we must pity… — Ludlow, partially prompted by the tenacity of his own habit, devoted much of the last years of his life to finding a cure for opiate addiction, writing in 1867:
The habit is gaining fearful ground among our professional men, the operatives in our mills, our weary sewing women, our fagged clerks, our disappointed wives, our former liquor-drunkards, our very day-laborers, who a generation ago took gin; all our classes, from the highest to the lowest, are yearly increasing their consumption of the drug. The terrible demands, especially in this country, made on modern brains by our feverish competitive life, constitute hourly temptations to some form of the sweet, deadly sedative. Many a professional man of my acquaintance, who twenty years ago was content with his tri-diurnal “whisky,” ten years ago, drop by drop, began taking stronger “laudanum cock-tails,” until he became what he is now — an habitual opium-eater.
The opium addict, according to Ludlow, in a view which even today seems progressive, “is a proper subject, not for reproof, but for medical treatment. The problem of his case need embarrass nobody. It is as purely physical as one of small-pox…. [He] is suffering under a disease of the very machinery of volition; and no more to be judged harshly for his acts than a wound for suppurating or the bowels for continuing the peristaltic motion.”