History Lesson: 19th Century Opiate Addict
The prevalence of the addiction to prescription pain medicine is beyond dispute. A great number of studies have gone into the vast landscape that is OxyContin, RoxContin, Oxycodone, Hydrocodone, etc. etc. etc. The mass production and legality of these drugs, while beneficial to some people, serves to intoxicate a preponderance of people, regardless of age, gender, race, social status, or any other discriminating factor. In fact, the accessibility, ease of consumption, desirous euphoric effects all contribute to the growing popularity of pharmaceutical pain medications above crack, cocaine, heroin, alcohol and marijuana. The explosion of pandemic use may be modern phenomena, but the popularity of prescription drugs is not.
Thomas de Quincy
Addiction is not a contemporary problem, though the paradigm of intentional recovery is, relatively speaking. Ancient peoples had their struggles with the addictive and euphoric properties found in nature the same as we do today. Man has not seemed to change much in our predilections and disposition to pursuing different substances to alleviate and medicate ourselves. An interesting example from history is the British literary Romantic, Thomas de Quincey (1785-1859).
The English Opium-Eater
A popular figure in a world lost to antiquity, de Quincey was friends and contemporaries with the English Romantic literary giants Coleridge and Wordsworth. What is revelant with de Quincey is that his most famous work was a memoir recounting his struggle with opium addiction. Opium is an opiate derivative, similar to the active euphoric ingredient found in modern prescription pain medications. The memoir, Confessions of an Opium-Eater, while not a milestone in Western literary thought, has been considered a crucial link in the drug-memoir genre found in so many bookstores today. De Quincy set the tone for the existence of a celebrity rehab! De Quincey becomes addicted to the drug after using it to alleviate a recurring toothache at the age of 19. Does this sound familiar? A modern illustration is too coincidental; a person has surgery, back pain, or another discomforting ailment, is prescribed an opioid-derived pain medicine, and then becomes tragically addicted. De Quincey would commiserate!
De Quincey’s confession is more of an observation; the fact that habitual use seemed to have been instituted in his life at age 28 and continued to his death almost 47 years later speaks to not only the adjustability of prolonged use, but also perhaps the deficient intensity of the opium. In any case, it is an insightful read, considering it was written 200 years ago! Opium has since been mass produced and marketed legally as pain medicine and illegally as heroin. It has only increased in potency and prevalence. Should not awareness and recovery options increase as well? Successful addiction treatment programs can address an age old problem with practical solutions to last as just as long!