“A true opium of evil people is a belief in nothingness after death — the huge solace of thinking that for our betrayals, greed, cowardice, and murders that we are not going to be judged.” Czesław Miłosz
While there is no denying the power of Opium to addict, that power is not universal, nor is it always invincible. Dr. Calkins book is filled with exceptions, as well as with sad stories of those who were not exceptions. This chapter is largely about those who were victims.
However terrible the power of Opium to addict has always been and still can be for many people, the current “Opioid Crisis” isn’t really an Opium crisis. Instead, it is a crisis born of chemical manipulation of the natural gift of the Poppy into a chemical weapon, used for their own purposes by the world’s governments, banks, oligarchs, dictatorships, gangs, corporations, and other organized criminal organizations.
Perhaps the greatest virtue of Cannabis is that almost none of the power that Opium possesses is given to the evil ones of this world by Cannabis. There has been exploitation, and plenty of evil intent has surrounded Cannabis in the past, but that was not because of the power of Cannabis to addict, which is does not; rather it was because of the power of Cannabis to liberate and give pleasure without addiction.
Just as the spiritual side of people has been corrupted by organized conspiracies in the form of churches, the pleasure-loving and creative side of Cannabis has been corrupted by those who, for a moment in time, controlled its sources. That time is now over, and the criminals have largely moved on to chemicals with the indisputable power to addict, enslave, and exploit. Where the Opium Poppy has been cruelly manipulated by the world’s dark masters to enslave whole generations, the Cannabis flower has never given those dark forces the power of addiction to use as a weapon against mankind.
Why call these chemical monstrosities forged from the flower of the Poppy weapons? Because they are employed precisely like all weapons, to force people to do the will of those who wield the weapon, and in this case the forces applied by the weapon are destitution, degradation, suffering and death.
The purpose seems to be to extract wealth of whatever pitifully small amount is possessed, and political acquiescence to whatever agenda is decreed, on the part of the maximum number of people while at the same time rendering them incapable of resistance or protest.
For some reason that I have never been able to discern, there are groups of people, invariably controlled by psychopaths, whose only purpose in life is the enslave other humans. I can’t imagine what satisfaction this gives to these people, but it clearly satisfies their greatest needs because it has been their behavior since the beginnings of time.
However even though I cannot make out the motivation of such people, nor understand what possible satisfaction they obtain, it is nevertheless quite clear to me where the concept of evil comes from, because these people are evil in the flesh, and their victims are the poor, powerless, gullible, careless, foolish and ignorant of the world.
You would think that people with such almost infinite power in their hands would at least try to gain their satisfaction from conquering a worthy opponent, if they are driven to combat rather than peace. But this is not their pattern. Rather, they invariably choose to exploit and overpower easy prey, so perhaps along with great evil goes great cowardice and self-loathing. I am certain that their lives are empty of love, and that although they may delude themelves into thinking that their power and wealth brings them pleasure, I am certain that they never once experience joy in their terrible lives.
But all I really know about these people is that they are beyond my understanding.
With that, allow me to introduce you to Chapter 17 of the great 1870 book “Opium And The Opium Appetite” by Alonzo Calkins, MD, in which he discusses the grip of Opium on the minds, hearts and bodies of millions of victims in his day. As you read this chapter, please reflect on how little has changed since the good doctor wrote these words over 150 years ago except in one meaningful way. Just as the power of the stone club and sword have morphed into the power of nuclear weapons, the power of the Poppy flower has morphed into the Opioids – Fentanyl, Oxycontin, and beyond.
(From) Opium And The Opium Appetite” by Alonzo Calkins, MD, published 1870
Chapter XVII: Is The Opium-Appetite Qualifiedly Vincible?
“Qui nunc it per iter tenebricosum illuc, unde negant redire quenquam” – Catullus
“A fog is not to be brushed away with a fan.” – Japanese Proverb
Under existing physical debility, so impetuous are the longings for an adventitious stimulus of some sort, so various and plausible are the reasons alleged and the excuses offered for the using of such, so ingenious are the devices contrived for the secret procuring of supplies, and so convenient the subterfuges in exculpation of the fact when suspicion can no longer be quieted nor detection anticipated and avoided, that the doctors have come to receive the protestations of parties implicated with a most skeptical distrust if not with outright incredulity. The opium habit particularly, however carefully covered up against outside observation, must nevertheless drop its veil of concealment when fairly submitted to the scrutiny of an expert.
The turbid complexion, the rugose skin, the shrunken limb, the frigid touch, the tremulous gait, even the zigzaggery of muscular movement as viewed in the chirography alone, may serve as distinctive semeiotic indexes; or if indeed these signs be but faintly pronounced, yet the vivid sparklings and wild glancings of the half-averted eye, so provokingly treacherous to the tongue and its figments, are “confirmation strong” over any and all disguises.
