53 million people globally are in the grip of opiod use, per the 2019 World Drug report from the UN’s Office on Drugs and Crime.
Of those, 15 million worldwide and two million Americans are misusing the drugs, per a U.S. National Library of Medicine report. Opiod use caused two-thirds of nearly 600,000 drug-related deaths in 2017.
Opiods include heroin and prescription pain relievers like oxycodone, codeine, morphine, and hydrocodone, per the American Society of Addiction Medicine. These drugs “produce pleasurable effects and relieve pain” by interacting “with opioid receptors on nerve cells in the brain and nervous system.”
But widespread drug abuse isn’t a recent phenomenon, say scientists. The opium poppy—referred to as the “joy plant”—was grown around 3400 BCE in lower Mesopotamia. Bayer diluted morphine with acetyls to produce a drug they called “Heroin” in 1895.
To successfully gain control of the “opiod epidemic,” it’s critical to know its “8000-year history,” says Sankar Bandyopadhyay of the Milton S. Hershey Medical Centre at Penn State.