Opiates have gone by many names in their millennia-long entanglement with humans, in an ever-refined chain of pleasure: poppy tears, opium, heroin, morphine. With the advent of synthetic opiates like fentanyl, we’re seeing addiction and devastation on a scale unmatched in the 5,000-year history of the drug—but also a return to some of the same patterns and failed attempts at regulation that have haunted our efforts to control it. Cultural historian Lucy Inglis tells the painful, pain-fighting story of opium, and how its history is really our history—from trade and war to medicine and money.
Go beyond the episode:
- Lucy Inglis’s Milk of Paradise: A History of Opium
- “Opioids and Paternalism” by David Brown, considers how doctors and patients need to find a new way to think about pain
- “The Family That Built an Empire of Pain” by Patrick Radden Keefe, profiles the Sackler family, owners of Purdue Pharma—the makers of OxyContin
- “Dying To Be Free” by Jason Cherkis, which explores Suboxone treatment
- “What the media gets wrong about opioids,” reports Maia Szalavitz in the Columbia Journalism Review
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