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Drugs and ThugsThe History and Future of America's War on Drugs$
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Russell Crandall

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780300240344

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300240344.001.0001

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(p.54) 4 Opium
Drugs and Thugs

Russell Crandall

Yale University Press

This chapter begins with Thomas De Quincey, who published a book in 1821 under the title Confessions of an English Opium Eater, an autobiographical telling of his “tortured love affair” with a tincture of 10 percent opium. It analyzes that De Quincey's Confessions confronted the West with a stark description of a novel concept: drug addiction. It also speculates that opium might be humanity's first drug as it was cultivated at the same time as agricultural civilizations developed alongside bodies of water. The chapter describes the opium poppy as one of mankind's earliest attempts at genetic engineering since it was planted as early as five thousand years ago in the western Mediterranean or the Near East. It looks at ancient texts that suggest that some civilizations were aware that opium resin was habit-forming and mortally poisonous.

Keywords:   Thomas De Quincey, opium, drug addiction, opium poppy, genetic engineering

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