Over the course of history, trends of the use and abuse of substances in the United States have changed modestly. Drugs are everywhere, legal and illegal, and have had a major impact on society past and present. This paper will discuss the past and present uses of substances, the ways in which American culture encourages and supports drug use and abuse, and the cultural appropriateness of using narcotics for medicinal purposes. The paper will also address how and why substance abuse creates significant health problems in the United States.
For thousands of years humans have used drugs in some form or another. "Human beings have always had a desire to eat or drink substances that make them feel relaxed, stimulated, or euphoric" (Drug Rehab, 2002). Early Egyptians drank wine sometime around 3500 B.C. and marijuana was used for medicinal purposes as early as 2737 B.C. According to our text, "the Chinese eventually banned its use because of the plant's unpredictable intoxicating effects" (Carroll, 2000).
Recreational drugs such as caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine have been around through history and are nearly accepted by all societies today. Several other substances were used hundreds of years ago by many different cultures and civilizations. "South and Central Americans Indians made many prehistoric discoveries of drug-bearing plantsÃ¢ÂÂ¦Pre-Colombian Mexicans used many substances, from tobacco to mind-expanding (hallucinogenic) plants, in their medicinal collections" (Drug Rehab, 2002). Sacred mushrooms were the most captivating of the substances, which altered states of mind and were used in religious ceremonies. Prior to the 19th century, all substances were natural with no refinement and specific compounds or drugs, had not been extracted.
During the 19th century many new drugs were discovered and used for a range of illnesses. New drugs such as cocaine, morphine, and laudanum were unregulated and prescribed by physicians.