Heroin has become practically synonymous with our culture with addictive “hard drugs.” It was introduced as a medication in 1898. Withdrawals experienced by heroin-treated patients were already noted by 1902, with some of the first admissions for heroin addiction seen by 1910. In 1924, the dangers of heroin were so well-known that all possession for any purpose was banned in the United States. Nevertheless, the sheer addictive potential of heroin continued to propel the drug’s rise, even in the face of opium shortages during World War II and increasing penalties for possession.

Throughout the 1960s and ’70s, this crisis spread even further, with hundreds of thousands of people becoming addicted to heroin and young celebrities such as Janis Joplin dying early deaths from overdoses. Today, heroin continues to pose a significant threat in the United States as the crackdown on prescription opioids has spurred many drug users to turn to even more dangerous street drugs. Heroin addiction is recognized as a public health crisis – one with no end in sight.



Heinrich Dreser, head of the pharmacological laboratory at Bayer Company, presents heroin as a new cough, chest, and lung medicine to the Congress of German Naturalists and Physicians.

Source: http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2012/02/the-pharmaceutical-company-bayer-coined-the-name-heroin-and-marketed-the-drug-as-a-non-addictive-cough-medicine/


Signs of Addiction

Physicians begin noticing that heroin patients experience withdrawals similar to morphine withdrawals, suggesting the high likelihood of addiction.

Source: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/heroin/etc/history.html


First Admission for Addiction

Bellevue Hospital in New York has its first admission for heroin addiction.

Source: http://www.providencejournal.com/article/20150501/OPINION/150509935


Illegal Heroin

Under the Heroin Act, manufacturing, possessing, and importing heroin become illegal, even for medical purposes.

Source: https://www.naabt.org/laws.cfm


World War II Reduces Heroin Supply

World War II limits opium and heroin supplies in the U.S. Addicts turn to prescription drugs and other substances.

Source: http://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/pdf/10.2105/AJPH.62.7.995


Punishment for Possession

Possession of heroin becomes a felony that is punishable by two to 10 years in prison.

Source: http://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/pdf/10.2105/AJPH.62.7.995


Early Peak of Heroin Addiction in the U.S.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that there are an estimated 242,000 heroin addicts in the U.S.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/1986/09/13/nyregion/growth-in-heroin-use-ending-as-city-users-turn-to-crack.html?pagewanted=all


Janis Joplin Dies


Singer Janis Joplin, 27, dies from a heroin overdose. Her death, among a handful of other musicians who died much to soon, marked an end to the peace and love era. Media in the 1960's glamorized drug use, and Joplin's death was a sobering reminder of the tragedy of addiction.

Source: http://www.drugs.com/celebrity_deaths.html


Nixon's War on Drugs

President Nixon speaks to Congress about the levels of drug abuse in the U.S. In his address, he calls on Congress to amend the Narcotic Addict Rehabilitation Act of 1966 to include methadone as a heroin rehabilitation method.

Source: http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=3048


Addiction doubles

Since the peak of heroin addiction in the late 1960's, the number of heroin addicts more than doubles: There are 558,000 addicts in the U.S.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/1986/09/13/nyregion/growth-in-heroin-use-ending-as-city-users-turn-to-crack.html?pagewanted=all


Usage Declines

From 1974 to 1975, heroin usage among 12th-graders declines from 1% to .5%. Usage rates stabilize into the early 1990s.

Source: http://monitoringthefuture.org/pubs/monographs/vol2_2001.pdf


New York Addicts

There are 500,000 heroin addicts in the U.S., and 200,000 of them are in New York City. The heroin epidemic of the 1960's and 70's mainly affected inner-city neighborhoods, particularly Harlem, and the Lower East Side of New York City. Today, the problem has migrated from the inner-cites to suburban midde-class neighborhoods.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/1986/09/13/nyregion/growth-in-heroin-use-ending-as-city-users-turn-to-crack.html?pagewanted=all


Kurt Cobain Dies


Kurt Cobain, 27, is found dead in his Seattle home. Although his death was ruled a suicide, Cobain had heroin in his system. His heroin "kit" was pictured in police evidence photos. Cobain's death was a grim reminder of the agony of heroin addiction, and his notoriety helped bring the issue of addiction to the national forefront.

