On this date in 1909, Congress passed the first U.S. law prohibiting the manufacture and sale of opium, an addictive narcotic drug. For many centuries, opium had been used in the Middle and Far East as a painkiller. Beginning in the 18th century, it gained popularity in Europe and the colonies, and eventually became a main ingredient in the patent medicines that patients could easily obtain without a prescription. Wounded Civil War soldiers often received morphine, an opium derivative, for extreme pain. Many people became addicted to opium and its derivatives of laudanum, paregoric (a drug to treat diarrhea) and morphine and, in the 20th century, heroin. By 1900, more than 200,000 Americans were addicted to opium and its derivatives.
Copyright Aetna InteliHealth, Inc., 2012. All rights reserved.