Monday, June 17, 2013

September 16, 1877: The Ghosts of Opioid Addiction

September 16, 1877
A letter written by Tom Barlow, catcher for the Hartfords:
“It was on the 10th of August, 1874, that there was a match game of baseball in Chicago between the White Stockings of that city and the Hartfords of Hartford, now of Brooklyn. I was catcher for the Hartfords, and Fisher was pitching. He is a lightning pitcher, and very few could catch for him. On that occasion he delivered as wicked a ball as ever left his hands, and it went through my grasp like an express train, striking me with full force in the side. I fell insensible to the ground, but was quickly picked up, placed in a carriage, and driven to my hotel. The doctor who attended me gave a hypodermic injection of morphine, but I had rather died behind the bat then [sic] have had that first dose. My injury was only temporary, but from taking prescriptions of morphine during my illness, the habit grew on me, and I am now powerless in its grasp. My morphine pleasure has cost me eight dollars a day, at least.  I was once catcher for the Mutuals, also for the Atlantics, but no one would think it to look at me now.”

Sound familiar? 

Tom Barlow (who is credited, by the way, with the invention of the bunt) was hurt on the job, received care from a physician that, while well intended, resulted in dependence and addiction.  The only difference is that, in 1874, his employer didn't pick up the tab for his addiction like employers do today.

While the scope of the issue is broader and more complicated today, we would do well to keep in mind that addiction is not a new phenomenon - and that we have a responsibility to stop it before it starts or, once a patient is in its grasp, to do everything we can to treat that addiction. 

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