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A History of Narcotic Consumption in Modern China! by ZhouXun Jordan Goodman has underlined that next to nothing is known concerning how and why Europeans consumed coffee, chocolate and tea and how and why that consumption was sustained and grew over time: until recently, these questions were virtually ignored or dismissed as trivial by historians.2 Historians of China have also failed to investigate how and why opium was consumed, although Lars Laamann's article shows how opium was considered a medical panacea in the Qing as well as in Britain until the end of the nineteenth century. Furthermore, the link between "opium" and "China" in the popular imagination is so overwhelming that historians have entirely overlooked the spread of other historically significant narcotics-including heroin, morphine and a multitude of semi-synthetic drugs. These substances were widespread during the first half of the twentieth century, although no researcher has even hinted at the sheer diversity of narcotic culture in modern China. On the basis of fresh evidence from archival materials and other primary sources, this article emphasises the social and cultural dynamics behind the huge expansion of narcotics. It highlights the nature of the narcotics consumed in modem China as well as the diverse modes of their consumption-snorted, smoked, chewed or injected. Similarly, the essay will examine the full social diversity of consumers, from government officials to homeless vagrants, as shifting modes of consumption are related to changing social formations and political configurations. Contrary to the stereotypical portrayal of narcotics users as "addicts " in the iron grip of physical dependence, this article emphasi~~s the full breadth of choice offered to the consumer, including opium, morphine, heroin and cocaine. The modern pharmaceutical industry further marketed a whole range of new alkaloids, such as dionine, codeine, eukodol, papaverin, pantopon or pavino!. International treaties, which were an intrinsic part of global policies of opium prohibition, also contributed to the diversification in psychoactive substances. As William McAllister has shown, the international drug control agenda which appeared in the first decades of the twentieth century as a direct result of China's pleas for global cooperation encouraged, however inadvertently, the development of new manufacturing processes and pharmaceutical products. Prohibition spurred the development of new substances, as well as of criminal gangs who Twentieth-Century China, Vol. 28, NO.1 (November, 2002): 21-36 22 Twentieth-Century China relied on official anti-narcotics policies for their prosperity.3 However crucial government restrictions on opium and the international war on drugs may have been in the shaping of narcotic culture in China, consumers rather than suppliers nonetheless continued to be the main determinant of consumption patterns: in search for a panacea against pain, hunger and cold as well as a lubricant for social intercourse, they opted for opium, morphine and heroin rather than for cocaine or cannabis. MORPHINE AS THE MODERN MIRACLE DRUG The late Qing suppression policy, as mentioned at the end of the preceding article by Lars Laamann, resulted in ever higher prices for opium, forcing habitual users to explore new and more affordable alternatives. Instead of containing the use of drugs, the policy led to the flourishing of a whole new generation of narcotics-beginning with morphine-as well as to a burgeoning contraband traffic in synthetic drugs. A product of modem chemistry, morphine was embraced by medical professionals and ordinary drug users alike in order to provide an alternative to opium. Ironically, it was the obsessive search for therapeutic "opium cures," containing liberal quantities of morphine, that fuelled the spread of this new drug. Morphine was first isolated in Europe as the active agent of opium in 1803. The white substance was named morphium after Morpheus, the god of sleep. In Asia, morphine appeared in Bengal in 1881, with its use steadily expanding until the end of the nineteenth century. Taken as pills or dissolved in water-rarely, however, in alcoholic solution-morphine was initially only available on prescription.4 When morphine became available in Singapore around 1890, its popularity increased at such a pace that opium imports suffered a significant decline.5 Already several years earlier, the practice of adding morphine to smoking opium was witnessed in Hong Kong...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1940-5065
Print ISSN
1521-5385
Pages
pp. 21-36
Launched on MUSE
2021-05-25
Open Access
No
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