The Ironical History Of Substance Abuse

1218 WordsNov 18, 20165 Pages
The Ironical History of Substance Abuse in America The history of substance abuse is full of irony. The poppy, a beautiful flower, is the source of opium, a raw pain-killing substance regularly cultivated and harvested in the East, where it was widely used. Tragically, Europe and America imported the drug and adopted its unregulated use. Though legal, the opium dens of the early 19th century certainly oppressed the lives of the poor, taking what little money they had and offering a dangerous environment in which to dream drug induced dreams. But businessmen, aristocrats, authors, actors, and even notables of the Old West, such as Wild Bill Hickok and Kit Carson, indulged in this addictive recreation. It was no less destructive and addictive for them than it was for the poor, but wealthier people could extend the degenerative spiral. Sir Author Conan Doyle in his Sherlock Holmes story, “The Man with the Twisted Lip,” describes such places in Victorian England. Upper class women in America and England, however, typically avoided the opium dens and even public drinking. Instead, they privately indulged at home in a 10% opium/90% alcohol “medicine” called laudanum, frequently prescribed by physicians for “female problems.” It became a popular vice. Elizabeth Barrett Browning, for example, used it habitually for physical and psychological reasons. Historians, however, disagree over the role the drug played in her death. Refinements continued in the processing of opium.
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