Simanaitis Says

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IN 1984 I suffered from an extruded disc. The extreme pain of this malady introduced me to hydrocodone-based Vicodin, a painkiller that helped me through the problem. A standup art desk took care of using my work computer. I became careful of my back. My break-dancing career was kaput. But I was able to stop taking Vicodin before I was hooked.

Vicodin works extremely well on me. Indeed, too well.

The U.S. is currently in the midst of an opioid epidemic, and I sense the horror of this problem. “A Blizzard of Prescriptions,” by Emily Witt in the London Review of Books, April 4, 2019, gives details, many that I had never read before. Here, in Parts 1 and 2 today and tomorrow, are tidbits gleaned from this article.

Emily Witt reviews three books on the subject, two from 2018 and the third from 2016.

Above, Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America, by Beth Macy, Little, Brown and Company, 2018. Immediately below, American Overdose: The Opioid Tragedy in Three Acts, by Chris McGreal, Faber, 2018. And Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic, by Sam Quinones, Bloomsbury, 2016.

An Opioid History. Reviewer Witt writes, “The first big wave of morphine addiction in the U.S. was in the 1870s, after the drug was offered as treatment to veterans of the Civil War. Diacetylmorphine, also known as heroin, was first synthesized in 1874. It was stronger than morphine (which is stronger than opium), but was thought less addictive.”

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“Doctors distributed heroin widely,” Witt continues, “including in cough drops and tonics, until a wave of doctor-caused addiction culminated in a ban in 1924. Heroin never went away completely, but its use was limited to small countercultural pockets, and deeply stigmatised.”

Tomorrow in Part 2, OxyContin changes the perception of drugs, in the worst way imaginable. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2019

One comment on “ON OPIOIDS PART 1

  1. Michael Rubin
    June 30, 2019

    Cocaine was widely used into the 1930’s as an anesthetic, especially for packing broken noses, and was relatively easily available especially in hospital emergency rooms. Lidocaine and novocaine are synthetic, non narcotic, versions most everyone has encountered at dentists’ and doctors’ offices.

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