Concurrent testimony is irrefragable testimony. Dr. Oppenheim, speaking for Western Asia, pronounces the influence “a fatal fascination, never to be broken by any wily stratagem or open force whatsoever.” Dr. Pidduck says of the opium eater, that “he can no more break away from his habit than the paralytic imbecile can throw off his lethargy.” Dr. Elliotson’s declaration, that “after diligent and extensive inquiry he could not find the first instance of voluntary renunciation,” is sustained by Dr. Palmer of Ontario, who “had never known, not even by hearsay, of the first instance of permanent reformation after the habit had become confirmed.”
In further attestation of the general conviction is the declaration of Dr. N. Allen, one of our experts upon all questions pertaining to physiology and hygiene, and a scrutinizing inquirer withal, who thus writes: “I have known several of either sex, persons among the foremost for native talent and acquired gifts, who had succumbed to the fatal habit, not one of whom ever succeeded through the use of whatever suggested remedy in breaking loose from the vice and recovering the lost ground.” Among the sufferers he notes in particular a lady of superior endowments and of exalted social position, the wife of a professional gentleman, who has been addicted to morphine for 15 years, and who now (to speak in homely but pertinent phrase) is about used up, or will be eventually, if we take the testimony of one who knows if anybody knows. The victim is as a careless sleeper caught and entwined in the coils of a boa; the grip is that of the Old Man of the Sea, who choked to death the unsuspecting wayfarer when once mounted astride his shoulders.
Detection and exposure, though scarcely avoidable in the end, may be averted or hindered for a season certainly. A woman of 30, who had been upon laudanum for six years at the rate by-and-by of 4 ounces a day, had contrived to keep her habit concealed for half this period even from the husband (Dr. S.). Verily truth is stranger than fiction – sometimes. There is a Mr. C. also, who some months since came under the writer’s personal inspection. This man, a mechanic, having contracted rheumatism in his earlier life (for which he had been treated with calomel to salivation), had resorted to opium as an alleviation of neuralgic pains, going on to such an extent that his physician finally gave him warning he must either break away from his opium or break down under it. This was fifteen years back, and a very considerable reduction of dose was actually made through the next five years; but increasing nervousness, and a super-added debility the consequence of a fistulous drain from one of the thighs, led to a revival of the habit in its pristine intensity nearly. There is an obvious emaciation affecting the entire frame, but the countenance is anxious-looking rather than haggard The dose for a year (as pretended) has been one teaspoonful of laudanum, once repeated, for the day; but not unlikely an ounce rather than a quarter as much would express more nearly the truth in the matter. Besides there is in this instance ocular evidence that example has had its force of operation.
Opium, an equivocal luxury in the beginning daintily approached, becomes ere long under the clamorous demands of a perverted appetite a dire alternative, a magisterially controlling power. Less rigid are the gyres, less galling the manacles that hold fast the malefactor in his prison, than is that bondage of the will-power which oppresses so overwhelmingly the opium devotee. The proximate cause of this moral enfeeblement is, a corporeal condition, a physical want, a power independent in itself and able to subordinate to itself the entire mental machinery. The dominant symptom is an intense constriction, thoracic or abdominal as may be, as intolerable in its operation as it is uncontrollable in its course. This pathologic state is thus adverted to by Van Swieten: “Alvus (opio familiariter adhibito) pertinacissime constringitur.”
Trousseau (and Linsly also) has described the morbid change both minutely and accurately. “The patient awakes from his half-torpid slumbering to a revived consciousness again, with parched fauces, a brassy taste in the mouth and a blistered tongue perhaps; a glacial coldness penetrates the entire frame-work while the body is bathed in sweat; the visceral organs are painfully compressed under the intense corrugation and constriction of the parietal incisures, or agitated with throbs as if they were being rent asunder, and profuse and uncontrollable dysenteric evacuations intensify the general agony, until death, no longer terrible in the immediate prospect, is coveted rather as a comforting alternative.”
Fearful as is the picture, it is no overdrawn representation. A Chinese writer describes the sensation in the stomach as an “indefinable but inappeasable longing;” De Quincey likens the feeling in the organ to “the gnawing of some imprisoned reptile;” the Hospital-patient, Mr. B., speaking from his own experience, pronounces the epigastrial constriction a something horrible beyond description; Grose represents the sufferer under the oppression as half-dead for the time. Mr. B. declares concerning himself, referring to a time when he had undertaken a breakoff, that “for ten days and nights together he lay without closing his eyes in sleep for once, so persistent were the torturings he had to endure.”
