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Opium and Romanticism


Religion is the opium of the people

--Karl Marx

The Opium of the Intellectuals

--Raymond Aron

"And here I cannot but break out in praise of the great God, the Giver of all good things, who hath granted to the human race, as a comfort in their afflictions, no medicine of the value of opium, either in regard to the number of diseases that it can control, or its efficiency in extirpating them." --Thomas Sydenham, Observationes Medicae, 1676

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Opium (poppy tears, lachryma papaveris) is the dried latex obtained from the opium poppy (Papaver somniferum). Opium contains approximately 12% morphine, an alkaloid, which is frequently processed chemically to produce heroin for the illegal drug trade.

Opium for illegal use is often converted into heroin, which is less bulky, making it easier to smuggle, and which multiplies its potency to anywhere from twice to four times that of morphine.

Contents

Cultural references

Opium and Romanticism, drug culture

Literature

There is a longstanding literary history by and about opium users. Thomas de Quincey's Confessions of an English Opium-Eater (1822), one of the first and most famous literary accounts of opium addiction written from the point of view of an addict, details the pleasures and dangers of the drug. De Quincey writes about the great English Romantic poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772–1834), whose "Kubla Khan" is also widely considered to be a poem of the opium experience. Coleridge began using opium in 1791 after developing jaundice and rheumatic fever and became a full addict after a severe attack of the disease in 1801, requiring 80–100 drops of laudanum daily. George Crabbe is another early writer who wrote about opium. "The Lotos-Eaters", an 1832 poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson, reflects the generally favorable British attitude toward the drug. In The Count of Monte Cristo (1844) by Alexandre Dumas, père, the Count is assuaged by an edible form of opium and his experience with it is depicted vividly.

Edgar Allan Poe presents opium in a more disturbing context in his 1838 short story, "Ligeia", in which the narrator, deeply distraught for the loss of his beloved, takes solace in opium until he "had become a bounden slave in the trammels of opium," unable to distinguish fantasy from reality after taking immoderate doses of opium.

Towards the end of the 19th century, references to opium and opium addiction, in the contexts of crime and the foreign underclass, abound within English literature, such as in Wilkie Collins' The Moonstone (1868), where it is used to attempt to uncover the jewel thief. Opium features in the opening paragraphs of Charles Dickens's 1870 serial, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, and in Arthur Conan Doyle's 1891 Sherlock Holmes short story, "The Man with the Twisted Lip". Opium is also one of the main subjects in a more recently written Sherlock Holmes novel by Anthony Horowitz. In Jules Verne's novel Around the World in Eighty Days (1873), the character Passepartout is lured into an opium den by the detective Fix, which causes him to become separated from Phileas Fogg, his employer. Opium likewise underwent a transformation in Chinese literature, becoming associated with indolence and vice by the early 20th century. Perhaps the best-known literary reference to opium is Karl Marx's metaphor in his "Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's 'Philosophy of Right'," wherein he refers to religion as the "opium of the people." (This phrase is more commonly quoted as "the opiate of the masses.")

In the 20th century, as the use of opium was eclipsed by morphine and heroin, its role in literature became more limited and often focused on issues related to its prohibition. In The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck, Wang Lung, the protagonist, gets his troublesome uncle and aunt addicted to opium in order to keep them out of his hair. William S. Burroughs autobiographically describes the use of opium and its derivatives. His associate, Jack Black's, memoir You Can't Win, chronicles one man's experience both as an onlooker in the opium dens of San Francisco, and later as a "hop fiend" himself. The book and subsequent movie, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, may allude to opium at one point in the story, when Dorothy and her friends are drawn into a field of poppies, in which they fall asleep. Stephen Maturin, the naval physician in the Jack Aubrey series of nautical novels by Patrick O'Brian, is portrayed as being favorably disposed towards laudanum as a panacea. He claimed to be in control of his own usage, principally as a soporific, which reached as high as 1,000 drops. Opium is also repeatedly mentioned in the novel, The House of the Scorpion, by Nancy Farmer. The plot revolves partly around the poppy flower and opium drug. In George R.R. Martin's novel series A Song of Ice and Fire, a drink referred to in the books as "milk of the poppy" is often used to relieve pain. A 1986 autobiography entitled Poppies: Odyssey of an Opium Eater by Eric Detzer was later made into a film called The Opium Eater. The story explores how Detzer would go about acquiring dried opium poppy pods from flower shops and wild gardens in the Pacific Northwest to feed his opium addiction.

