This article comprises spoilers for The Queen’s Gambit.
Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit dramatizes the unheard of upward thrust of (fictional) chess prodigy Elizabeth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy) during the grandmaster ranks of chess champions in the 1950s and ‘60s. Nonetheless as with other prestige television sequence, there could be a darkish aspect to this savant’s abilities: Whereas she possesses a natural affinity for complex and creative chess moves, Beth will more than likely be constrained by her rising drug habit, which she believes enables her to prevail in so many harrowing chess suits.
Even earlier than she touches a pawn for the main time, these little green tranquilizer medications define Beth’s existence and her establish, from her very first day at a Kentucky orphanage. Nonetheless are the medications in The Queen’s Gambit right, or a TV construct? Like Beth’s story, the medications—referred to as Xanzolam in the sequence—are a historical fiction, drawing upon right benzodiazepines and their checkered history.
In her childhood, Beth knows them fully as one of two “dietary vitamins”—one purple, one green—that she receives on the orphanage to relieve “even out” her disposition. In Water Tevis’ 1983 original The Queen’s Gambit, on which the miniseries relies, the tranquilizers are an instantaneous section of Beth’s story: Beth’s disposition used to be all actual, as far as anyone could watch, but she used to be elated to procure the little pill. It loosened something deep in her abdominal and helped her doze away the stressful hours in the orphanage.
In the sequence, fellow orphan-grew to turn out to be-older sister figure Jolene (Moses Ingram) slyly advises Beth to wait and decide on the golf green ones actual earlier than bed, “otherwise they flip off actual if you wish them to flip on.” For Beth, which blueprint that they put her in an altered stutter; as soon as she is launched to a chessboard, the medications enable her to hallucinate the items on her bed room ceiling, mapping out moves gradual into the evening.
Whereas Beth’s reactions to the sedatives at the birth establish seem quaint, it soon turns into sure that the child has gotten zigzag. Soon after her arrival, the orphanage stops administering the golf green “dietary vitamins” after they’re banned for his or her habit-forming dispositions—but by then Beth is experiencing withdrawal symptoms. Her desperate strive to atomize into the orphanage’s pharmacy on the tip of the main episode items the sequence’ tone for sharp cinematography, with the shot of Beth collapsed among the scattered medications she so craves.
This stage of Beth’s existence also has stakes in fact: A 2018 BuzzFeed investigation into the Catholic orphanage system in 20th century North The United States found evidence and accounts of nuns-grew to turn out to be-nurses administering intravenous sedatives to orphans.
After that stunt, the medications leave Beth’s existence for years; she could just by no blueprint believe encountered them again if it weren’t for her stepmother, Alma Wheatley (Marielle Heller), and her need for “tranquility medication” to ease the stutter of her unfulfilled artist dreams: She has Beth fill up a prescription for none as hostile to familiar green Xanzolam, which helps “even out” each mother and daughter in assorted ways.
Whereas the title Xanzolam is fictional, the pill is clearly supposed to be a stand-in for right-existence benzodiazepines, tranquilizer medication that act on the mind and central anxious system in focus on in self assurance to diminish distress, soothe insomnia, and (paradoxically) treat withdrawal symptoms. Intended as a safer different to barbiturates, “benzos” were in most cases abused by being taken far beyond the suggested non everlasting length of medication. Developed in the 1950s, benzos were a fixture in society by the 1960s, with doctors in most cases prescribing “Mother’s Little Helper” as a brief repair for housewives’ ennui.
Namely, Newsweek draws a connection between Xanzolam and the sedative Librium (chlordiazepoxide). Patented in 1958 and authorized for clinical employ in 1960, it used to be the main benzo to be synthesized. By 1975, it used to be the fourth highest-selling pill in the United States, but that identical twelve months the DEA instituted controls to curb the usage.
Clearly, benzodiazepines are the length-acceptable drug of different for The Queen’s Gambit, although the sequence introduces the notion of controls earlier in the 1960s, which is section of what makes the pill so unattainable for Beth unless her formative years. No topic the controls of the ‘70s, it wasn’t unless the 1980s that scientists publicly known the addictive qualities of such medication, moreover to their euphoric aspect results that contributed to a upward thrust in leisure usage and abuse.
As Beth moves up during the grandmaster ranks, gradually trouncing her mostly male opponents, her trajectory is laden by her dependence on Xanzolam: To boot to her middle of the night dosage, she makes a ritual out of swallowing some green medications actual earlier than suits, to establish her in that altered stutter at some level of right gameplay against a flesh-and-blood opponent as a substitute of perfect her have mind taking part in out moves. That euphoria brings her crashing down extra than as soon as, as gradual-evening partying and overindulging in alcohol the evening earlier than her vital match against Vasily Borgov in Paris has her moderately literally off her game.
To boot to drawing from historical abuse of benzodiazepines, Tevis also integrated his have non-public experiences with habit. Diagnosed at age 9 with rheumatic coronary heart and Sydenham’s chorea, he used to be placed in a convalescent dwelling as a child. As he instructed Chess Life in 1983, he spent two years in that successfully being heart, from ages 9 to 11, receiving traditional doses of the sedative phenobarbital. In adulthood, he used to be also a recovered alcoholic. “Beth’s habit to medications reflects that,” he instructed the magazine, adding that, “I like Beth. I’m touched by her potential to search out what she will be able to discontinuance easiest—persist with it—and be in a position to outlive and produce.”
The Queen’s Gambit is streaming now on Netflix.