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First Coast Connect: Opioid Addiction Has Long History

Kevin Meerschaert

  Amidst the recent dramatic rise in opiate addictions and overdoses, a Jacksonville author says it’s not hard to see how we got here by looking back over the last hundred years.

University of North Florida history Professor David Courtwright has long studied the use of drugs in the U.S. Thirty-five years ago, he authored “Dark Paradise: A History of Opiate Addiction in America.” It focused on the narcotics scourge of the late 1800’s. Recently, he’s focused on today’s opioid crisis.

He has spoken about the epidemic more than two dozen times the past year across the country, including at a congressional hearing.      

Appearing on WJCT’s “First Coast Connect” Tuesday, Courtwright said the use of opiate drugs is on the rise because of doctors’ feeling the pressure to ease patients’ pain.

In December 1995,the FDA approved prescription Oxycontin for non-terminal patients. Courtwright said for every year after that, the number of cases of opioid addiction and overdose death has steadily increased.

“My own view is that it is primarily a problem of supply and an increasing demand,” he said.

Last year in Jacksonville alone there were more than 500 overdose-related deaths and 3,400 calls to fire and rescue for suspected overdoses.