Music

In music, Hector Berlioz' Symphony Fantastique (1830) tells the tale of an artist who has poisoned himself with opium while in the depths of despair for a hopeless love. Each of the symphony's five movements takes place at a different setting and with increasingly audible effects from the drug. For example, in the fourth movement, "Marche au Supplice", the artist dreams that he is walking to his own execution. In the fifth movement, "Songe d’une Nuit du Sabbat", he dreams that he is at a witch's orgy, where he witnesses his beloved dancing wildly along to the demented Dies Irae.

Visual art

"In the years after 1900, no major exhibition was complete without its images of opium-smoking women or morphine addicts [...]" --(Idols of Perversity, Bram Dijkstra).

"Famous pictures such as 'Les morphinées'[1] (1891) by Georges Moreau de Tours or 'La Morphinée' (1905) by Albert Matignon, depicted women, possibly as prostitutes and 'demimondaines', injecting themselves with morphine and, elongated [...]" --Gendered Drugs and Medicine: Historical and Socio-Cultural Perspectives, Teresa Ortiz-Gómez, ‎María Jesús Santesmases

Examples include:

See also: skinny beauty ideal in the fin de siècle

History

Cultivation of opium poppies for food, anaesthesia, and ritual purposes dates back to at least the Neolithic Age (new stone age). The Sumerian, Assyrian, Egyptian, Indian, Minoan, Greek, Roman, Persian and Arab Empires all made widespread use of opium, which was the most potent form of pain relief then available, allowing ancient surgeons to perform prolonged surgical procedures. Opium is mentioned in the most important medical texts of the ancient world, including the Ebers Papyrus and the writings of Dioscorides, Galen, and Avicenna. Widespread medical use of unprocessed opium continued through the American Civil War before giving way to morphine and its successors, which could be injected at a precisely controlled dosage.

In China, recreational use of this drug began in the 15th century, but was limited by its rarity and expense. Opium trade became more regular by the 17th century, when it was mixed with tobacco for smoking, and addiction was first recognized. Opium prohibition in China began in 1729, yet was followed by nearly two centuries of increasing opium use. China had a positive balance sheet in trading with the British, which led to a decrease of the British silver stocks. Therefore, the British tried to encourage Chinese opium use to enhance their balance, and they delivered it from Indian provinces under British control. In India, its cultivation, as well as the manufacture and traffic to China, were subject to the East India Company, as a strict monopoly of the British government. For supervising and managing the business, there was an extensive and complicated system of government agencies. A massive confiscation of opium by the Chinese emperor, who tried to stop the opium deliveries, led to two Opium Wars in 1839 and 1858, in which Britain suppressed China and traded opium all over the country. After 1860, opium use continued to increase with widespread domestic production in China, until more than 25% of the male population were regular consumers by 1905. Recreational or addictive opium use in other nations remained rare into the late 19th century, recorded by an ambivalent literature that sometimes praised the drug.

Global regulation of opium began with the stigmatization of Chinese immigrants and opium dens in San Francisco, California, leading rapidly from town ordinances in the 1870s to the formation of the International Opium Commission in 1909. During this period, the portrayal of opium in literature became squalid and violent, British opium trade was largely supplanted by domestic Chinese production, purified morphine and heroin became widely available for injection, and patent medicines containing opiates reached a peak of popularity. Opium was prohibited in many countries during the early 20th century, leading to the modern pattern of opium production as a precursor for illegal recreational drugs or tightly regulated legal prescription drugs. Illicit opium production, now dominated by Afghanistan, was decimated in 2000, when production was banned by the Taliban, but has increased steadily since the fall of the Taliban in 2001 and over the course of the war in Afghanistan. Worldwide production in 2006 was 6610 metric tons —nearly one-fifth the level of production in 1906.

Ancient use

Opium has been actively collected since prehistoric times, and may be the soma plant ubiquitously mentioned in the Rig Veda. Though western scholars typically date the text at 1500 BCE, Indian scholars maintain that the verses and the history contained in them have been orally transmitted thousands of years before. Soma is Vedic Sanskrit for moon, describing both the shape of the bulb and its nocturnal juice emission, which in ancient times would have been visible by moonlight only. A common name for males in Afghanistan is "Redey", which in Pashto means "poppy". This term may be derived from the Sanskrit words rddhi and hrdya, which mean "magical", "a type of medicinal plant", and "heart-pleasing", respectively. The upper South Asian belt of Afghanistan, Pakistan, northern India, and Burma still account for the world's largest supply of opium.

