A History of Drugs in China
In a stunning historical reversal, Frank Dikötter, Lars Laamann, and Zhou Xun tell this different story of the relationship between opium and the Chinese. 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. Narcotic Culture provides abundant evidence that 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.
Skillfully deploying historical and medical evidence, Narcotic Culture stands all this on its head. The British and their mercantile allies may actually have done the Chinese a favour. In an age when modern medicines were unavailable, opium became a near-universal, inexpensive panacea against the symptoms of dysentery, cholera, malaria and other endemic diseases. . . . Narcotic Culture teases out the complex relationship between tolerance and suppression. It needs to be read far outside the community of Sinologists whence it has emanated."