Heroin History

Heroin, like cocaine, tobacco and most illegal recreational drugs, began life as a 'wonder cure'.

In 1900, the German pharmaceutical company Bayer came up with the brand name, Heroin, after heroisch, a German word for something with a pronounced effect even in small doses.

It was used enthusiastically all over the world to treat respiratory diseases and even to combat morphine addiction, despite being twice as habit-forming itself.


Gradually however people began to notice heroin wasn't quite so wonderful. Patients tended to become highly addicted very quickly with pronounced withdrawal symptoms if the drug was taken away.

By 1931 it was banned, leaving a generation of addicts turning to a swiftly formed black market.

perfect day

The list of post-war artists and musicians who got into heroin is a long one. It starts with Andy Warhol and Lou Reed (the song 'Perfect Day' is actually a hymn to heroin), and goes through John Lennon, Kurt Kobain, Sid Vicious, Eric Clapton, and ends with the deaths of Hole bassist Kristen Pfaff; Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist Hillel Slovak, and The Grateful Dead's Jerry Garcia.

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