At least 17 finds of Papaver somniferum from Neolithic settlements have been reported throughout Switzerland, Germany, and Spain, including the placement of large numbers of poppy seed capsules at a burial site (the Cueva de los Murciélagos, or "Bat Cave", in Spain), which have been carbon-14 dated to 4200 BCE. Numerous finds of P. somniferum or P. setigerum from Bronze Age and Iron Age settlements have also been reported.

The first known cultivation of opium poppies was in Mesopotamia, approximately 3400 BCE, by Sumerians, who called the plant hul gil, the "joy plant". Tablets found at Nippur, a Sumerian spiritual center south of Baghdad, described the collection of poppy juice in the morning and its use in production of opium. Cultivation continued in the Middle East by the Assyrians, who also collected poppy juice in the morning after scoring the pods with an iron scoop; they called the juice aratpa-pal, possibly the root of Papaver. Opium production continued under the Babylonians and Egyptians.

Opium was used with poison hemlock to put people quickly and painlessly to death, but it was also used in medicine. The Ebers Papyrus, circa 1500 BCE, describes a way to "stop a crying child" using grains of the poppy plant strained to a pulp. Spongia somnifera, sponges soaked in opium, were used during surgery. The Egyptians cultivated opium thebaicum in famous poppy fields around 1300 BCE. Opium was traded from Egypt by the Phoenicians and Minoans to destinations around the Mediterranean Sea, including Greece, Carthage, and Europe. By 1100 BCE, opium was cultivated on Cyprus, where surgical-quality knives were used to score the poppy pods, and opium was cultivated, traded, and smoked. Opium was also mentioned after the Persian conquest of Assyria and Babylonian lands in the 6th century BCE.

From the earliest finds, opium has appeared to have ritual significance, and anthropologists have speculated ancient priests may have used the drug as a proof of healing power. In Egypt, the use of opium was generally restricted to priests, magicians, and warriors, its invention is credited to Thoth, and it was said to have been given by Isis to Ra as treatment for a headache. A figure of the Minoan "goddess of the narcotics", wearing a crown of three opium poppies, circa 1300 BCE, was recovered from the Sanctuary of Gazi, Crete, together with a simple smoking apparatus. The Greek gods Hypnos (Sleep), Nyx (Night), and Thanatos (Death) were depicted wreathed in poppies or holding them. Poppies also frequently adorned statues of Apollo, Asklepios, Pluto, Demeter, Aphrodite, Kybele and Isis, symbolizing nocturnal oblivion.

Islamic societies (500–1500 CE)

As the power of the Roman Empire declined, the lands to the south, and east of the Mediterranean Sea became incorporated into the Islamic Empires. Some Muslims believe hadiths, such as in Sahih Bukhari, prohibits every intoxicating substance, though the use of intoxicants in medicine has been widely permitted by scholars. Dioscorides' five-volume De Materia Medica, the precursor of pharmacopoeias, remained in use (with some improvements in Arabic versions) from the 1st to 16th centuries, and described opium and the wide range of its uses prevalent in the ancient world.

Between 400 and 1200 CE, Arab traders introduced opium to China. The Persian physician Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi ("Rhazes", 845–930 CE) maintained a laboratory and school in Baghdad, and was a student and critic of Galen; he made use of opium in anesthesia and recommended its use for the treatment of melancholy in Fi ma-la-yahdara al-tabib, "In the Absence of a Physician", a home medical manual directed toward ordinary citizens for self-treatment if a doctor was not available.

The renowned Andalusian ophthalmologic surgeon Abu al-Qasim al-Zahrawi ("Abulcasis", 936–1013 CE) relied on opium and mandrake as surgical anaesthetics and wrote a treatise, al-Tasrif, that influenced medical thought well into the 16th century.

The Persian physician Abū ‘Alī al-Husayn ibn Sina ("Avicenna") described opium as the most powerful of the stupefacients, by comparison with mandrake and other highly effective herbs, in The Canon of Medicine. This classic text was translated into Latin in 1175 and later into many other languages and remained authoritative into the 17th century. Şerafeddin Sabuncuoğlu used opium in the 14th century Ottoman Empire to treat migraine headaches, sciatica, and other painful ailments.

Reintroduction to Western medicine

Manuscripts of Pseudo-Apuleius's 5th-century work from the 10th and 11th centuries refer to the use of wild poppy Papaver agreste or Papaver rhoeas (identified as P. silvaticum) instead of P. somniferum for inducing sleep and relieving pain.

