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Bullitt History of Medicine: The Civil War and Opiate “Insanity”

December 4, 2018 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

Tuesday, December 4, 2018  12:00 NOON  Bondurant 2020

The Civil War and Opiate “Insanity”

Jonathan S. Jones, PhD Candidate, Department of History, Binghamton University

In the decades after the Civil War, the United States faced an epidemic of opiate addiction among Civil War veterans. Americans widely feared that opiate addiction among traumatized veterans was linked to the Civil War, and was dangerously on the rise. Responding to a perceived epidemic of opiate “insanity” that threatened their patients’ health, masculinity, and physicians’ own professional credibility, some doctors pursued radical solutions to the Civil War-era opiate addiction crisis. Exploring physicians’ innovative responses to opiate addiction—ranging from medicalizing addiction, to drug substitution, and even a movement for opiate regulation—illuminates the Civil War’s effects upon the development of nineteenth century American medicine, and situates today’s opioid epidemic in its historical context.

Jonathan S. Jones is a PhD candidate in the History Department at Binghamton University. He is a historian of the Civil War era and the history of American medicine. His dissertation investigates the post-Civil War opiate addiction crisis, the nation’s first major opioid crisis. He has written about the history of opiate addiction in Nursing Clio and The Civil War Monitor, and his research has been supported by fellowships from The Huntington Library, the Consortium for History of Science, Technology and Medicine, and UNC Wilson Library, among others. Prior to coming to Binghamton University in 2015, Jonathan taught high school history in Texas for four years.

About the Bullitt History of Medicine Club

The Bullitt History of Medicine Club is a student organization within the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s School of Medicine. The club promotes the understanding and appreciation of the historical foundations upon which current medical knowledge and practice is constructed, by encouraging social and intellectual exchanges between faculty members, medical students, and members of the community. The club’s annual McLendon-Thomas Award recognizes the best unpublished essay on an historical topic in the health sciences written by a UNC-Chapel Hill student. Please visit the Bullitt History of Medicine Club website for more information.


December 4, 2018
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm