GR Man’s Find Recalls Dark Time In American History
A Grand Rapids man found an old vial from over 100 years ago while renovating his house recently. And while the substance inside had dried up, it was a reminder that America, and the world for that matter, used to have a problem.
In fact, we still have a problem with this substance, for it was a vial of Laudanum or basically liquid opium.
If you ever watched the Netflix series 'Peaky Blinders', or the HBO classic, 'Deadwood', you'll recognize the vial of Laudanum as a plot point for characters who were addicted to the pain relief that came with it.
The man, who goes by "pete_pete_pete" on Reddit posted a photo of Laudanum bottle he found in the basement of the Midtown home he is renovating.
It was pretty common place back in the late 1800's and early 1900's to purchase this substance over the counter, and that was the problem.
One of the commenters linked to this story in Smithsonian magazine that recalls America's first big opioid crisis, which reached a peak when soldiers returning from the Civil War became heavily addicted to the pain killer morphine and its by-products like Laudanum.
Yup, long before the Sackler family introduced Oxycontin to the world, we had Laudanum.
By 1895, morphine and opium powders, like OxyContin and other prescription opioids today, had led to an addiction epidemic that affected roughly 1 in 200 Americans. Before 1900, the typical opiate addict in America was an upper-class or middle-class white woman. Today, doctors are re-learning lessons their predecessors learned more than a lifetime ago.
Eventually laws were passed to ban opiates being sold over the counter, which drove addicts to the streets, and the price of black market heroin up.
One commenter, the 'HorribleHistorian' said it's a rare find:
Laudanum was an extremely addictive form of opium that was used for a wide variety of purposes. If you want to know more about what this drug actually felt like, I recommend reading Thomas de Quincey's Confessions of an English Opium-Eater.
I'm sure Thomas Shelby would agree, seeing how he is always knocking a vial or two on 'Peaky Blinders'.
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