The use of Paracelsus' laudanum was introduced to Western medicine in 1527, when Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, better known by the name Paracelsus, returned from his wanderings in Arabia with a famous sword, within the pommel of which he kept "Stones of Immortality" compounded from opium thebaicum, citrus juice, and "quintessence of gold." The name "Paracelsus" was a pseudonym signifying him the equal or better of Aulus Cornelius Celsus, whose text, which described the use of opium or a similar preparation, had recently been translated and reintroduced to medieval Europe. The Canon of Medicine, the standard medical textbook Paracelsus burned in a public bonfire three weeks after being appointed professor at the University of Basel, also described the use of opium, though many Latin translations were of poor quality. Laudanum was originally the 16th-century term for a medicine associated with a particular physician that was widely well-regarded, but became standardized as "tincture of opium", a solution of opium in ethanol, which Paracelsus has been credited with developing. During his lifetime, Paracelsus was viewed as an adventurer who challenged the theories and mercenary motives of contemporary medicine with dangerous chemical therapies, but his therapies marked a turning point in Western medicine. In the 17th century, laudanum was recommended for pain, sleeplessness, and diarrhea by Thomas Sydenham, the renowned "father of English medicine" or "English Hippocrates", to whom is attributed the quote, "Among the remedies which it has pleased Almighty God to give to man to relieve his sufferings, none is so universal and so efficacious as opium."

Use of opium as a cure-all was reflected in the formulation of mithridatium described in the 1728 Chambers Cyclopedia, which included true opium in the mixture. Subsequently, laudanum became the basis of many popular patent medicines of the 19th century.

During the 18th century, opium was found to be a good remedy for nervous disorders. Due to its sedative and tranquilizing properties, it was used to quiet the minds of those with psychosis, help with people who were considered insane, and also to help treat patients with insomnia. However, despite its medicinal values in these cases, it was noted that in cases of psychosis, it could cause anger or depression, and due to the drug's euphoric effects, it could cause depressed patients to become more depressed after the effects wore off because they would get used to being high.

The standard medical use of opium persisted well into the 19th century. US president William Henry Harrison was treated with opium in 1841, and in the American Civil War, the Union Army used 2.8 million ounces of opium tincture and powder and about 500,000 opium pills. During this time of popularity, users called opium "God's Own Medicine."

Recreational use outside China (15th to 19th centuries)

Opium is said to have been used for recreational purposes from the 14th century onwards in Muslim societies. Testimonies of historians, diplomats, religious scholars, intellectuals and travellers, Ottoman and European, confirm, from the 16th to the 19th centuries, Anatolian opium was eaten in Constantinople as much as it was exported to Europe. In 1573, for instance, a Venetian visitor to the Ottoman Empire observed many of the Turkish natives of Constantinople regularly drank a "certain black water made with opium" that makes them feel good, but to which they become so addicted, if they try to go without, they will "quickly die". From eating it, dervishes were said to draw ecstasy, soldiers courage, and others bliss and voluptuousness. It is not only to the pleasures of coffee and tulips that the Ottomans initiated Europe. It was also Turkey which, long before China, supplied the West with opium. In his Confessions of an English Opium-Eater (1821, p. 188), it is still Ottoman, not Chinese, addicts about whom Thomas de Quincey writes: "I question whether any Turk, of all that ever entered the paradise of opium-eaters, can have had half the pleasure I had."

Extensive textual and pictorial sources also show that poppy cultivation and opium consumption were widespread in Safavid Iran and Moghol India.

The most important reason for the increase in opiate consumption in the United States during the 19th century was the prescribing and dispensing of legal opiates by physicians and pharmacists to women with "female problems" (mostly to relieve menstrual pain). Between 150,000 and 200,000 opiate addicts lived in the United States in the late 19th century and between two-thirds and three-quarters of these addicts were women.

Recreational use in China

The earliest clear description of the use of opium as a recreational drug in China came from Xu Boling, who wrote in 1483 that opium was "mainly used to aid masculinity, strengthen sperm and regain vigor", and that it "enhances the art of alchemists, sex and court ladies". He described an expedition sent by the Chenghua Emperor in 1483 to procure opium for a price "equal to that of gold" in Hainan, Fujian, Zhejiang, Sichuan and Shaanxi, where it is close to Xiyu. A century later, Li Shizhen listed standard medical uses of opium in his renowned Compendium of Materia Medica (1578), but also wrote that "lay people use it for the art of sex", in particular the ability to "arrest seminal emission". This association of opium with sex continued in China until the 12th century. Opium smoking began as a privilege of the elite and remained a great luxury into the early 19th century, but by 1861, Wang Tao wrote that opium was used even by rich peasants, and even a small village without a rice store would have a shop where opium was sold.

