Opium by John Halpern audiobook

Opium: How an Ancient Flower Shaped and Poisoned Our World

By John Halpern, MD  and David Blistein
Read by Peter Ganim

Hachette Books, Hachette Book Group 9780316417662
8.72 Hours Unabridged
Format: Digital Download (In Stock)
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    ISBN: 9781549175329

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    ISBN: 9781549181931

"A landmark project." -- Dr. Andrew Weil "Engrossing and highly readable." -- Sam Quinones "An astonishing journey through time and space." -- Julie Holland, MD "The most important, provocative, and challenging book I've read in a long time." -- Laurence Bergreen From a psychiatrist on the frontlines of addiction medicine and an expert on the history of drug use, comes the "authoritative, engaging, and accessible" (Booklist) history of the flower that helped to build -- and now threatens -- modern society. Opioid addiction is fast becoming the most deadly crisis in American history. In 2017, it claimed nearly fifty thousand lives -- more than gunshots and car crashes combined, and almost as many Americans as were killed in the entire Vietnam War. But even as the overdose crisis ravages our nation -- straining our prison system, dividing families, and defying virtually every legislative solution to treat it-- few understand how it came to be. Opium tells the extraordinary and at times harrowing tale of how we arrived at today's crisis, "mak[ing] timely and startling connections among painkillers, politics, finance, and society" (Laurence Bergreen). The story begins with the discovery of poppy artifacts in ancient Mesopotamia, and goes on to explore how Greek physicians and obscure chemists discovered opium's effects and refined its power, how colonial empires marketed it around the world, and eventually how international drug companies developed a range of powerful synthetic opioids that led to an epidemic of addiction. Throughout, Dr. John Halpern and David Blistein reveal the fascinating role that opium has played in building our modern world, from trade networks to medical protocols to drug enforcement policies. Most importantly, they disentangle how crucial misjudgments, patterns of greed, and racial stereotypes served to transform one of nature's most effective painkillers into a source of unspeakable pain-and how, using the insights of history, state-of-the-art science, and a compassionate approach to the illness of addiction, we can overcome today's overdose epidemic. This urgent and masterfully woven narrative tells an epic story of how one beautiful flower became the fascination of leaders, tycoons, and nations through the centuries and in their hands exposed the fragility of our civilization.

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Summary

Summary

"A landmark project." -- Dr. Andrew Weil
"Engrossing and highly readable." -- Sam Quinones
"An astonishing journey through time and space." -- Julie Holland, MD
"The most important, provocative, and challenging book I've read in a long time." -- Laurence Bergreen

From a psychiatrist on the frontlines of addiction medicine and an expert on the history of drug use, comes the "authoritative, engaging, and accessible" (Booklist) history of the flower that helped to build -- and now threatens -- modern society.
Opioid addiction is fast becoming the most deadly crisis in American history. In 2017, it claimed nearly fifty thousand lives -- more than gunshots and car crashes combined, and almost as many Americans as were killed in the entire Vietnam War. But even as the overdose crisis ravages our nation -- straining our prison system, dividing families, and defying virtually every legislative solution to treat it-- few understand how it came to be.
Opium tells the extraordinary and at times harrowing tale of how we arrived at today's crisis, "mak[ing] timely and startling connections among painkillers, politics, finance, and society" (Laurence Bergreen). The story begins with the discovery of poppy artifacts in ancient Mesopotamia, and goes on to explore how Greek physicians and obscure chemists discovered opium's effects and refined its power, how colonial empires marketed it around the world, and eventually how international drug companies developed a range of powerful synthetic opioids that led to an epidemic of addiction.

Throughout, Dr. John Halpern and David Blistein reveal the fascinating role that opium has played in building our modern world, from trade networks to medical protocols to drug enforcement policies. Most importantly, they disentangle how crucial misjudgments, patterns of greed, and racial stereotypes served to transform one of nature's most effective painkillers into a source of unspeakable pain-and how, using the insights of history, state-of-the-art science, and a compassionate approach to the illness of addiction, we can overcome today's overdose epidemic.

