Opium: Realitys Dark Dream


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Galen and his contemporaries added cautions about its dangers, but the most emphatic of these concerned overdose: the difference between an effective dose and a lethal one is uncomfortably small, and the tolerance that develops rapidly with regular use means that no standard dose can be stipulated. Compared to this urgent caveat, the need to increase dosage over time was little more than a footnote: for most classical authorities it merited less attention than the other universal side-effect of regular use, constipation. Early Arab sources are the first to foreshadow the modern phenomenon of the addict.

None was offered opium to ease their suffering.


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The Romantic sensibilities that turned public opinion against slavery, cruelty to animals and public hanging also transformed the relief of suffering from a luxury into a necessity. The spread of tuberculosis, in particular among the young, presented a stark choice between years of constant torment or blessed relief through opium, with dependence as a small additional cost.

Opium Reality's Dark Dream

Despite resistance from some medical and religious authorities who maintained that pain was a physical or spiritual necessity, the use of opium to relieve it came to seem no more than common kindness. The new demand was more than matched by supply.

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With the decline of Venice, Turkish opium flooded into Marseille and Amsterdam and was auctioned by the candle in the City of London. Opium was often cheaper than alcohol, and the line between medicine and recreation was blurred.


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  • New forms of consumption also tilted perceptions of opium from medical remedy to means of pleasure. In China, where opium had been introduced as an additive to Dutch tobacco, a new pipe design was introduced that enabled pure opium to be efficiently vaporised and inhaled. As well as providing a more rapid and intense high, Chinese opium-smoking transformed the drug from a medication consumed in private to a convivial shared intoxicant.

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    Although its botanical and medical origins are firmly European, from this point on opium would be recast in European minds as a drug of the Orient, with all its capacity for pleasure, cruelty and sensual wickedness. But the spur to the modern diagnosis of addiction was the combination of a novel compound, morphine, with a novel delivery system, the hypodermic syringe.

    Together, these offered a revolution in the human condition: relief from pain that was almost instant and almost total. By , the needle and vial were transforming palliative care and surgical recovery, but the vector for their widespread adoption was war: in particular the American Civil War, which claimed , fatalities and created fifty thousand amputees, and during which more than ten million doses of morphine were consumed.

    Opium: reality's dark dream

    I would not dream of allowing even my best friend to use them. The medical basis of addiction was always problematic, however. ISBN: Hardcover The problem with storytelling, however, is that the whole thing hinges on the use of language. Awkward wording, poor timing, and meandering digressions can sabotage an otherwise compelling story.

    These mistakes are often fatal — not merely distracting — because by jarring and tormenting the readers, the storyteller alienates his audience, so they rebuff his attempts to convince them.

    Reality's Dark Dream

    Pretentious language is his worst offense, which clutters and confuses some sentences beyond recognition. Nearly as exasperating is his penchant for overly dramatic language and halting, jerky sentence fragments, both of which leave the reader feeling emotionally manipulated. The book is too much for the interested layman, who would be buried beneath an avalanche of petty details, important only to dedicated scholars.

    For example, he spends three chapters discussing the influence of opium on Romantic-era literature, but only eight pages on Afghanistan and two on methadone. But even here, all the above criticisms apply, and the stories regularly disintegrate around their writing. National Center for Biotechnology Information , U.

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