Smoking of opium came on the heels of tobacco smoking and may have been encouraged by a brief ban on the smoking of tobacco by the Ming emperor, ending in 1644 with the Qing dynasty, which had encouraged smokers to mix in increasing amounts of opium. In 1705, Wang Shizhen wrote, "nowadays, from nobility and gentlemen down to slaves and women, all are addicted to tobacco." Tobacco in that time was frequently mixed with other herbs (this continues with clove cigarettes to the modern day), and opium was one component in the mixture. Tobacco mixed with opium was called madak (or madat) and became popular throughout China and its seafaring trade partners (such as Taiwan, Java, and the Philippines) in the 17th century. In 1712, Engelbert Kaempfer described addiction to madak: "No commodity throughout the Indies is retailed with greater profit by the Batavians than opium, which [its] users cannot do without, nor can they come by it except it be brought by the ships of the Batavians from Bengal and Coromandel."

Fueled in part by the 1729 ban on madak, which at first effectively exempted pure opium as a potentially medicinal product, the smoking of pure opium became more popular in the 18th century. In 1736, the smoking of pure opium was described by Huang Shujing, involving a pipe made from bamboo rimmed with silver, stuffed with palm slices and hair, fed by a clay bowl in which a globule of molten opium was held over the flame of an oil lamp. This elaborate procedure, requiring the maintenance of pots of opium at just the right temperature for a globule to be scooped up with a needle-like skewer for smoking, formed the basis of a craft of "paste-scooping" by which servant girls could become prostitutes as the opportunity arose.

Chinese diaspora

Beginning in 19th-century China, famine and political upheaval, as well as rumors of wealth to be had in nearby Southeast Asia, led to the Chinese Diaspora. Chinese emigrants to cities such as San Francisco, London, and New York brought with them the Chinese manner of opium smoking and the social traditions of the opium den. The Indian Diaspora distributed opium-eaters in the same way, and both social groups survived as "lascars" (seamen) and "coolies" (manual laborers). French sailors provided another major group of opium smokers, having contracted the habit in French Indochina, where the drug was promoted by the colonial government as a monopoly and source of revenue. Among white Europeans, opium was more frequently consumed as laudanum or in patent medicines. Britain's All-India Opium Act of 1878 formalized social distinctions, limiting recreational opium sales to registered Indian opium-eaters and Chinese opium-smokers and prohibiting its sale to workers from Burma. Likewise, American law sought to contain addiction to immigrants by prohibiting Chinese from smoking opium in the presence of a white man.

Because of the low social status of immigrant workers, contemporary writers and media had little trouble portraying opium dens as seats of vice, white slavery, gambling, knife- and revolver-fights, a source for drugs causing deadly overdoses, with the potential to addict and corrupt the white population. By 1919, anti-Chinese riots attacked Limehouse, the Chinatown of London. Chinese men were deported for playing keno and sentenced to hard labor for opium possession. Both the immigrant population and the social use of opium fell into decline. Yet despite lurid literary accounts to the contrary, 19th-century London was not a hotbed of opium smoking. The total lack of photographic evidence of opium smoking in Britain, as opposed to the relative abundance of historical photos depicting opium smoking in North America and France, indicates the infamous Limehouse opium-smoking scene was little more than fantasy on the part of British writers of the day, who were intent on scandalizing their readers while drumming up the threat of the "yellow peril".


Prohibition and conflict in China

Opium prohibition began in 1729, when Emperor Yongzheng of the Qing Dynasty, disturbed by madak smoking at court and carrying out the government's role of upholding Confucian virtue, officially prohibited the sale of opium, except for a small amount for medicinal purposes. The ban punished sellers and opium den keepers, but not users of the drug. Opium was banned completely in 1799, and this prohibition continued until 1860.

Under the Qing Dynasty, China opened itself to foreign trade under the Canton system through the port of Guangzhou (Canton), and traders from the British East India Company began visiting the port by the 1690s. Due to the growing British demand for Indian tea and the Chinese Emperor's prohibition of British commodities other than silver, British traders resorted to trade in opium as a high-value commodity for which China was not self-sufficient. The British traders had been purchasing small amounts of opium from India for trade since Ralph Fitch first visited in the mid-16th century. Trade in opium was standardized, with production of balls of raw opium, 1.1 to 1.6 kilograms, 30% water content, wrapped in poppy leaves and petals, and shipped in chests of 60–65 kilograms (one picul). Chests of opium were sold in auctions in Calcutta with the understanding that the independent purchasers would then smuggle it into China.

