Some Things Never Change –
March 11, 2018 – Eighteenth-century female authors such as Mary Robinson and Sara Coleridge were as dependent on laudanum as male writers, a new study reveals. Laudanum, an alcoholic medicine containing opium, was frequently used as a painkiller until the early 1900s … He argues that women including Anna Seward and Harriet Martineau used the drug to cope with pressures of domestic life as well as helping with menstrual pain and depression. He said: ‘For all of these women, opium formed part of ordinary domestic life, used to manage pain, illness and distress, and valued for its power to sedate and tranquillise rather than for its stimulant properties or its ability to induce dreams and visions.’
Although once readily available, laudanum is now prescription-only in the UK and is generally limited in use to helping opioid addicts with withdrawal symptoms. It is well known that male authors including Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Thomas De Quincey used the substance, but until now little was known about female authors using it.