Essay on Seeing through the Eyes of an Opium-eater

Essay on Seeing through the Eyes of an Opium-eater

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Opium is a narcotic drug produced from the drying resin of unripe capsules of the opium poppy, Papaver Somniferum. The major constituent of opium is morphine, and these molecules have pain-killing properties similar to those of compounds called endorphins produced in the body. Several used it as a therapeutic drug to relieve depression, as well as physical pain. Opiates first produce a feeling of pleasure and euphoria, which is part of what is responsible for the psychological drive of certain people use this drug. By the 17th century, opium was used strictly for medication in Western Europe, but by the end of the 17th century, addiction became more widespread. At this time, the specific effects of opium on the human body and mind weren't exactly clear yet, but, if used continuously, the body demands larger amounts to reach the same sense of pleasure and can eventually lead to psychological and physical dependence, or addiction. Withdrawal can extremely uncomfortable and addicts tend to continue taking the drug to avoid further pain rather than to attain the initial state of euphoria. Malnutrition, respiratory complications, and low blood pressure are some of the illnesses associated with addiction (Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia Standard, 2004).

The first known English opium-addict writer was Thomas Shadwell, a 17th century playwright, but it was never recorded in his writings. According to Alethea Hayter, author of Opium and the Romantic Imagination, it wasn't until the British writer Thomas De Quincey theorized the effects of opium on the imagination that many other British poets and writers began experimenting with it. De Quincey believed that opium, especially the dreams that resulted from its use, attributed to...


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...e wounds that will never heal... bringest an assuaging balm; eloquent opium! that with thy potent rhetoric stealest away the purposes of wrath... thou hast the keys of Paradise, oh, just, subtle, and mighty opium! (49).

Despite all the good things De Quincey has said about opium, he admits that this euphoric state only existed when he ate opium on Tuesday of Saturday. When he begins taking opium every day is when he begins to describe the devastating effects. De Quincey developed an opium-addiction, to which I've never denied. What I am impressed with, however, is the way he wrote and expressed his imagination at the beginning of his experimentation with the drug, and I think it had a good impact on his style of writing, and therefore, made Confessions of an English Opium-Eater that much more unique than it would have been if a doctor would have written it.

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