After the 1757 Battle of Plassey and 1764 Battle of Buxar, the British East India Company gained the power to act as diwan of Bengal, Bihar, and Odisha (See company rule in India). This allowed the company to exercise a monopoly over opium production and export in India, to encourage ryots to cultivate the cash crops of indigo and opium with cash advances, and to prohibit the "hoarding" of rice. This strategy led to the increase of the land tax to 50% of the value of crops and to the doubling of East India Company profits by 1777. It is also claimed to have contributed to the starvation of 10 million people in the Bengal famine of 1770. Beginning in 1773, the British government began enacting oversight of the company's operations, and in response to the Indian Rebellion of 1857, this policy culminated in the establishment of direct rule over the presidencies and provinces of British India. Bengal opium was highly prized, commanding twice the price of the domestic Chinese product, which was regarded as inferior in quality.

Some competition came from the newly independent United States, which began to compete in Guangzhou, selling Turkish opium in the 1820s. Portuguese traders also brought opium from the independent Malwa states of western India, although by 1820, the British were able to restrict this trade by charging "pass duty" on the opium when it was forced to pass through Bombay to reach an entrepot. Despite drastic penalties and continued prohibition of opium until 1860, opium importation rose steadily from 200 chests per year under Yongzheng to 1,000 under Qianlong, 4,000 under Jiaqing, and 30,000 under Daoguang. The illegal sale of opium became one of the world's most valuable single commodity trades and has been called "the most long continued and systematic international crime of modern times".

In response to the ever-growing number of Chinese people becoming addicted to opium, Daoguang of the Qing Dynasty took strong action to halt the import of opium, including the seizure of cargo. In 1838, the Chinese Commissioner Lin Zexu destroyed 20,000 chests of opium in Guangzhou. Given that a chest of opium was worth nearly $1,000 in 1800, this was a substantial economic loss. The British, not willing to replace the cheap opium with costly silver, began the First Opium War in 1840, the British winning Hong Kong and trade concessions in the first of a series of Unequal Treaties.

Following China's defeat in the Second Opium War in 1858, China was forced to legalize opium and began massive domestic production. Importation of opium peaked in 1879 at 6,700 tons, and by 1906, China was producing 85% of the world's opium, some 35,000 tons, and 27% of its adult male population regularly used opium —13.5 million people consuming 39,000 tons of opium yearly. From 1880 to the beginning of the Communist era, the British attempted to discourage the use of opium in China, but this effectively promoted the use of morphine, heroin, and cocaine, further exacerbating the problem of addiction.

Scientific evidence of the pernicious nature of opium use was largely undocumented in the 1890s, when Protestant missionaries in China decided to strengthen their opposition to the trade by compiling data which would demonstrate the harm the drug did. Faced with the problem that many Chinese associated Christianity with opium, partly due to the arrival of early Protestant missionaries on opium clippers, at the 1890 Shanghai Missionary Conference, they agreed to establish the Permanent Committee for the Promotion of Anti-Opium Societies in an attempt to overcome this problem and to arouse public opinion against the opium trade. The members of the committee were John Glasgow Kerr, MD, American Presbyterian Mission in Canton; B.C. Atterbury, MD, American Presbyterian Mission in Peking; Archdeacon Arthur E. Moule, Church Missionary Society in Shanghai; Henry Whitney, MD, American Board of Commissioners for foreign Missions in Foochow; the Rev. Samuel Clarke, China Inland Mission in Kweiyang; the Rev. Arthur Gostick Shorrock, English Baptist Mission in Taiyuan; and the Rev. Griffith John, London Mission Society in Hankow. These missionaries were generally outraged over the British government's Royal Commission on Opium visiting India but not China. Accordingly, the missionaries first organized the Anti-Opium League in China among their colleagues in every mission station in China. American missionary Hampden Coit DuBose acted as first president. This organization, which had elected national officers and held an annual national meeting, was instrumental in gathering data from every Western-trained medical doctor in China, which was then published as William Hector Park compiled Opinions of Over 100 Physicians on the Use of Opium in China (Shanghai: American Presbyterian Mission Press, 1899). The vast majority of these medical doctors were missionaries; the survey also included doctors who were in private practices, particularly in Shanghai and Hong Kong, as well as Chinese who had been trained in medical schools in Western countries. In England, the home director of the China Inland Mission, Benjamin Broomhall, was an active opponent of the opium trade, writing two books to promote the banning of opium smoking: The Truth about Opium Smoking and The Chinese Opium Smoker. In 1888, Broomhall formed and became secretary of the Christian Union for the Severance of the British Empire with the Opium Traffic and editor of its periodical, National Righteousness. He lobbied the British Parliament to stop the opium trade. He and James Laidlaw Maxwell appealed to the London Missionary Conference of 1888 and the Edinburgh Missionary Conference of 1910 to condemn the continuation of the trade. When Broomhall was dying, his son Marshall read to him from The Times the welcome news that an agreement had been signed ensuring the end of the opium trade within two years.

