A recent PBS special detailed the history of opium, tracing its roots as far back as 3400 B.C. Humans have been getting high and getting addicted off of opium for over 5,000 years. The opium poppy plant was first cultivated in lower Mesopotamia. The ancient Sumerians, one of the oldest recorded civilizations, referred to the opium plant as the “joy plant.” They passed on their knowledge about opium to the Assyrians, who passed it to the Babylonians, who passed it to the Egyptians. From Egypt, it made its way to Cyprus, Greece, Carthage, and eventually Europe. Opioids and addiction have played a role in every major civilization for thousands of years.

Opium Started Addiction

It is arguable that opium is the original addictive substance. The only other substance that compares in age and history is alcohol, which also traces back thousands of years. The difference is that alcohol is consumed by billions of people around the world, yet only a small percentage of them actually become addicts. In contrast, a very high percentage of people that use opioids wind up becoming addicted.  

Opium produces a strong chemical dependence in people who use it, which causes them to be physically dependent on it. Other drugs like cocaine, meth, marijuana, hallucinogens and other drugs don’t have the same effect. These drugs can be very addictive, psychologically and behaviorally, but they do not produce a physical dependence to the same degree that opioids do. At a certain point, the opioid addict needs to keep taking opioids in order to function, and their life can be in danger from stopping them.

The Danger of Opioids

Overcoming opioid addiction is extremely difficult, but it is possible with the help of a professional inpatient rehabilitation center. An addict will first need to undergo a professional detox program to get the drugs out of their system, and make it through the difficult and painful withdrawals as safely and comfortably as possible. Inpatient rehab can help them get to the roots of their addiction, address the physical and chemical addiction, and learn skills and tools for a successful and sober life.