Not a day passes that I don’t hear a reference to the burgeoning opioid crisis — way too many people dying from overdoses. Yet the primary source of this life-threatening pandemic is the beautiful and innocent-looking opium poppy, and the history of civilization is rich with stories of opium or its derivatives being used for beneficial medicinal and other health-enhancing purposes.
I have always had an affinity for opium-derived medicines, beginning with the morphine injections that made life bearable when I was hospitalized following the traumatic plane crash that paralyzed me in 1965. Not only did morphine relieve my pain, it also calmed my anxiety and fear of an uncertain future. But I became addicted while hospitalized. Twice. Each time, however, I was able to gradually wean myself prior to being discharged.
During the drug-laden late 1960s, when I was struggling to find my way as a paraplegic in a wheelchair-unfriendly culture, an acquaintance of mine offered me opium, a dark, tar-like substance the size of a golf ball. We smoked some, and I immediately felt its effect, which was similar to morphin