The Long History of Addiction


While addiction and alcoholism have gained a lot more recognition in the last 10-20 years, the issue is one that is almost as old as mankind itself. History tells us that since man first crushed grapes into wine, humans have struggled with alcohol use and its effects. We have compiled a timeline of events relating to human beings and their struggle with intoxicants.

4000 BC:  Evidence of First Winemaking in Armenia

Recently a functional wine press and fermenting jars were discovered in the mountains of southeast Armenia. Interestingly enough this same area was where the oldest known shoe was discovered. Archeologists estimate these winemaking tools to be between 5500-6000 years old which makes them the first known winemaking instruments. Inside the cave, archeologists found a small basin with grape residue inside. This basin was designed to drain into a deep vat. It is believed that the grapes were crushed by stepping on them allowing the liquid to drain into the vat. And thus, wine was born, and our struggles with alcoholism were to follow shortly after.

3400 BC:  Earliest Cultivation of Opium in Mesopotamia

Opium cultivation can be traced back to approximately 3400 BC in what are now various countries including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Spain, Germany, and Switzerland. Evidence suggests that in the early day’s opium derived from the poppy plant was primarily used as a hemlock for putting humans to death painlessly and quickly and as a medicine to treat pain and various other conditions. Although at this time the use of opium was not recreational per se, it is very likely humans found themselves physically dependent on opium shortly after its discovery.

1442 AD: Bahamian Native Americans Offer Columbus Tobacco

When Christopher Columbus landed his ships in what now is the Bahamas, he quickly encountered the natives. Although there was a major language barrier, the natives attempted to trade with Columbus and his crew quickly. One of their most valuable commodities at the time was the dried tobacco leaf. These leaves were smoked during various native rituals and for pleasure. Columbus and his crew took a liking to tobacco, so much so that tobacco became a mainstay of the US economy in the years that followed.

1600: Marijuana Cultivation Begins in the USA

Around the year 1600, settlers in Jamestown began to cultivate marijuana although it is important to note, marijuana cultivation dates back as far as 2700 BC. The settlers had many uses for marijuana its associated plant. The plant itself contains very strong fibers that can be strung together into ropes and for various other manufacturing processes. The bud of the plant was utilized as a household remedy for minor conditions such as headaches. Marijuana was used medicinally for centuries until about 1910 when it was outlawed and began trading illegally.

1925: Lucky Strike Launches a Diet Advertising Campaign

In 1925 Lucky Strikes were one of the biggest names in the cigarette industry. At this time there were far more male smokers than female smokers. In an attempt to increase its market share and attract more of the “housewife” population, the lucky strike began to market itself as an appetite suppressant and dieting solution. This campaign’s tagline was “reach for a Lucky not a sweet”. While marketing like this is no longer allowed by law, it was widely effective at the time and contributed to America’s most deadly addiction: Cigarettes.

1935: A Stockbroker & Surgeon begin Alcohol Anonymous

In 1935 there were two men named Bill Wilson and Doctor Bob who were struggling with alcoholism. At the time there were not many options other than insane asylums for these ends of the road alcoholics. Together they founded Alcoholics Anonymous which is widely accepted the most effective recovery program for alcoholics. It has had so much success that many other “anonymous” programs have sprung up for addictions other than alcohol.

1971: President Nixon Declares a War on Drugs

While it may have been well-intentioned, Nixon’s war on drugs and the accompanying “just say no” campaign did far more damage than good. Not only did the war on drugs turn out to be a losing battle, but it also created a stigma and criminalized a disease. We are still dealing with the effects of that stigma to this day.

1982: Ten Million Americans Report Using Cocaine

In 1982 a study revealed that as many as 10 million Americans had used cocaine. The 80’s are widely considered the heyday of cocaine use in the United States. This only furthers our previous point that the war on drugs was a losing battle.

1985: Crack Cocaine Makes Headlines in NYC and LA

In the mid to late 1980s crack cocaine burst onto the scene in the US. From a drug user’s perspective, it was a cheaper and more powerful alternative to powder cocaine. This drug was popular everywhere but hit the inner-city neighborhoods especially hard. It began to make headlines around 1985 in NYC and LA which are considered to be the two birthplaces of crack cocaine.


2012: Colorado Legalizes Recreational Marijuana

In 2012 Colorado made the landmark decision to legalize recreational marijuana for adult use. This law allowed Marijuana to be treated similarly to alcohol for the first time in about 100 years. The decision came from a place of harm reduction. Legislators believed many of the major dangers of marijuana use could be avoided by simply legalizing and regulating the marijuana trade. It is too soon to make any conclusions but so far Colorado’s marijuana experiment has gone well, with other states following suit since 2012.

2017: US Declares a National Opioid Epidemic

In 2017 the US declared a public health emergency due to unprecedented numbers of opioid overdoses. Although the declaration was made in 2017 this epidemic really began about 10 years earlier. In the early 2000s, a new opioid named oxycontin was brought to market. This drug was pushed as a safer less addictive pain treatment. As it turns out that was false, and Oxycontin’s aggressive marketing led to what we now know as the opioid epidemic. We are still dealing with the fallout from this today, and the drug makers are currently battling in court as state officials attempt to hold them accountable. The total impact will not be known for years and years to come.


Are you or someone you know struggling with addiction, alcoholism, or substance use disorder? We can help! For a no-obligation no-cost consultation with a treatment specialist please call us at 855-698-3554 or directly at 201-663-2914. We are happy to discuss treatment options and are more than willing to provide an appropriate referral if Harbor Wellness is not the right fit.