Guest Blogger Michelle Griep–A Gentlewoman’s Guide to Opium Addiction

Let’s just say my dear friend Michelle Griep has a knack for catchy titles, as evidenced above. Don’t fear. We aren’t advocating opium use in any way, shape, or form today. Rather, Michelle’s going to share some of her research for her recent release, A Heart Deceived.

Michelle Griep
And why do I love Michelle? Hm. She wrote about Vikings in her novel titled Undercurrent (Amazon link: Undercurrent). Her writing style is so inimitable I can recognize her anywhere on the web, by her words alone. I just found out that we share the same birthday. And most of all, she’s always encouraged me, every step of this writing journey. Talk about a mentor! Thank you, Michelle. And now, on to her guest post. I was quite surprised when I read this…and yet we don’t always talk about the sadder parts of history. But that’s how we learn. It also makes for some gripping fiction.

A Gentlewoman’s Guide to Opium Addiction:

How to Tell if Your Mr. Right Has Been Tokin’, Smokin’ or Shootin’ the Poppy

What comes to mind when I say Jane Austen? Hold on. Let me guess…

          swirling ballroom scenes

          dinner parties galore

          the dashing Mr. Darcy

Any of these answers would be right, of course, but you’d also be correct if you’d shouted out opium usage. Austen’s mother used opium to help her sleep, and her father was an agent in the trade. Elizabeth Barrett Browning took opiates every day from the age of fourteen, Sir Walter Scott consumed 6 grams a day, and Samuel Coleridge was a regular user.

Yes, indeed. I hate to burst your bubble of the romantic days of yore, but opium addiction was an issue to be reckoned with.

The first written account of the non-medicinal virtues of this drug is in De Quincey’s Confessions of an English Opium Eater, published in 1821. He advocates opium usage not as a pharmaceutical pain reliever but as a trip into “an inner world of secret self-consciousness.” Sounds positively hippyish, eh?

Had Mr. Darcy been hanging out in a nearby opium den, these are the symptoms Elizabeth Bennett should’ve looked for:

·         Red or glazed eyes

·         Confusion

·         Slurred or rapid speech

·         Loss of appetite

·         Apathy or depression

·         Frequent headaches

·         Insomnia

While Jane Austen preferred to write of dances and dinners, I dove into the seamier side of things and made the hero in A Heart Deceived a recovering opium addict. Why?

Because addiction is a contemporary problem with historical roots. Click to Tweet!

It’s just as hard for my fictional character Ethan to turn down a bottle of laudanum as it is for a real person today to pass on a hit of meth. With God’s help, it can be donewhich is exactly what Ethan discovers. Click to Tweet!

So take care, gentlewomen, when searching out your Mr. Right. Opiates have been around since the days of Pharaoh, and are likely here to stay.

Interested in Ethan’s story? Check out A Heart Deceived


Miri Brayden teeters on a razor’s edge between placating and enraging her brother, whom she depends upon for support. Yet if his anger is unleashed, so is his madness. Miri must keep his descent into lunacy a secret, or he’ll be committed to an asylum—and she’ll be sent to the poorhouse. 

Ethan Goodwin has been on the run all of his life—from family, from the law … from God. After a heart-changing encounter with the gritty Reverend John Newton, Ethan would like nothing more than to become a man of integrity—an impossible feat for an opium addict charged with murder. 

When Ethan shows up on Miri’s doorstep, her balancing act falls to pieces. Both Ethan and Miri are caught in a web of lies and deceit—fallacies that land Ethan in prison and Miri in the asylum with her brother. Only the truth will set them free.

A HEART DECEIVED is available by David C. Cook and at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and ChristianBook.

Keep up with the exploits of Michelle Griep at Writer Off the Leash, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
 ****Thank you so much, Michelle. I know your readers can trust that you’ve done your research, no matter what era you’re writing about. I’ve known about the laudanum usage, but didn’t realize it was touted as a remedy of sorts (much like cigarettes were when they came out). Anyone have any thoughts/questions for Michelle?****

15 thoughts on “Guest Blogger Michelle Griep–A Gentlewoman’s Guide to Opium Addiction

  1. Michelle, what interesting history! I wonder if it was more affordable than alcohol? I just watched the movie Barcley (sp) Square, and it was used to keep babies quiet but sometimes it killed them. What a great flaw to give a character. The new book looks deep and compelling! Therese Stenzel

  2. It wasn't necessarily any cheaper than alcohol because you could get gin anywhere, anytime…and in fact the gin craze had society in more of an uproar over alcoholism than opium usage.

  3. Oh wow, that certainly isn't something many history books, much less historical romance, like to touch on. Very interesting research! I will now know to say NO to laudanum. Susan P

  4. Yes–is laudanum a type of liquid opium, Michelle? No idea but I know they took laudanum drops, right? And yes, Susan, not in many books, though I have seen it mentioned in Lynn Austin's Refiner's Fire series set in the Civil War.

  5. Come to think of it, using the word "mentor" and "opium" in the same sentence seems a bit counter-intuitive…hee. But my mentor knows a lot about opium! I always respect Michelle b/c she's poured lots of time into her research, for every one of her books.

  6. Hi Michelle! The harsh reality of opium addiction does give a new perspective to the times. 😉 I heard that it was common to put opium in tea as well. Loved "A Heart Deceived", and can't wait for your next book!

  7. To be fair, people just didn't understand the dangers of opium at the time…kind of like when radiation was first discovered and used for all kinds of crazy things that hurt and killed people.And thanks for the kind words. Gwen!

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