Opium has, and has always had, this country by the short hairs. But for myriad reasons, the dope epidemic in the U.S. tends to elude detection as the massive health crisis it is — reasons that are intricate and complex and interpenetrating, deriving almost in equal parts from public-policy myopia, bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo, political opportunism, inadequate social welfare, incompetent or absent education, rampant drug hysteria and the inexorable nature of addiction itself.
As an addictive substance, opioids are a total bitch. Seductive, elusive and exacting, junk presents itself as a physiological and socio-economic Catch-22. The reason for this, boiled down to the narcotic itself, is rather simple: Opium, and all its derivatives, is at once the world’s most perfect treater of pain and the most devastating of addictive substances. Homer referred to the nectar of the opium poppy as the “destroyer of grief,” and morphine, created in 1804 by Frederich Serturner, was named after Morpheus, the Greek god of dreams. French poet Charles Baudelaire, a smokehead, wooed opium as “his demon, his lover.”