Tracing the roots of the opium poppy all the way back to its likely origins in Mesopotamia in 4000 BC, this episode of Addicted to Pleasure takes a look at the plant, it’s pharmaceutical derivatives and society’s ambivalent relationship with the substance.
In its pure form, the milky sap of an opium poppy has been used for centuries as a relaxant — brewed into a tea it helps the nervous sleep; in ancient Egypt it was smeared on the nipples of nursing mothers to calm colicky babies. However, when opium is intensified by the hand of man, it can become a miracle pain reliever, a doorway into the nightmare of addiction or both.
This is an entertaining history of opium — its ancient past and its troublesome present. It’s also a great primer on the tragic rise of the British East India Company which became “the largest and most disgraceful drug smuggling operation in history.”