Friday, July 12, 2013

A Gentlewoman's Guide to Opium Addiction

I'm pleased to host author and friend, Michelle Griep, this week as she blogs about historical medicine.

Welcome back, Michelle!


What comes to mind when I say Jane Austen? Hold on. Let me guess…


-         --Swirling ballroom scenes


-         --Dinner parties galore


-         --The dashing Mr. Darcy





Any of these answers would be right, of course, but you’d also be correct if you’d shouted out opium usage. Austen’s mother used opium to help her sleep, and her father was an agent in the trade. Elizabeth Barrett Browning took opiates every day from the age of fourteen, Sir Walter Scott consumed 6 grams a day, and Samuel Coleridge was a regular user.


Yes, indeed. I hate to burst your bubble of the romantic days of yore, but opium addiction was an issue to be reckoned with.


The first written account of the non-medicinal virtues of this drug is in De Quincey’s Confessions of an English Opium Eater, published in 1821. He advocates opium usage not as a pharmaceutical pain reliever but as a trip into “an inner world of secret self-consciousness.” Sounds positively hippyish, eh?


Had Mr. Darcy been hanging out in a nearby opium den, these are the symptoms Elizabeth Bennett should’ve looked for:



·         Red or glazed eyes


·         Confusion


·         Slurred or rapid speech


·         Loss of appetite


·         Apathy or depression


·         Frequent headaches


·         Insomnia


While Jane Austen preferred to write of dances and dinners, I dove into the seamier side of things and made the hero in A Heart Deceived a recovering opium addict. Why?

Because addiction is a contemporary problem with historical roots.



It’s just as hard for my fictional character Ethan to turn down a bottle of laudanum as it is for a real person today to pass on a hit of meth. With God’s help, it can be done—which is exactly what Ethan discovers.


So take care, gentlewomen, when searching out your Mr. Right. Opiates have been around since the days of Pharaoh, and are likely here to stay.


Interested in Ethan’s story? Check out A Heart Deceived.

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A Heart Deceived is available by David C. Cook and at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and ChristianBook. Keep up with the exploits of Michelle Griep at Writer Off the Leash, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
 

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