Madness…and opium, of course

Today I’ve started reading “Madness and Civilization” by Michel Foucault

Of interest: Einstein’s second son (from his first wife), Eduard, was crazy, and Einstein may have been ashamed:
“Eduard was a good student and had musical talent. He had ambitions to become a psychoanalyst, but by the age of twenty he was afflicted with schizophrenia and institutionalized two years later for the first of several times. After his illness struck, Eduard had a minimal relationship with his father”
[Taken from Wikipedia, with source: Clark, Ronald W. (1971). Einstein: The Life and Times. Avon.]


I’ve also recently been reminded about the fact that opium was originally regulated due to reasons of stigmatization of the Chinese in 1870 [again, wikipedia]
In reading that wiki article though, I learned this:
“Illicit opium production, now dominated by Afghanistan, was decimated in 2000 when production was banned by the Taliban, but has increased steadily since the fall of the Taliban in 2001 and over the course of the War in Afghanistan” [UN World Drug Report 2007 – Afghanistan]

Finally, this has, for some odd reason, reminded me of a book I have not read: The Serpent and the Rainbow, in which author and bioanthropologist (quite possibly the best job ever since it sometimes involves researching how local psychoactive plants have affected the local people’s culture and belief systems) Wade Davis puts forth a theory to explain voodoo zombies. Again, I haven’t read the book, but from what I can gather from brief articles I have read, Davis believes, in so many words, that zombification occurs from a complex interaction of the following: Tetrodotoxin; a powerful hallucinogen called Datura; and cultural forces and beliefs. So, his main idea is the following:
1. People in the area hold the belief that certain people, like voodoo priests, can kill another person, bring them back to life, and make them their slaves
2. Voodoo priests in actuality use a mixture of Tetrodotoxin and Datura – and other random shit that Davis doesn’t see as being important – to first paralyze the person (Tetrodotoxin, the stuff found in pufferfish, which blocks sodium channels, and which I was very familiar with during my Masters research) and put them in a very susceptible mind frame (Datura, which is a strong hallucinogen common to that area) which, along with the already held cultural belief in such magical powers, enables the priest to convince the person that the person has died, come back to life, and is a slave.


About dontdontoperate

28 year old originally from Barrie, Ontario, Canada. H.B.Sc. from UofT with a major in chemistry and a double minor in philosophy and math. M.Sc. from UofT in physiology and neuroscience. Finished my Ph.D. in biomedical engineering at McMaster in the fall of 2013.
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