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The Exchange

Opium: How An Ancient Flower Shaped and Poisoned Our World

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In a new book, Dr. John H. Halpern and documentary filmmaker David Blistein trace opium's use over millennia, starting with the discovery of poppy artifacts in ancient Mesopotamia. In Opium: How an Ancient Flower Shaped and Poisoned Our World, Halpern and Blistein describe the global spread of opium, through trade and war, and how some medical practitioners of ancient times, while refining its power, issued warnings about opium that resonate today: "The sweeter the dreams, the rougher the awakening." 

Air date: Oct. 15, 2019

David Blistein wrote the award-winning PBS documentary The Mayo Clinic: Faith  - Hope - Science and is currently working on a three-part series on brain disorders and mental health. He also co-wrote the films Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies and The Gene for PBS.

John H.  Halpern - A psychiatrist who previously served as medical director of the Boston Center for Addiction Treatment, he spent more than 20 years on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and during that time served as director of his own research laboratory at McLean Hospital, a psychiatric hospital in Massachusetts.  

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