Today I am welcoming author Maria Grace to the blog for a guest post. Maria has been doing a blog tour to celebrate the release of her new book, Mistaking Her Character, which is available to buy now.
One of the things you have probably seen mentioned in historical novels is laudanum. I know it was used for pain relief, but that's about the limit of my knowledge on this subject! Luckily, Maria knows more than me, and has written us a post about the drug, which I found very interesting and informative. Read on for more info, and a chance to win an e-book of Mistaking Her Character.
* * * * *Laudanum, the Regency era cure-all
Although we commonly consider drug addiction and abuse a modern world problem, the Regency era saw its fair share of it, and the drug of choice was the opioid laudanum. The use and abuse of laudanum plays a significant role in my latest novel, Mistaking Her Character.
Laudanum was said to promote sleep, reduce anxiety, check secretions as well as treat colds, meningitis, cardiac disease, yellow fever and relieve the discomfort of menstrual cramps. Nursery maids even gave it to colicky infants. While it was only truly effective in relieving pain, cough and diarrhea, it was still one of the few effective medicinal preparations available in the era, making it easy to understand why it was so widely used.
Laudanum was easy to come by, sold by the neighborhood apothecary for pennies—less than the price of gin. If even this was too expensive, or a person was particular about the preparation, laudanum could be made at home from poppies raised in home gardens. Homemaking books, like the Receipt Book (1846) of The Honourable Ellen Jane Prideaux-Brune listed a recipes for laudanum and home remedies based upon it:
One spoonful of gum-guacum mixed with two teaspoonfuls of milk,
add six drops of laudanum, and take it three times a Day.
This is the quantity for one taking.
For a cough
Two tablespoonfuls of vinegar,
Two tablespoonfuls of Treacle
60 drops of Laudanum.
take a teaspoonful of this mixture night and morning.
Laudanum inevitably found its way into many patent medicines where it was combined with everything from spices to marijuana to chloroform. These medicines were marketed as cures for migraines, diarrhea, insomnia, and neuralgia, consumption, dysentery, “women’s troubles,” and nervous afflictions.
Perhaps more troubling were the preparations made specifically for children. Steedman’s Powder quieted teething babies. Infants’ Quietness, Soothing Syrup, and Godfrey’s Cordial, calmed colic and fretfulness even in newborns. Some of these potions enjoyed such wide spread popularity that nearly all the families of a county might use them, despite the inherent danger of death by overdose. In very small children even a few extra drops could kill.
As early as 1700, the medical community knew of opium’s addictive nature. Dr. John Jones’s medical treatise, Mysteries of Opium Reveal’d, described the “dull, mopish and heavy disposition,” as well as memory loss and agonizing withdrawal symptoms common to opium users. Dr. Jones explained that once the honeymoon period during which opium use brought “over-achievement, self-assurance, courage, contempt of danger, and satisfaction” ended “intolerable distresses” would set in. Over time, the addict would require more and more laudanum to achieve the same desirable euphoric effects. Moreover, withdrawal from laudanum caused symptoms even worse than the side effects from use. Withdrawal effects include cold like symptoms, insomnia, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, seizure, stroke and even suicide attempts, making recovery from addiction very difficult.
In the Victorian era as laudanum use spread to Britain’s upper and urban working classes, wide public debate raged. These concerns resulted in the 1868 Pharmacy Act. The act required that only registered chemists and pharmacists could sell opium derivatives. Although the amount and frequency of sales were unrestricted, each bottle had to be clearly labeled as poison. Later legislation required pharmacists to know customers personally, and to meticulously record each narcotic sale. However, it was not until well into the 20th century that opiate use in Britain and abroad drastically declined.
Laudanum http://amselbird.com/laudanum/ Accessed Sept 10, 2013
Victorian Medicine: Use of Laudanum and Treatment of the Sick
http://freepages.family.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~treevecwll/vicmed.htm Accessed Sept 13, 2013
Laudanum The Heroin of the 19th Century http://redroom.com/member/frank-sanello/writing/laudanum-the-heroin-of-the-19th-century> Accessed Sept 13, 2013
Alexander Marcet. An Account of the Effects produced by a large quantity of Laudanum taken internally, and of the means used to counteract those effects. Medico-Chirurgical Transactions. 1809; 1: 77–82. PMCID: PMC2128802 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2128802/ Accessed Sept 3, 2013
Laudanum Detox and Withdrawal http://www.projectknow.com/research/laudanum-detox-and-withdrawal/> Accessed Sept 23, 2013
Withdrawal from Laduanum http://www.withdrawal.net/learn/laudanum/ Accessed Sept 23, 2013
Side effects of laudanum http://www.livestrong.com/article/95368-side-effects-laudanum/ Accessed Sept 23, 2013
Lady Catherine de Bourgh is prepared to be very generous when it comes to medical care for her sickly daughter, Anne – generous enough to lure noted physician Dr. Thomas Bennet to give up his London practice and move his family to Rosings Park. But his good income comes with a price: complete dependence on his demanding patroness’s every whim.
Now the Bennet family is trapped, reliant on Lady Catherine for their survival. Their patroness controls every aspect of the Bennet household, from the shelves in the closet to the selection of suitors for the five Bennet daughters. Now she has chosen a husband for headstrong Elizabeth Bennet– Mr. George Wickham.
But Lady Catherine’s nephew, Fitzwilliam Darcy, is not so sure about his aunt’s choice. He is fascinated by the compassionate Elizabeth who seems to effortlessly understand everyone around her, including him. Lady Catherine has other plans for Darcy, though, and she forbids Elizabeth to even speak to him.
As Anne’s health takes a turn for the worse, Darcy and Elizabeth are thrown together as Dr. Bennet struggles to save Anne’s life. Darcy can no longer deny the truth – he is in love with Elizabeth Bennet. But Lady Catherine will do anything to stop Darcy from marrying her – even if it means Elizabeth will lose everything she loves.
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Though Maria Grace has been writing fiction since she was ten years old, those early efforts happily reside in a file drawer and are unlikely to see the light of day again, for which many are grateful. After penning five file-drawer novels in high school, she took a break from writing to pursue college and earn her doctorate in Educational Psychology. After 16 years of university teaching, she returned to her first love, fiction writing.
She has one husband, two graduate degrees and two black belts, three sons, four undergraduate majors, five nieces, six more novels in draft form, waiting for editing, seven published novels, sewn eight Regency era costumes, shared her life with nine cats through the years and tries to run at least ten miles a week.
She can be contacted at:
On Amazon.com: http://amazon.com/author/
Random Bits of Fascination (http://
Austen Variations (http://AustenVariations.com)
English Historical Fiction Authors (http://EnglshHistoryAuthors.
On Twitter @WriteMariaGrace
On Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/
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Maria Grace has very kindly offered an international giveaway of an ebook of Mistaking Her Character. To enter, just leave a comment on this post before the end of the day on 10 July 2015. Please leave a way for me to contact you in case you are the lucky winner. Please note that this giveaway is now closed for entries.