Academic journal article et Cetera

Opium: A History

Academic journal article et Cetera

Opium: A History

Article excerpt

Martin Booth. Opium: A History. New York: St. Martin's, 1998.

English author Martin Booth has written a nearly complete history of opium, the substance from which morphine and heroin are derived. In this book you will find that as far back as Hippocrates opium was used to alleviate physical suffering. By the nineteenth century it had become a staple in patent medicines and was being taken recreationally for its languid, stupor-like effects. Thomas DeQuincey sang its praises and detailed the horrors of addiction in Confessions of an English Opium Eater (1821). Other Romantic writers such as Samuel Taylor Coleridge were also users.

With the isolation in 1803 of morphine, the principal ingredient of opium, and the invention of the hypodermic syringe in 1853, the stage was set for an addiction epidemic. It came with the Civil War when so many wounded soldiers were given "God's Own Medicine" that their ensuing addiction came to be called "Soldier's Disease." But there was an even more addictive form of opium on the horizon. In 1874, a London pharmacist searching for a non-addictive alternative to morphine discovered a derivative of that substance that was labeled diacetylmorphine. It languished in the labs until 1898 when Bayer pharmaceuticals decided to market the drug as a cough suppressant. …

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