Source: http://www.drugs.com/celebrity_deaths.html, http://www.cbsnews.com/pictures/new-kurt-cobain-death-scene-photos/14/

Popularity surge

Starting in 1994, the usage of heroin begins to surge. Usage nearly tripled between 1994 and 1997 alone.

Source: https://www.ncjrs.gov/ondcppubs/publications/policy/99ndcs/ii-g.html


Heroin Chic


President Bill Clinton denounces the newest fashion trend of "heroin chic," in which models are depicted as strung-out on heroin. The "heroin chic" fashion craze glamorizes heroin addiction, indicating the growing prevalence of heroin use in the country.

Source: http://www.cnn.com/ALLPOLITICS/1997/05/21/clinton.mayors/


Spending Billions in Heroin

According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Americans spent more than $10 billion in heroin in 2000. This showed a remarkable increase, and a sign of the growing heroin epidemic in the U.S.

Source: https://www.ncjrs.gov/ondcppubs/publications/pdf/american_users_spend_2002.pdf


DEA Seizures

The DEA seizes 30,245 pounds of heroin in operations around the world.

Source: https://www.deamuseum.org/ccp/opium/production-distribution.html


Cory Monteith Dies


"Glee" actor Cory Monteith dies at 31 from mixing heroin and alcohol. His death would fuel the growing media coverage regarding the country's heroin crisis.

Source: http://www.drugs.com/celebrity_deaths.html

Death Rates Climb

From 2002 to 2013, heroin-related overdose deaths nearly quadrupled, according to the CDC.

Source: http://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/heroin/


Philip Seymour Hoffman Dies


Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman dies at the age of 46 from acute mixed drug intoxication. Heroin was among the drugs found in Hoffman's system, according to the New York City medical examiner's office. Hoffman had remained clean and sober for nearly 23 years, but had recently relapsed. His death would be a stark reminder of the insidiousness of the disease of addiction.

Source: http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20792044,00.html

Heroin Crisis

Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin declares the state to be in a "full-blown heroin crisis." According to the New York Times, Shumlin appears to be the first governor to use his entire State of the State address to focus on drug addiction and its costs.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/09/us/in-annual-speech-vermont-governor-shifts-focus-to-drug-abuse.html


Heroin Epidemic

Heroin death rates are increasing at alarming rates, according to the CDC. This may be attributed to the fact that heroin is a cheaper, easier alternative to expensive prescription painkillers; those addicted to opioid painkillers are 40 times more likely to abuse heroin.

Source: http://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2015/p0707-heroin-epidemic.html

Big Bust

In New York, DEA authorities seize more than 150 pounds of heroin originating from Mexico.

Source: https://www.bostonglobe.com/news/nation/2015/05/19/nyc-heroin-bust-called-largest-ever/owjkg6UsIuC0A576Paah6I/story.html

Presidential Support


The heroin and prescription drug abuse epidemic prompts the Obama administration to announce a $133 million initiative. The goals: to provide better access to drug treatment and to enhance training for doctors prescribing opiate painkillers.

Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/white-house-announces-new-steps-to-combat-heroin-prescription-drug-abuse/2015/10/21/e454f8fa-7800-11e5-a958-d889faf561dc_story.html


Presidential Debate


During a presidential debate, Bernie Sanders and Hilary Clinton discuss the importance of treating heroin addiction as a health issue, rather than as a crime. The issue was brought up in the debate because of the increasing heroin epidemic in the U.S.

Source: http://therespectabilityreport.org/2016/01/18/focus-on-heroin-drug-addiction-mental-health-treatment-at-fourth-democratic-debate/