This urgent and masterfully woven narrative tells an epic story of how one beautiful flower became the fascination of leaders, tycoons, and nations through the centuries and in their hands exposed the fragility of our civilization.

Editorial Reviews

Editorial Reviews

Halpern and Blistein expertly weave together the many strands of opium's history, from the poppy growers of Neolithic times to the politics of today's opiate epidemic. By learning the whole story and discovering the many erroneous beliefs and misguided policies that have occurred along the way -- the reader emerges with a far clearer picture of the problem and what perhaps we can do about it now. Harrison G. Pope Jr., MD, professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School
Highly informed and wonderfully entertaining. Ethan A. Nadelmann, founder of the Drug Policy Alliance
In this lively, irreverent history we learn what Aristotle and William Burroughs, Helen of Troy and Billie Holiday, El Chapo and Thomas Jefferson had in common. They all either used or prescribed, cultivated or profited from opium. The authors chronicle the quackery the drug has inspired, the colonial wars it caused, and the official follies that led to today's opioid crisis -- and they outline a fresh and sensible approach to ending it. Geoffrey C. Ward, New York Times bestselling author of A First-Class Temperament: The Emergence of Franklin Roosevelt
Thank God (or whatever higher power you desire) that Halpern and Blistein have done the historical work to demystify the use of opioids. Their research now allows us to focus on the issues that really matter, like keeping users safe and ensuring that patients have access to these effective medications. Carl L. Hart, Ph.D., professor of Psychology, Columbia University and author of High Price
This book takes the reader on a deep journey through the history of opium and how it has shaped medicine, culture, trade, and politics....Halpern and Blistein give readers hope that new policies and treatments to alleviate addiction could make a real difference, if politicians and healthcare institutions are willing to set aside failed strategies that, unfortunately, remain in place. Torsten Passie, MD, Goethe-University's Institute for History and Ethics in Medicine
Detailed and highly readable...[Opium] demonstrates convincingly that the best way to address today's epidemic is to acknowledge addiction as the brain disease that it is...The recommendations in this book should be seriously considered by anyone concerned with today's opioid epidemic. Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy, member of the President's Commission on Combatting Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis
Authoritative, engaging, and accessible, this call for action offers solutions -- insurance and criminal justice reforms, alternative treatments, and eradication of punishment -- and avenues to greater overall understanding. Booklist
In this landmark project, John Halpern, MD, and David Blistein have for the first time combined a comprehensive history of opium with a clear-eyed look at today's opioid crisis. By unpacking the complex story of how this powerful drug has woven its way through human history and cultures, they give readers profound insight into what drives contemporary use of opium and its derivatives as well as realistic, effective, and compassionate recommendations for helping those who suffer from the disease of addiction. Dr. Andrew Weil (MD)
Wealthy patrons of the arts making fortunes off opioids? Blaming immigrants for a domestic drug crisis? Race-based enforcement?...It was as true in the 19th and 20th centuries as it is today. Opium insists that we take an unstinting look at the relationship between people and opioids and dares us to make the hard decisions necessary to deal with the crisis. This book is what history is supposed to be. Ken Burns, filmmaker
An engrossing and highly readable account of our tangled relationship with a flower. Sam Quinones, author of Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic
Halpern and Blistein take us on an astonishing journey through time and space, revealing how racism and ethnic prejudice have distorted popular views of opium for centuries and how those who were at one time said to be paragons of American virtue-from Harry Anslinger to Joseph McCarthy to the Sackler family -- have played their part in creating the opiate epidemic. With Opium, we can more fully understand how and why the 'war on drugs' keeps failing. A fascinating read with practical advice on how to get out of the mess we're in. Julie Holland, MD, New York Times bestselling author of Weekends at Bellevue and Moody Bitches
Opium is the most important, provocative, and challenging book I've read in a long time....Makes timely and startling connections among painkillers, politics, finance, and society in clear, non-technical prose that kept me alternately riveted and amazed. We may not be able to get this drug out of our system, but Opium will help everyone gain a better understanding of and more control over its uses and abuses. Laurence Bergreen, New York Times bestselling author of Marco Polo: From Venice to Xanadu and Over the Edge of the World: Magellan's Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe
“The recommendations in this book should be seriously considered by anyone concerned with today’s opioid epidemic.” Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy

