 1970s, illicit production of the drug became widespread and drug cartels were producing the drug in “kitchens” or “jungle” laboratories.
The proliferation of prescription drug abuse into the 90s cultivated a group of users who were looking for a cheaper high that could be had without a doctor’s prescription.
Heroin is manufactured from opium poppies cultivated in four primary source areas: South America, Southeast and Southwest Asia, and Mexico. While Afghanistan produces the majority of the world’s heroin, South American heroin has become the most prevalent type in the United States – particularly in the Northeast, South and Midwest, according to drugpolicy.org.
FBI Director James Comey said most recently, Mexican drug cartels are fueling the U.S. heroin epidemic. Comey said to stave off the epidemic, the FBI and DEA’s enforcement strategy is to crush in the international cartels and drive up the cost for users.
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, world heroin consumption (340 tons) and seizures represent an annual flow of 430-450 tons of heroin into the global heroin market.
Heroin use has more than doubled among young adults ages 18-25 in the past decade, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
More than 9 in 10 people who use heroin have also used at least one other drug, and 45 percent of users are also addicted to prescription painkillers.