In this world of opioid addiction and overdose where more people are dying each year now from opioid-related overdose than those that died in the Vietnam War, could we ever imagine a time where humanity is finally free of these substances?

John Halpern and David Blistein, co-authors of the book, Opium: How an Ancient Flower Shaped and Poisoned Our World, offer an in-depth history of opium so people can better understand that there’s is more to this drug issue than just incarcerating people. This is a call for compassion and care for people struggling with addiction.

Unfortunately, our current system is not providing proper treatment. Worse, we punish people for not accepting treatment or seeking it out in the United States. 

The Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration admits that over 90% of people in the United States who would like to get serviced have no ability to get treatment. There’s a confusing message we’re sending out to people that there’s no safe way to use it. We’re not talking about what these drugs do. We’re not accepting how they are medicines and that they have these horrible side effects, and extreme versions of those side effects when we see somebody addicted. 

Instead, we punish them as if they had a full volitional choice when it’s causing changes to their brain over time. 

At the end of the day, we need to welcome people with substance abuse issues for being the human beings that they are and with the problems they have because we all have problems. And we need to treat them with respect and love and understanding and learn from them.

If you want to learn more about the history of opium, check out