Reviews

Reviews

by Brian 9/12/2019
Overall Performance
Narration
Story

Hypocritical Concern about Addiction

Although Halpern occasionally hints at the powers of opium to inspire creativity and cure coughs, etc. he focuses almost exclusively on addiction, failing to point out that occasional use does not cause addiction, nor does it require increased doses to achieve the same effect. In badmouthing Thomas De Quincey, he ignores that author’s main point: that occasional opium use did not cause the author problems – it was only when De Quincey unwisely took the drug daily for pain that his problems arose. He also implies that the Manchu Dynasty was worried about its people’s health when it outlawed the use of opium in the 1800s. I think it’s far more likely that they outlawed opium because it permitted individuals to think differently, which might cause them to question the propriety of being ruled over by despots in far-away Beijing.
Halpern even pans the Shakers for dealing in opium, as if the drug had the same nefarious connotations back then as it has in the present-day, as if the Shakers should have somehow looked ahead to see our subsequent indignation and acted accordingly, as if the drug war sensibility is a timeless force and not a politically driven policy based on Christian Science and a desire to punish minorities and others whose needs and desires we fail to understand or to consider important.

Halpern’s focus on addiction is hypocritical, for his field of psychiatry has made addicts of millions around the world, with SSRI and SNRI antidepressants, many of which are extremely difficult to “get off of.” The NIH recently performed a study of Effexor users, for instance, and found that 95% of those who got off the drug were back on it within three years. This is a far worse recidivism rate than for opium, so Halpern has no leg to stand on when he implies that opium is a drug from hell because of its addiction potential. The fact is that it can be used safely if used intermittently – and that the problems arise when this inconvenient truth is hushed up by drug warriors who consider it wrong to say anything positive about illegal drugs. It is this strategic silence on the part of the drug warrior that leads to irresponsible use, since potential users never hear the important news that occasional usage does not cause addiction.
Yet to hear Halpern tell it, there was no such thing as responsible opium use in 19th century China, that no one used it intermittently, that everyone used it daily. Even if this were so, it was only true because the word had not been spread that addiction could be avoided by intermittent use of the drug.
So while Halpern spins an interesting story, he makes the drug warrior mistake of completely ignoring the rights and needs of would-be responsible users, those seeking psychological relief and increased creativity, for starters. Like all drug warriors, he feels the need to protect or punish a minority of irresponsible users must always trump the needs of a majority of sensible people who want to use the drug for good reasons in their life. Or, if the drug is to be legal, such drug warriors want it to be controlled by the medical establishment, ensuring them the monopoly on healing that they’ve come to expect ever since they got their prescription authority back in the 20th century.

Finally, Halpern rattles off a list of New England surnames, blaming them for complicity in the opium trade, and holding their descendants up for eternal scorn. But it’s not clear that all these families merit this opprobrium, since it is based on assumptions about who knew what and when. Moreover, it’s based on the assumption that opium offered nothing but problems for the Chinese, when surely there were rational Chinese users who would have begged to differ. Even if the drug caused universal addiction, how is that any worse than addicting a nation to anti-depressants, the psychiatrist’s drug of choice? I know plenty of Effexor addicts who would have preferred in retrospect to have been given opium years ago for what ailed them – had they known that they would have to be on some sort of drug for life.

If we’re going to compile a list of American surnames and hold them up for scorn, why don’t we create a list of those hundreds of psychiatrists that got money from Big Pharma to “big up” anti-depressants in popular media and to start Americans (and eventually the world) down a path of lifelong addiction? (Some say that modern anti-depressants cause chemical dependency, not addiction, but this is just quibbling: from the user’s standpoint, there is no difference between the two: in either case, the user is stuck on the drug for a lifetime and it is sheer hell for them whenever they go off of it.)



Author

Author Bio: John Halpern MD

Author Bio: John Halpern MD

Titles by Author

Author Bio: David Blistein

Author Bio: David Blistein

Titles by Author

Details

Details

Available Formats : Digital Download, CD
Category: Nonfiction/Science
Runtime: 8.72
Audience: Adult
Language: English