On Opium: Pain, Pleasure, and Other Matters of Substance

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$24.95  $23.20
Goose Lane Editions
Publish Date
5.98 X 8.98 X 0.94 inches | 1.23 pounds

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About the Author

Carlyn Zwarenstein is a writer based in Toronto. Her writing has appeared in the Guardian, the Toronto Star, and Vice. She is also the author of Opium Eater: The New Confessions.


"Carlyn Zwarenstein provides a voice previously missing from the overdose crisis. With empathy and urgency, she takes us inside the world of people who use opioids at a time when they are dying in record numbers. On Opium captures people's pain, hope, and resilience, and in sharing their stories, provides a blueprint to end the crisis." - Travis Lupick, author of Fighting for Space - 20210702
"A beautifully written meditation on opioids, addiction, joy, and pain -- and the cruel and rigid policies we devise that mainly serve to make suffering worse." - Maia Szalavitz, author of Undoing Drugs - 20210702
"Zwarenstein not only plumbs the depths of pain and relief and dependence on relief but traces the blurred lines between writer and subject on that -- perhaps needlessly -- charged question: What do we do for pain and its wily life-thieving-or-enabling remedy? What would happen if we turned our focus to the prevention and elimination of suffering, rather than the demonization and criminalization of sufferers?" - Anna Mehler Paperny, author of Hello I Want to Die Please Fix Me - 20210702
"Zwarenstein weaves her personal narrative of using prescription opioid medication to manage spinal arthritis with a deeply reported look at why people use substances and the causes of drug-related harms." - Tabassum Siddiqui - Globe and Mail - 20211008
"Zwarenstein's volume is a valuable tool for the promotion of harm reduction. When so much conservative rhetoric is based on an ideology of stoicism, it's bracing to learn that Roman emperor and Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius was also an opium user." - Quill & Quire - 20211115
"Captivating, rage-inducing, and most important of all, helpful. In On Opium, Zwarenstein challenges us to imagine a world in which we toss out our antiquated, actively harmful ideas about substance use, stop thinking of addicts versus 'legitimate' users, and embrace harm reduction in a meaningful way." - Alison Manley - Miramichi Reader - 20211101
"Rarely have I felt so trusted as a reader. Zwarenstein is disarmingly transparent about her process, casual in her tone, and honest about her limitations. ... What we should all be thinking of more, Zwarenstein seems to be saying, is suffering itself, and how we can help ourselves and others surmount it." - Viviane Fairbank - Literary Review of Canada - 20220101
"Zwarenstein puts drug users at the centre of this conversation, a location from which they are far too often pushed away, and forces us to reconsider everything we've ever thought about opioids." - Nora Loreto - Briarpatch - 20220105
"We need to legalize and regulate non-medical use of drugs. ... On Opium shows us that, after too much suffering, too much delay, that change will come." - W.A. Bogart - Healthy Debate - 20220228