Official Chinese resistance to opium was renewed on September 20, 1906, with an antiopium initiative intended to eliminate the drug problem within 10 years. The program relied on the turning of public sentiment against opium, with mass meetings at which opium paraphernalia were publicly burned, as well as coercive legal action and the granting of police powers to organizations such as the Fujian Anti-Opium Society. Smokers were required to register for licenses for gradually reducing rations of the drug. Addicts sometimes turned to missionaries for treatment for their addiction, though many associated these foreigners with the drug trade. The program was counted as a substantial success, with a cessation of direct British opium exports to China (but not Hong Kong) and most provinces declared free of opium production. Nonetheless, the success of the program was only temporary, with opium use rapidly increasing during the disorder following the death of Yuan Shikai in 1916.

Beginning in 1915, Chinese nationalist groups came to describe the period of military losses and Unequal Treaties as the "Century of National Humiliation", later defined to end with the conclusion of the Chinese Civil War in 1949.

In the northern provinces of Ningxia and Suiyuan in China, Chinese Muslim General Ma Fuxiang both prohibited and engaged in the opium trade. It was hoped that Ma Fuxiang would have improved the situation, since Chinese Muslims were well known for opposition to smoking opium. Ma Fuxiang officially prohibited opium and made it illegal in Ningxia, but the Guominjun reversed his policy; by 1933, people from every level of society were abusing the drug, and Ningxia was left in destitution. In 1923, an officer of the Bank of China from Baotou found out that Ma Fuxiang was assisting the drug trade in opium which helped finance his military expenses. He earned $2 million from taxing those sales in 1923. General Ma had been using the bank, a branch of the Government of China's exchequer, to arrange for silver currency to be transported to Baotou to use it to sponsor the trade.

Mitsubishi and Mitsui were involved in the opium trade during the Japanese occupation of China.

The Mao Zedong government is generally credited with eradicating both consumption and production of opium during the 1950s using unrestrained repression and social reform. Ten million addicts were forced into compulsory treatment, dealers were executed, and opium-producing regions were planted with new crops. Remaining opium production shifted south of the Chinese border into the Golden Triangle region, at times with the involvement of Western intelligence agencies. The remnant opium trade primarily served Southeast Asia, but spread to American soldiers during the Vietnam War, with 20% of soldiers regarding themselves as addicted during the peak of the epidemic in 1971. In 2003, China was estimated to have four million regular drug users and one million registered drug addicts.

Prohibition outside China

There were no legal restrictions on the importation or use of opium in the United States until the San Francisco Opium Den Ordinance, which banned dens for public smoking of opium in 1875, a measure fueled by anti-Chinese sentiment and the perception that whites were starting to frequent the dens. This was followed by an 1891 California law requiring that narcotics carry warning labels and that their sales be recorded in a registry; amendments to the California Pharmacy and Poison Act in 1907 made it a crime to sell opiates without a prescription, and bans on possession of opium or opium pipes in 1909 were enacted.

At the US federal level, the legal actions taken reflected constitutional restrictions under the enumerated powers doctrine prior to reinterpretation of the commerce clause, which did not allow the federal government to enact arbitrary prohibitions, but did permit arbitrary taxation. Beginning in 1883, opium importation was taxed at $6 to $300 per pound, until the Opium Exclusion Act of 1909 prohibited the importation of opium altogether. In a similar manner, the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act of 1914, passed in fulfillment of the International Opium Convention of 1912, nominally placed a tax on the distribution of opiates, but served as a de facto prohibition of the drugs. Today, opium is regulated by the Drug Enforcement Administration under the Controlled Substances Act.

Following passage of a regional law in 1895, Australia's Aboriginals Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act 1897 addressed opium addiction among Aborigines, though it soon became a general vehicle for depriving them of basic rights by administrative regulation. Opium sale was prohibited to the general population in 1905, and smoking and possession was prohibited in 1908.

Hardening of Canadian attitudes toward Chinese opium users and fear of a spread of the drug into the white population led to the effective criminalization of opium for nonmedical use in Canada between 1908 and the mid-1920s.

