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The Soldier’s Disease

Again on the joys of research – because focusing too much on that mess that is the Russian Civil War would be monotonous, and I really like (no, seriously, I like it) doing research on the fly when writing.
So, let’s put down the books and the videos about Russians killing each other in the snow, and let’s look into something different.

Like, the Soldier’s Disease, a definition first coined in 1915 to describe morphine addiction among the troops – a phenomenon observed for the first time during the American Civil War.
Ah, doing research, an endless series of discoveries…

The good part of doing research on the fly is that more often than not, what you discover can be plugged in directly into the story, using it to develop some background idea or so-far-ignored branch of the plot.
The Soldier’s Disease works like this in my current story.

I looked up morphine because I needed a “treasure” for my story, and gold tends to be unwieldy and overused – and as an alternative to cash or precious metals, drugs are an all-time classic: compact, easily convertible into currency, and much requested in times of crisis or war.
So, I checked out Wikipedia and a few other websites.

I discovered the name “Soldier’s Disease”, that I will have to use because it sounds cool, and I found out that during the Great War doctors would draw a cross on the forehead of wounded men they had dosed with morphine to avoid them being dosed again, and thus overdosing. Another interesting bit of trivia to be played for color.

Morphine was also part of the medical supplies the Central Powers happily provided to White Russians during the Civil War. There was a lot of other debatable stuff in those supplies, but at least now I know where the cocaine to which Roman von Ungern-Sternberg, aka the Bloody Baron, that old bugbear of mine, was so partial.

Because yes, there was a moment in my life in which I actually wondered where the Mad Baron got his blow in the middle of Siberia. Now I know: it was part of the medical supplies. It even had a brand name, “Forced March” (at least the one provided to British troops) – and yes, they should have spent a little more on marketing, but as they say, it’s the sort of product that sells itself.
In case you are curious, I refer you to this article in the invaluable Encyclopedia 1914-1918.

But anyway there you go, my plot points have been checked and confirmed – I am a serious historical fiction writer (or I’m quite good at pretending to be one).

I also spent some time reading up on the effects of the drug and withdrawal symptoms, and a quantity of other very unpleasant stuff – because it is really unpleasant stuff.

So now I’ll do dinner, and then move on to another point I need to check out for my story… typhoid fever.
Yes, it’s going to be one of those days.

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