Opium's Hold

oil on canvas, 24 X 36, 2020

Published in Intima: a Journal of narrative medicine (http://www.theintima.org/new-page-40)


The painting depicts the scene of a couple, ravaged by the opioid epidemic. The gaunt woman, holding the deceivingly pretty opium flower, stares ahead lifelessly. She has succumbed to the addictive forces of the drug. Her body slowly turns into a skeleton as the opium plant slowly climbs up her leg, foreshadowing her impending death. She is comforted by her partner, who protectively shields her against the impending crop of the opium plants close by. The framed picture on the wall is an ode to anatomist Santiago Ramon y Cajal, who first depicted the neuron and improved our understanding of brain neurochemistry. It reminds us of the altered brain chemistry that occurs with addiction, showing us how truly helpless we are against it.