In 1909, the International Opium Commission was founded, and by 1914, 34 nations had agreed that the production and importation of opium should be diminished. In 1924, 62 nations participated in a meeting of the Commission. Subsequently, this role passed to the League of Nations, and all signatory nations agreed to prohibit the import, sale, distribution, export, and use of all narcotic drugs, except for medical and scientific purposes. This role was later taken up by the International Narcotics Control Board of the United Nations under Article 23 of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, and subsequently under the Convention on Psychotropic Substances. Opium-producing nations are required to designate a government agency to take physical possession of licit opium crops as soon as possible after harvest and conduct all wholesaling and exporting through that agency.

Regulation in Britain and the United States

Before the 1920s, regulation in Britain was controlled by the pharmacists. Pharmacists that were found to have prescribed opium for illegitimate causes and anyone found to have sold opium without a proper qualifications would be prosecuted. Due to the passing of the Rolleston Act in Britain in 1926, doctors could prescribe opiates such as morphine and heroin on their own accord based on if they felt that their patients needed it. This Act came about due to the fact that Britain didn’t see people’s addiction as an indulgence, but rather as a medical problem that needed weaning off the drug rather than cutting the patient off altogether. The passing of this act put the control of opium use in the hands of medical doctors instead of pharmacists. However, as the 20th century continued, the addiction to opiates, especially heroin in young people, continued to rise and so the sale and prescription of opiates was limited to doctors in treatment centers and if these doctors were found to be prescribing opiates without just cause, then they could lose their license to practice or prescribe drugs.

The abuse of opium in the United States began in the late 19th century and was largely stigmatized with Chinese immigrants. During this time the use of opium had little negative connotation and was used freely until 1882 when a law was passed to confine opium smoking to specific dens. Until the full ban on opium based products came into effect just after the turn of the century, physicians in the US considered opium a miracle drug that could help with many ailments. Therefore, the ban on said products was more a result of negative connotations towards its use and distribution by Chinese immigrants who were heavily persecuted during this particular period in history. As the 19th century progressed however, there was a doctor by the name of Hamilton Wright that worked to decrease the use of opium in the US by submitting the Harrison Act to congress. This act put taxes and restrictions on the sale and prescription of opium, as well as trying to stigmatize the opium poppy and its derivatives as "demon drugs," to try and scare people away from them. This act and the stigma of a demon drug on opium, led to the criminalization of people that used opium-based products.

Obsolescence

Globally, opium has gradually been superseded by a variety of purified, semi-synthetic, and synthetic opioids with progressively stronger effects, and by other general anesthetics. This process began in 1804, when Friedrich Wilhelm Adam Sertürner first isolated morphine from the opium poppy. The process continued until 1817, when Sertürner published the isolation of pure morphine from opium after at least thirteen years of research and a nearly disastrous trial on himself and three boys. The great advantage of purified morphine was that a patient could be treated with a known dose—whereas with raw plant material, as Gabriel Fallopius once lamented, "if soporifics are weak they do not help; if they are strong they are exceedingly dangerous." Morphine was the first pharmaceutical isolated from a natural product, and this success encouraged the isolation of other alkaloids: by 1820, isolations of narcotine, strychnine, veratrine, colchicine, caffeine, and quinine were reported. Morphine sales began in 1827, by Heinrich Emanuel Merck of Darmstadt, and helped him expand his family pharmacy into the Merck KGaA pharmaceutical company.

Codeine was isolated in 1832 by Pierre Jean Robiquet.

The use of diethyl ether and chloroform for general anesthesia began in 1846–1847, and rapidly displaced the use of opiates and tropane alkaloids from Solanaceae due to their relative safety.

Heroin, the first semi-synthetic opiate, was first synthesized in 1874, but was not pursued until its rediscovery in 1897 by Felix Hoffmann at the Bayer pharmaceutical company in Elberfeld, Germany. From 1898 to 1910 heroin was marketed as a non-addictive morphine substitute and cough medicine for children. By 1902, sales made up 5% of the company's profits, and "heroinism" had attracted media attention. Oxycodone, a thebaine derivative similar to codeine, was introduced by Bayer in 1916 and promoted as a less-addictive analgesic. Preparations of the drug such as Percocet and OxyContin remain popular to this day.

A range of synthetic opioids such as methadone (1937), pethidine (1939), fentanyl (late 1950s), and derivatives thereof have been introduced, and each is preferred for certain specialized applications. Nonetheless, morphine remains the drug of choice for American combat medics, who carry packs of syrettes containing 16 milligrams each for use on severely wounded soldiers. No drug has been found that can match the painkilling effect of opioids without also duplicating much of their addictive potential.



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