FLOWERS IN THE BLOOD: The Story of Opium by Dean & Jeff Goldberg Latimer

FLOWERS IN THE BLOOD: The Story of Opium

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Not, as you might expect from High Times editor Latimer and ex-staffer Goldberg, a pro-drug sermon, but a thoroughgoing and at times very funny debunk of anti-drug paranoia. First, the authors look at the physiological properties of opiates, including the recently-discovered endorphins, the body's own painkillers. Next come: the opium myths and cults of prehistoric times, and the poppy-growing ancient civilizations of the Mediterranean and Middle East; the medicinal use of opium in medieval times (contrasted with the alternative ""heroic"" treatments, painful and usually lethal); and the use of opium by English marsh-dwellers against a wide variety of ailments (and boredom, too). There's a parade of literary lions who, for better or worse, used opiates--Coleridge, De Quincey, Walter Scott, Keats, Elizabeth Browning, Wilkie Collins; and an account of the 19th century Chinese opium wars, and the British and American traders and smugglers who fomented them. Switching to the US, the authors discuss the vicious bigotry linking the Chinese, opium, and moral turpitude (hence the term ""yellow journalism""); the rise of narcotics laws--piloted by Hamilton Wright, Francis Harrison, and Harry Anslinger (whose pal Joe McCarthy was a morphine addict); the growth of heroin addiction (initially touted by inventor Bayer as a sort of super-aspirin) and the frantic quest for a ""magic bullet"" cure. Lastly, there's a look at the enforcement business: ""attempts to legislate drug addiction out of existence have resulted only in more addicts,"" so, ""why not just give heroin to addicts?"" An irreverent, exuberant, sometimes eminently sensible affair.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1981
Publisher: Watts