There was in New York one Dr. W., a man who had spent all, (not “in riotous living” like that other prodigal, but, worse than that, in the procuring of opium for his daily use), who was in the habit of calling at Naumann’s. About every day he purchased a packet of morphine, 15 grains precisely for the time, or two or three, provided the money held out. “Three such (so he said) would always set him right.” One time, just after leaving the shop and ere a “fit of the trembles” had entirely passed off, he fell upon the curbstone, but a second powder straightway put him on his legs again. No longer able to provide for himself, he was receiving from a friend a fixed gratuity to go for board and clothing; but so overpowering was his appetite that he stinted himself in his fare to bestow the more money on his stimulus. His course and end were what could be easily foreseen; physical wear, penury, and the dejection of spirit incident to his other depressions drove the suffering man at length to his last earthly home, the Island rendezvous.
Of the cases properly ranging with what might be denominated the order of the invincibles is a narrative of one now to come. Mrs. C, age 25, mother that had been and grass widow that was, consulted Dr. L. in reference to some form of sexual malady, yclept for convenience hysterial neuralgia. Some weeks having passed on with various treatment but without visible improvement, the patient after a close questioning one day at length confessed to her habit, declaring at the time that for her to think of renouncing her stimulus was simply preposterous. To show how much she used for the time, she drew out from a small cabinet a vial labelled “sulphate of morphine;” and from this she poured upon the palm of her hand what would weigh apparently about 10 grains. The vial it was now agreed should be committed to the custody of the mother, and be used thereafter only at her discretion. A few days having elapsed, another visit was made. The doctor on entering the chamber found the patient sitting up in bed, arms akimbo and hands nervously grasping the hypochondria, and delivering herself at short intervals and in shrill but half-suppressed utterances, after this style of ejaculation: “Oh, dear! Oh, dear! Mother, mother, give me the morphine!” A casket was brought in, from which having drawn a small bottle she proceeded to saturate her handkerchief with the contents. That liquid was chloroform. With such materials the patient had for a good while been practising upon herself, and with the knowledge and connivance of a homeopathist. In this case constipation had become an established symptom, the entire organic machinery had got racked out of joint, there was a wasting of the body, and, as the countenance too plainly betokened, “leanness had entered into her soul.” “May a man drive away a hungry lion in the wood, or quench the fire in the stubble when it hath begun to burn ?”
A case in conclusion of the chapter will show within how narrow limits the tiger may be chained without being restrained of his liberty altogether. A. F. H., of Ontario county, distiller, born in 1820, is now just 50 years of age. A robust constitution, not seriously impaired until late in life (notwithstanding a salivation undergone in his twelfth year for a malarious fever), was an original inheritance. His ordinary weight at the time of his majority was 195 pounds, and his physical vigor was equal to anybody’s. Compelled by the nature of his business to be exposed much, not to cold alone but to damps also (for sometimes he had to stand in water up to his knees an hour or more), he experienced occasional chills, and later a rheumatic inflammation which determined on the first invasion to the hips and knees. This was in 1848; from which date similar attacks proceeding from similar causes recurred twice a year at first, but later in periods gradually lengthening and also more frequently recurring.
Towards the close of the year 1858, so bent had the limbs become and so stiffened the joints, and to such a degree of intensity had the general suffering advanced, that the victim, who had striven so long and so stoutly to clear himself of the meshy web of symptoms in which he was to be so long and so inextricably entangled, now sensible his waning strength was no longer adequate to the struggle, betook himself to his bed, and kept it too out of sheer necessity for eighteen tedious months, never leaving it all this time only for the briefest periods and when lifted from it by the strong arms of friends at hand. The doctor, aware he was about to have an untoward case upon his hands, appears nevertheless to have “taken the responsibility,” with the vigor of a Jackson if not with the temerity of one. Tonics and nervines, as cinchona, colchicum, the nux, and other articles of approved reputation, appear to have been put to vigorous service, but not with encouraging results. Among the various resorts was opium, which was used for its sedative efficacy from the beginning, but without material advantage anyhow.
Three months had passed, and the patient was now beginning to entertain apprehensions of damage accruing from the continuous use of an agent so potent as opium; but somehow he got reassured again, convinced that the same could be dropped at any time and without embarrassment, in case any palpable detriment should come of it. First used was the concrete gum, in pills of the musket-shot size, three for the day. Subsequently and for experimental trial morphine was substituted, but without manifest advantage, and so a return was made to the original form. There was found to attach to the morphine one advantage, and also a disadvantage. The disturbance of the stomach was less considerable than as before, but there was to offset this a strange sensation as of sinking by a sudden precipitation into a chasm below, a hundred or two hundred feet down. This feeling occurred only concurrently with a doze, and very irregularly at that. It appears to have had something in common with the peculiar thrill of the epileptic aura.
