Nothing like walking into your local chemist or pharmacy and picking up a bottle of alcohol-laced opium...er, laudanum.
This Victorian cure-all was taken for everything from stomach trouble to insomnia to aches and pains. Nurses were even known to spoon feed infants the bitter, red-brown liquid. What better way to lull a colicky babe to sleep than to dose him up with some alcohol and opiates....
Laudanum was widely used and prescribed throughout the United States and Europe during the Romantic and Victorian Eras. The addictive qualities of Laudanum and the fact it was cheaper in price than gin or wine--as it was taxed as a legal medicine and not as an alcoholic beverage--made it, initially, a working class drug of choice. Though it found itself latched to the addictive psyche of several well known individuals, including the wife of former president, Abraham Lincoln and the renowned poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
Overdose by Laudanum, either accidental or intentional, happened quite frequently during the 19th century. In fact, suicide by Laudanum was not uncommon and would often only take a couple of teaspoons of the medicinal liquid...
It might be harsh and bitter, the juice your chemist sells,
but, nothing's better for curing all your worrisome ails,
from raging pains that split your head,
to aches that make you wish for death.
There isn't an ill that can't be cured,
by this unctuous mixture, of that we're sure!
--- e.a.s. demers