Town Historian Dr. Richard Hull gave presentation on local history of substance abuse
Warwick has 'had to confront the scourge of drugs and addiction for probably 300 years'


Photo by Roger Gavan Town of Warwick Historian Dr. Richard Hull gave a presentation on the local history of substance abuse at The Warwick Valley Prevention Coalition meeting held Feb. 28 at the Warwick Valley Community Center.

WARWICK — The history of substance abuse in the Warwick Valley can be traced back to the 18th century when alcohol was a problem.
In the 1880s Freud extolled cocaine and erroneously suggested it could serve as a suppressant for morphine addiction.
And Coca-Cola, containing significant amounts of cocaine, was first marketed in the 1890s and early 20th century as a health beverage.
'Nothing new'On Thursday evening, Feb. 28, Town of Warwick Historian Dr. Richard Hull offered these facts during a presentation on the local history of substance abuse at Warwick Valley Prevention Coalition meeting held at the Warwick Valley Community Center.
"Warwick's communities, its families, and individuals," said Hull, "have had to confront the scourge of drugs and addiction for probably 300 years. The current opioid epidemic is nothing new and while history may not repeat itself exactly there is a certain rhythm to it."
Undermining 'morale and trust'He explained that for many generations, religious, social and cultural institutions have struggled to deal with this phenomenon, a scourge that seems to inevitably test and corrode core community values and undermine kinship morale and interpersonal trust within families, at the workplace and in civic life.
"We are again in the midst of such an epidemic," said Hull, "and it is severely testing our collective ethos, identity and integrity as a coherent, productive, healthy and caring society."
He pointed out that we have suffered a series of drug epidemics before, including alcohol, morphine, cocaine, heroin, and medical opioid.
And though we have survived them, we have failed to overcome and eliminate the causes of these events.
'A more candid community conversation' What makes the current scourge different, he explained, is its scale and complexity as well as the social-economic and cultural forces that are driving or fueling it.
"But I am optimistic," said Hull, "that we are winning this war not only because of an historically unprecedented wider and deeper public understanding of its causes but because of the new cutting-edge strategies that are being employed to fight it. In the past, our community did not engage in a broader and more candid conversation about drug abuse."
He added that the stigma of addiction drove the problem into dark corners and closed doors.
"We were unable or unwilling to put this constantly recurring problem in some kind of historical context," said Hull. "I believe that due to more synergistic approaches we are rapidly acquiring and implementing the tools to determine the causes, contain the contagion, identify the purveyors and treat its victims of this current opioid crisis. Nevertheless, drug substance abuse has been with humankind for centuries and we must work vigilantly and proactively for the next iteration of it."
'The next iteration'Although Hull is confident that the current opioid epidemic can be brought under control, he believes the problem of drug addiction will likely return with the inevitable introduction of new, probably deadlier and equally addictive drugs.
"The new vaping phenomenon," he said, "is just one example of this."
Roger Gavan