Published on: November 25, 2010

The issue of opioid availability is such a huge concern for palliative care people that all their antennae go up when they hear the word ‘poppy’.

Well, you will not regret it if you pick up “Sea of Poppies” by Amitav Ghosh (Penguin Books, 2008) – a book short-listed for the Man Booker Prize in 2008.

Set on the Gangetic plains and the wide ocean during the days of the British Raj, it is indeed a masterpiece. Read it and it will take you inside the Opium and Alkaloid Factory in Ghazipur. And the poppy is indeed a major character in the book,

Like all the gifts that Nature gives us – fire, water and the rest – it [opium] demands to be used with the greatest care and caution.

Wise words indeed. We palliative care people in the developing world particularly need to remember this. In our enthusiasm to improve access to opioids, do we sometimes forget to ensure that it is stored, dispensed and monitored with caution?