Optimism is the opium of the people - Milan Kundera


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The 19th century book that spawned the opioid crisis

In 1804, a 19-year-old Oxford University undergraduate named Thomas De Quincey swallowed a prescribed dose of opium to relieve excruciating rheumatic pain. He was never the same.

“Oh! Heavens!” he wrote of the experience in the first modern drug memoir, Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, published in 1821. “What an upheaving, from its lowest depths, of the inner spirit! What an apocalypse of the world within me!”

That the drug took away his physical pain was “a trifle,” De Quincey asserted, compared to “the immensity of those positive effects which had opened before me.”

Over the next eight years, De Quincey used opium to heighten his enjoyment of books, music,…

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Last Updated : Friday, December 2, 2022