Some historic figures with opiate addiction – and how it turned out for them?
Historically, opiates have been available in one form or another for more than 5,000 years, since the poppy was cultivated in the ancient world. The use of opium to combat severe pain is linked with numerous cultures, including the Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. Opiate addiction however is largely more modern, in part because of modern delivery methods and manufacturing processes – injection vs smoking and Heroin vs opium, for example. In the past, several historic figures had widely known difficulties with opiate addiction. These are just a few:
Best known for his novels like Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities, Dickens smoked a form of opium known nowadays as poppy latex, using a hookah pipe. Sources describe him as a heavy user, probably addicted, until he died of a stroke at the relatively young age of 58. Stroke was then and remains more commonly associated with older people, although his opiate addiction may have been a contributing factor.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
The English was a well-known user of laudanum, a liquid concoction of opium and alcohol that was regularly abused in the early 19th century. Although it remains in existence, it is no longer a commonly abused dug cocktail. Coleridge claimed to have done his best writing under its influence as well as straight opium, smoked. He regularly wrote about the suffering involved in withdrawal from opiate addiction. His drug abuse alienated his family and friends and most likely exacerbated the depression with which he struggled for many years. Ultimately, he died at the age of 61 of heart and lung issues thought to be the result of opiate addiction.
Other Writers of the Victorian Era
The Victorian Era encompasses the years 1837 to 1901 in Great Britain. Many writers during this time used opium or laudanum as a painkiller or recreational drug. In fact, many people were unaware of the dangers of opiate usage or even the risk of opiate addiction. It was considered, and wrongly so, harmless.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Elizabeth Gaskell, George Eliot, Wilkie Collins, Bram Stoker, and Gabriel Dante Rossetti all used opiates in some form or fashion. The wife of Rossetti, Elizabeth Siddal, fatally overdosed on laudanum in 1862. Rossetti himself died relatively young, at the age of 53, from kidney complications related to his abuse of other drugs, including chloral hydrate, a sedative related to chloroform. Bram Stoker died from multiple stokes, the causes of which remain undetermined, but could be linked to opiate addiction. Collins, who used opiates largely to treat gout, died of a stroke at the age of 65, which is more typical in terms of age.
In modern day, many famous opiate users are actors, musicians, and other celebrities. They tend to abuse Heroin, a more potent opiate by far than the opium of the Victorian Era and earlier. This leads to more serious health issues, including a higher risk of overdose and death, as in the cases of Janis Joplin, John Belushi, River Phoenix, and Chris Farley – all under the age of 35. Regardless of the time period, opiate addiction typically leads to a bad end involving poverty, loss of family/friends, and potentially premature death.
If you or some you love is suffering from opiate addiction, including addiction to morphine or Heroin, you should consider seeking help right away. Early treatment offers the best chance of making a good recovery and going on to lead a full and healthy life among friends and family. Contact us today for more information about treatment options and how start your journey toward recovery.