Meriwether Lewis and Laudanum

All been done before.

Frances Hunter's American Heroes Blog

There is a strong possibility that Meriwether Lewis was addicted to drugs at the time of his death. Lewis’s biographer Stephen Ambrose noted that Lewis was depressed, drinking heavily, and was taking opium pills and laudanum (a traditional preparation in which opium made from poppies is dissolved in alcohol) to help him sleep and to relieve the symptoms of a flareup of malaria, which would have included fever, chills, headaches, and nausea.

Opium poppies

Though the true extent of Lewis’s drug problems cannot be known with certainty, we chose to make drug addiction part of Lewis’s character in To the Ends of the Earth. This is not to imply that Lewis’s drug use was recreational or hedonistic. Opium was one of the only pain-killers available in the early 19th century. Like any good doctors, Lewis and Clark had carried the drug in their medicine kit on the Expedition and administered it…

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