French martyrsBMJ 2010; 341 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.c4579 (Published 08 September 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c4579
- Theodore Dalrymple, writer and retired doctor
Considering how trivial are the withdrawal symptoms from opiates (by comparison with those from, say, alcohol), they have given rise to a large literature. Indeed, it may be thought that this literature is itself partly responsible for the suffering caused by withdrawal, because by dramatising that suffering it increases the anticipatory anxiety that is so large a proportion of the pain of opiate withdrawal.
Two French authors of somewhat mixed reputation, Jean Cocteau (1889-1963) and Françoise Sagan (1935-2004), wrote accounts of their withdrawal from opiates undertaken in specialised clinics. By the mere fact of doing so they were investing the process with a significance well above the ordinary. No one, after all, would write …