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Addicts: How Long Has Addiction Been Around?

If you are struggling to part with addictive substances, you are not alone. As it turns out, addiction has been around almost as long as humanity.  Keep reading to find out more about the history of addictive substances and how studying past addicts has affected our treatment practices today. 

How Long Has Addiction Been Around? 

Although it may seem like addiction is new, humans have been addicted to various substances throughout history. Keep reading for a more in-depth look at addictive behavior throughout the ages. 

Addiction Throughout History 

Historically, psychoactive substances have been used for many reasons over thousands of years. 
  • Priests would use psychoactive substances for religious rituals and rites. Amanita muscaria, a psychoactive mushroom, has been used for religious purposes in Central Asia for over 4,000 years. 
  • Early humans used these substances for healing and other medical purposes. ● Alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine have been socially acceptable for general use throughout history. 
Abuse of these substances began when early people refined them into more potent compounds and discovered faster administration means.  The discussion of issues relating to substance abuse and addictive behavior has been recorded as early as philosopher Aristotle, who considered addictive behavior an “incontinence of the will” and the fault of the substance rather than the individual. Later on, during the 17th century, we began to see common discourse on addictive substances still being seen today.  “The complex etiology of addiction is reflected in the frequent pendulum swings between opposing attitudes on issues that are still currently being debated,” wrote Marc-Antione Crocq, MD, for Dialogues in Critical Neuroscience. “Such as: is addiction a sin or a disease; should treatment be moral or medical; is addiction caused by the substance; the individual’s vulnerability and psychology, or social factors; should substances be regulated or freely available.”  In 1784 physician Benjamin Rush first argued that alcoholism is a disease and should be treated as such. He began to warn the public about the dangers of excess alcohol consumption, and his work started the temperance movement, which promoted complete abstinence from alcohol.  Today, addictive behavior is classified as a disease and should be treated as such. We know that addiction affects vital brain regions responsible for motivation, decision making, reward, judgment learning, and memory. Depending on an individual’s genetic makeup, they may or may not be more susceptible to becoming addicted. 

Treatment Methods of the Past

Past treatment of addictive behavior was not always the most humane or even logical at times. Examples of early attempts at rehabilitation include: 
  • In the 1400s, Egyptians punished smokers by pulling their teeth. 
  • In the 1600s, the Ottoman empire punished smoking with beheading, and in Russia by lip-cutting. 
  • The governor attempted to ban alcohol statewide in Massachusetts in 1630 and made serving drunk individuals or drinking for more than half an hour illegal in 1645. ● Morphine, amyl nitrates, belladonna, chloral hydrate, and cocaine were all misguidedly used to treat alcoholism in the past. 
For more affluent members of early European and American societies, they were able to battle their addictions privately from the comforts of their homes. However, for lower-class individuals, the means to achieving sobriety was much less forgiving. They were often shut up in jails, hospitals, insane asylums, and poorhouses. The treatment offered by these institutions often involved a dangerous detoxification process by administering various substances, regardless of whether or not they were safe for consumption.  In the 1850s Lodging Homes, also called Homes for the Fallen, provided short-term voluntary stays to alcoholics. While at these homes, which were modeled after state-run insane asylums, people struggling with alcoholism would detox while separated from drinking culture and forming new friendships based on sobriety.  In 1864 the first medically monitored addiction detox and treatment facility, The New York State Inebriate Asylum, opened its doors. This is considered the first true rehab center.  Alcoholics Anonymous, the famous 12-step program that many addicts still achieve sobriety through today, was formed in 1935 in Akron, Ohio, by a New York stockbroker and a surgeon from Ohio. AA brought a new focus to achieving sobriety through fellowship and the desire to change rather than the punishment and shame of the past. 

How Does the History of Addiction Affect Treatment Today? 

Learning about this history helps to provide a new perspective. We hope that the realization that people have been addicted to various substances throughout time will help you to feel less alone. Although going through life as an addict is difficult, you are not the first to experience this, and you certainly will not be the last.  This history has also changed the way that we treat addictive behavior. We no longer rely on outdated, archaic methods and punishments to achieve sobriety; instead, we are equipped with modern, compassionate treatment methods conducive to much better outcomes. At Ardu Recovery Center, we pride ourselves on our state-of-the-art substance abuse and rehab programs. At Ardu, you will be able to safely detox in a medically supervised environment. Our team of addiction specialists’ ultimate goal is to not only help you achieve sobriety but to get you healthy again as well. We utilize mindfulness-based intervention. Mindfulness keeps you aware of what is going on around you, what you are doing, and why you are doing it. By remaining mindful about your surroundings and the reasons why you are trying to get sober, you can significantly reduce your chances of relapsing. 

Contact Ardu Recovery Center 

If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, we understand how difficult your situation may be. Just know, you are not alone. Reach out to the experts at Ardu Recovery Center. We are committed to helping you reach sobriety and optimal health, and we will be there with you every step of the way from detox to recovery. Our modern methods are custom-tailored to suit your unique situation, making success more likely. If you are in the Provo, Utah area, contact us today to learn more about what Ardu can do for you.