The Conquest of Opium

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Opioid drugs—including heroin, fentanyl, and prescription opioids—were responsible for nearly 50,000 overdose deaths in 2017. America is awash in them, whether stolen from a friend’s medicine cabinet, smuggled over the border, or shipped in by mail.

It is easy, in light of this carnage, to think about the opioid crisis as a fluke, an accident of the present moment. But in doing so, we forget the long and complicated relationship that humans have with all of the products, direct and indirect, of the poppy. Milk of Paradise is British historian and novelist Lucy Inglis’s effort to retell this story, from the Fertile Crescent to the hills of Appalachia. Any such history will necessarily have its faults, and Milk of Paradise has several. Nonetheless, it is an invaluable resource for any reader

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