Narcotic Culture : A History of Drugs in China
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To this day, the perception persists that China was a civilisation defeated by imperialist Britain's most desirable trade commodity, opium - a drug that turned the Chinese into cadaverous addicts in the iron grip of dependence. But, as this new edition of Narcotic Culture brilliantly shows, the real scandal in Chinese history was not the expansion of the drug trade by Britain in the early nineteenth century, but rather the failure of the British to grasp the consequences of prohibition. They reveal that opium actually had few harmful effects on either health or longevity; in fact, it was prepared and appreciated in highly complex rituals with inbuilt constraints preventing excessive use. Opium was even used as a medicinal panacea in China before the availability of aspirin and penicillin. But as a result of the British effort to eradicate opium, the Chinese turned from the relatively benign use of that drug to heroin, morphine, cocaine, and countless other psychoactive substances. The transition from a tolerated opium culture to a system of prohibition produced a 'cure' that was far worse than the disease. Delving into a history of drugs and their abuses, Narcotic Culture is part revisionist history of imperial and twentieth-century Britain and part sobering portrait of the dangers of prohibition.