Views & Reviews Medical Classics

Confessions of an English Opium-Eater

BMJ 2009; 339 doi: (Published 30 September 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;339:b4009
  1. Joshua Hill, general practitioner
  1. 1Morris House Group Practice, London
  1. josh.hill{at}

    Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, an examination of the effects of opium on the mind, was written in 1821 by Thomas de Quincey, friend and contemporary of Coleridge, another famous opium user. It was far ahead of its time, as although opium was easily available and was a mainstay of every household medicine cupboard, there was no mainstream recognition of its psychoactive effects or its addictiveness. These truths had hitherto not been written about, perhaps explaining the book’s explosive popularity, which elevated de Quincey from obscurity to celebrity.

    The book is divided into two sections, “The Pleasures of Opium” and “The Pains of Opium.” The first gives …

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