Some people think that addiction is a new problem that developed over the last few hundred years. However, the history of addiction started thousands of years ago. The fact is that people used drugs for medicinal, religious, and recreational purposes during most of the course of human history.


When Does the History of Addiction Start?

The history of addiction | Steps to RecoveryThere’s no specific year on record for when people started to develop addictions. However, one historical figure which experts know died from addiction is Alexander the Great. He drank himself to death in 323 B.C.E. at the age of 33.


Even at that time, experts understood the dangers of alcoholism. Greek philosopher Aristotle recorded what happened during Alexander’s withdrawal periods. He also warned of possible injury to women who drank during pregnancy.


However, many experts accredit the rise of modern addiction medicine to Calvinist scholars. They proposed reasons for compulsive drinking, which doctors accepted hundreds of years later. Dutch physician Nicolaes Tulp, for instance, adopted the models in 1641 to explain sinful behavior. Decades later, his colleague used the teaching to explain the loss of willful control that addiction causes.


In the 18th century, experts recognized the addictive potential of opium when Chinese people developed addictions to the substance. The Chinese government then tried to halt opium sales and use. Meanwhile, alcohol dependence was a problem among working-class Europeans. Benjamin Rush, an American doctor, also accredited loss of self-control to compulsive drinking and blamed the disease on alcohol itself.


It wasn’t until the 19th century that experts created dedicated medical journals for the disease. In the United States, the Journal of Inebriety came out in 1876. Eight years later, the British Journal of Addiction appeared.


In the 1890s, physician Emil Kraepelin had the most influence on modern psychiatry and fought hard against alcohol. Meanwhile, neurologist Sigmund Freud laid the groundwork for treating addiction with psychology. Experts enriched the approach in the 20th century and continue to do so.


The Various Usage of Addictive Drugs


Experts have used addictive drugs for medical treatments throughout most of human history. The earliest records show that they used opium, for example, to treat grief, pain, and other ailments. Doctors still use opium derivatives and synthetics.


Shamans and priests use plants to enter euphoric trances. Religious persons in Central Asia have used mushrooms for 4,000 years in rituals. Religious groups in Central America also used mushrooms for the same purpose. Natives in North America used cactus to trigger a state of spiritual reflection.


The recreational use of addictive drugs has also been around for thousands of years and continues. Alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine are examples of widely sold and consumed drugs. Experts have dated the oldest grape vines from sometime between 7000 and 5000 B.C. Cannabis is another drug that countries around the world sell as is or in edible goods.


Find Treatment for Addiction Today


If you have developed an addiction, Steps to Recovery can help. If you suffer from heroin addiction, for example, we can provide rehab after you complete heroin detox. However, our rehab center offers programs for many other drug addictions, including:



Despite your personal history of addiction, there’s always a chance to recover. Don’t wait until addiction ruins your life to get help. Get the treatment that you need to break the cycle of destruction. Call 267.719.8528 to learn more about our programs.