Drugs have been around for hundreds of years. Indians were known to have used Opium and other drugs for medical and various other purposes. During the 7th Century A.D. in China a drug emerged called Opium. Opium, the dry juice from immature seed pods of the opium poppy plant, is a narcotic drug that is very powerful in the relief of pain but is also very addictive. At the beginning Opium was like any other drug, but then people unaware of the harm it could cause began to use it more and more often. During the 19th century in China there was a period called the Opium Wars where the use of Opium had become such a problem the government tried to prohibit it. But by then no one could stop its growth. In 1803 the compound responsible for the painkilling effect was found and called Morphine. This discovery brought even more use of Opium. Finally in 1898 a chemist discovered diacetylmorphine or Heroin. Heroin was at first considered a safer, stronger but less addictive pain killer and was used by doctors everywhere. However doctors soon found out that it was more dangerous and even more addictive. During the 70’s heroin reemerged as a powerful drug but many were afraid to use it. Throughout the 80’s strong anti-drug campaigns seemed to be winning the war on drugs. But, in 1996 people have become alert to the increase in Heroin addiction. Heroin use has doubled every year since 1992. What caused the use of heroin to increase? The growth of heroin abuse has increased in the United States because famous musicians and movie stars have been caught with the drug, because pop culture continues to make heroin seem glamorous, and because babyboomers have a relaxed view on drugs.
To begin with, the abuse of heroin has increased because famous musicians and movie stars have been caught with the drug or have been known to use it. Kurt Cobain, lead singer for Nirvana, openly admitted to abusing the drug and checked himself into a detox center weeks before his suicide. Kurt Cobain had chronic stomach problems and was always looking for something to ease the pain. During an interview with MTV he commented on his stomach pain with, “The pain in my stomach made me feel like a junky so if I was going to feel like a junky I might as well become one.” Cobain’s stomach pains made him look, talk, and feel like a wrecked individual. So he figured that if he was going to appear that way, he might as well be that way. Young fans of Kurt Cobain see his attitude on life and try to mimmick it by not caring what they do to their bodies. Many fans only saw Cobain in the spotlight were he seemed to be above everyone and everything, Cobain was one of the most successful musicians of the 90’s and everything he did was seen under a microscope. With his admission to drugs he brought heroin back out of the underground and into pop culture where many more kids could see it. Also, Stone Temple Pilots frontman Scott Weiland was busted for possession of cocaine and heroin. Scott Weiland was different than Kurt Cobain. Weiland was not a misunderstood poet who rose from obscurity with the addiction, he was a clean cut pop-rock star when the drug found him. However, Weiland like Cobain was a major role model to the children of America. And as Karen Schoemer wrote in Newseek, “Since kids emulate rock stars, they’re liable to emulate their drug use”. Likewise, actor Robert Downey Jr. was arrested twice over the summer for possession of cocaine and heroin. Like Weiland, Downey Jr. was also a clean cut young man. But, unlike Cobain or Weiland he was not a musician or artist, he was an actor. This broadened the awareness of drug abuse. The movie industry brings in a whole other group of kids who see their favorite actor get caught for possession of heroin and think if they do heroin they too can be as “cool” or “sophistcated” as movie stars. Many young people are using heroin because they see their idols use it.
Second, pop culture makes heroin seem glamorous which adds to its use among young people. Movies like Pulp Fiction and Trainspotting make using heroin look appealing. The main character in Pulp Fiction was a hitman played by John Travolta who did heroin at various times throughout the movie. Writer,Quentin Terantino, did not make heroin addictive or harmful but instead he made it look like a glamour drug that mellowed people out and made them feel good. Even though one scene did have the female role overdose, many more scenes showed how cool people were who do heroin. The movie Trainspotting deals with “Scotland’s junky underbelly” and is criticized by many for making heroin use seem attractive. But, despite criticism this film is one of the most hyped imports of the year. The acceptance these movies have recieved show that people are also accepting the rise in heroin use, therefore teenagers will see nothing wrong with it. Next, fashion designers continue to hire “druggy looking” women to model their clothes. One designer, Jil Sander, was criticized for showing a “wasted” looking woman with one sleeve pushed up. The trend in the fashion industry is to hire skinny women with sunken faces to model their clothes. One model who recently kicked the habit, Zoe Fleischaur, said “They wanted models that looked like junkies, the more skinny and f—ed up you look, the more everybody thinks you’re fabulous. One example of a “druggy-looking model” is Kate Moss who has based her entire career on being skinny and looking wasted. Young women see these models and want to be like them. This puts a lot of pressure on young people, especially women, to do heroin in order to fit the appearance that fashion designers project in their productions.
Third, heroin abuse has increased because baby boomers have a relaxed view on drugs. Many parents used drugs as teenagers and do not see anything wrong with their children doing drugs. During the 60’s and 70’s many teenagers became caught up in the counter-culture movement led by people like Timothy Leary. Timothy Leary viewed the use of drugs as a way to expand one’s mind. There are parents who still follow that philosophy with their children. They believe that expanding one’s mind is not wrong therefore doing drugs is not wrong. Moreover, children see their parent do illegal drugs and think that it is not wrong. It’s been proven that parents are one of the biggest contributors to a child’s value system. “Parents who do drugs have children who do drugs.” reads a major slogan on the war on drugs. Teenagers see their parents values on certain drugs and contribute those values to harder drugs like heroin. In addition, parents do not spend enough time telling their children what heroin and other hard drugs can do to their child’s body or future. During the 80’s there was a huge war against drugs. Many parents thought that the government was doing a good enough job of informing children of the risks about drugs and let their guard down. Obviously, the government did not do a good enough job of informing children of the dangers of drugs, recently there have been a number of studies showing that almost every illegal drug’s use among teenagers has risen dramatically since the early 90’s.
In conclusion, the use of heroin has grown because rock stars and actors have been caught with the drug, because the media glamorizes the use of heroin, and because some parents have a carefree view of drug usage. Almost everybody knows at least one person who has at one time done an illegal drug. Anybody can become hooked on drugs. Today the percentage of teenagers using drugs keeps rising just as it was in the sixties. Chances are in the future there will be another strong anti-drug campaign just like the one in the 80’s which will reduce the amount of drug abuse for future generations. When today’s teenagers become parents what will the attitude on drugs be? Will it be more accepting or less accepting?