Another three months having matured but without any appreciable benefit derived from the opiates, a gradationary reduction anticipative of ultimate abandonment was proposed and undertaken. At this stage an ounce would last perhaps ten days only, or again it would cover two weeks. The first experiment was with pills graduated by precise differences (the largest for the beginning), so that one ounce should extend through forty days. The sufferer having become very weak and proportionably irritable by the time he had gone half-way, suddenly put ship about, and from this day forward he appears to have followed his own bent very much. By the ninth month from the first the doctor also, whether from distrust of his patient or from discouragement in the course, (one or both considerations operating), ceased to render further attendance.
There was by this time established a complication of symptoms truly disheartening. Constipation beginning very early had long been a fixed condition scarcely alleviable by purgatives or other means, emaciation had proceeded to such an extreme that the skin seemed to hang loose about the limbs very much like the husk over a withered ear of corn, the entire frame was agitated with tossings to and fro, and not unfrequently was felt an alternating sense of heavy oppression, as it were a death torpor creeping over and pervading the entire bodily frame, and the whole aspect betokened a prostration insurmountable and desperate. The appetite, which a full dose would often sharpen up, gave place in the intervals to anorexia, with nausea or vomiting or both succeeding and perhaps the oftener in the early morning. Sleep, irregular in the main, was exempt however from the commonly additional companionship of dreams and visions. After the evening pill (there were usually three, for scarcely once, if that, amidst all these vicissitudes and trials was there an intermission of dose beyond eight hours), the patient would lie in a placid dreamy (not dreaming) repose, giving free scope to his fantastic reveries but “taking no thought for the morrow” meanwhile. The most refreshing sleep followed upon the morning pill. During the waking hours when under the full excitement he would feel “happy as a full-blown sunflower;” in the opposite state with the “ horrors” upon him, “ the sensations were what no imagination can conceive, much more what no pen could describe.”
The first trial at reform, abortive as it had turned out, did not however discourage future attempts undertaken of his own impulses. One time he made up a batch of pills graduated strictly by the scales. After this he hit upon the following device: Sixty pills made out of an ounce of the gum having been transferred to a bottle, there were added as a menstruum just so many tablespoonfuls of whiskey. As often as a tablespoonful-draught was poured off, so often was the vacuity replaced by additional measures of the pure whiskey. The trial was proceeded in until the medicinal strength of the liquor had got reduced by about fifty percent; but here the familiar nervous tremors reviving intercepted the well-intentioned undertaking, and our friend relapsed, to fight again upon the old line, but “not to fight it out upon the old line.”
Having now become excessively restive under repeated drawbacks and thoroughly intolerant of protracted confinement, Mr. H. was ready and on the watch for any “favoring gale” of hope under his complicated infirmities. Engrossed with the “loud talk and the tall professions” of one Mann down in Gotham (a sort of “seventh son of a seventh son”), weak as he was, and with a spine doubled upon itself almost, he journeyed away to New York, elate with joyous expectation in the beginning, but beguiled into a “delusion and a snare” in the end by the like of such fellows as “Keep the word of promise to the ear, But break it to the hope.”
Seven years had this man been a slave to opium, and for six of these years so intense had been the rackings in the joints, he was able to rise out of his chair (for he keeps the sitting posture mostly) no otherwise than as lifted by other hands applied to the armpits. In the course of these years he had at different times called to his aid from near and far physicians not a few, whose respective advisory views when put together for comparison wore a very particolored complexion.
Doctors are prone to disagree, even where they do not agree to disagree. Getting sight accidentally of a circular commending McMunn’s Elixir, he resolved to make a last effort at reform by a reduction upon that. The sensations experienced upon the change were a wonder to himself. The tremors subsided, the intestinal constriction relaxed, digestion and appetite improved, and comforting sleep was had withal, and the frame began to recover something of its original rotundity; and now, after a five-years’ trial, he is as well satisfied with the elixir as he was at the first. An ounce vial lasts for four days to a week, but the desire (never regular now) abates in summer or whenever the mind is preoccupied with extraneous affairs. His general aspect is decidedly good, and but for the spinal incurvation he could work by the ten-hour rule as well as he ever did. Alcohol, though tried, never served him any way as a substitute for the opium. Feeling that by a strong exercise of will he could break with his stimulus any day, he yet holds to the melius-cras idea, the same as thus expressed by Talleyrand, that “it is better to put off to tomorrow what need not be done today.”