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Opinions of over 100 Physicians on the use of Opium in China

Compiled by William Hector Park

American Presbyterian Mission Press, Shanghai, 1899

Alcohol and Opium Compared.

By W.H. Park, M.D.

[ALCOHOL] 1. Of the millions of regular users of alcohol a lamentably large number become slaves to the alcohol habit.

2. Numbers of people boast of their "personal liberty" and claim that they can drink or not just as they choose. All moderate drinkers (people who never get drunk, and yet who take wine or beer daily with their meals and social glasses of something stronger as occasions arise) claim that they are not slaves to alcohol, that they are not weakened by it physically, and that its withdrawal entails no special inconvenience; and they would be highly insulted if any one should intimate that they are being thereby morally or socially degraded.

3. Nevertheless, every one nipping alcohol occasionally is in danger of forming the alcohol habit, and if one takes it daily for any length of time the danger is increased. The only safe rule is never to touch it. The slavish appetite is developed gradually in most cases, and, in strong willed people, its confirmation may be a matter of years.

4. People take to drink on account of trouble and sorrow, and sometimes for pain and disease, some claiming that it is prophylactic against certain diseases.

5. I had a classmate who said his father told him he might take a little whiskey whenever he felt ill, and he had not experienced a well day since.

6. A sailor once told me how he alone of a whole ship's company escaped yellow fever in a certain South American city by lying ashore "dead drunk" the whole time the ship was in port.

7. The claim is constantly made that a moderate amount of alcohol consumed daily can be reckoned as food and that it is only excess that is injurious. Some recent French authorities have set one liter of wine per day as the maximum amount a healthy man can imbibe without injury.

8. "All excess is injurious. North-pole voyages, military expeditions (experiences in India and the Ashantee march), and the diminished power of resistance to the cold shown by drunkards, have conclusively demonstrated that alcohol does not supply the place of other foods; and that those habituated to its use, damaged as they are in their vital organs, do not possess the same endurance of fatigue and the same power of resistance to external morbific influences as do the healthy. Furthermore, clinical experience has amply proved that topers do not bear chloroform well, that they succumb more quickly to injuries and surgical operations, and that they possess much less power of resistance than the temperate to the inroads of acute disease."--Bartholow.

9. That the drunkard wastes his time is no small indictment against the alcohol habit.

10. In this country if a drinker falls ill, as a rule, he stops his allowance, and if the disease proves a chronic one, he never goes back to it. 11. A physician can direct his patient to abstain from drink with a fair prospect of being obeyed.

12. Persons who give way to drink, and become inebriates, are in these days regarded by some as moral imbeciles who if they did not drink would take up some other vice just as bad or perhaps worse. Banish the saloon, however, and in my opinion the majority of them would become respectable citizens.

13. We look down on saloons and underground places where liquor is sold and gambling allowed, and often refer to them as "hells."

14. In most drunkards there still seems to be some spark of manhood left, still something to which we can appeal, still some hope of reformation.

15. Alcohol is not often used for suicidal purposes.

16. The drunkard neglects wife and children, pawns their clothes for drink, beats, and on occasion murders them.

17. The drunkard is aggressive, quarrelsome and ready to fight.

18. The drunkard becomes befuddled and loses all the money he has on his person, or grows generous and gives it away, or wastes his substance in riotous living.

19. Alcoholism tends to beggary, and nearly all beggars, thieves and tramps are given to drink.

20. Alcohol has been used all over China from time immemorial and yet drunkards are comparatively rare.


1. Of the million of regular users of opium all become slaves to the opium habit.

2. A few Chinese, who only smoke occasionally, in transacting business or on meeting a friend, claim that they can smoke or not just as they choose, but no one who smokes daily, be the amount ever so small, makes any such claim. When a man admits that he "smokes a pipe or two" he knows, and his friends know, that he is a confirmed opium smoker. He also knows that he is weakened physically and that he cannot give it up without inconvenience--nay, even suffering--and he is not insulted if you tell him he is being thereby morally and physically degraded.

3. Every one "hitting the pipe" occasionally is in danger of forming the opium habit, and if one smokes daily for any length of time the danger is not simply increased--it becomes absolute. The habit is certain and the confirmation thereof sure. The habit is formed quickly. Not one in a thousand, be the will ever so strong, can smoke opium daily for a year (I might almost say for three months) without forming the opium habit.

4 and 5. People take opium on account of trouble and sorrow, and as for pain and disease it is the greatest earthly soother. That opium will relieve pain and may be prophylactic against certain disease is no argument in favor of allowing its unrestricted sales among any people. On the contrary, the opium habit being so much worse than the diseases it may alleviate or prevent, this is the strongest possible argument in favor of its restriction. If it permanently cured all pain and prevented all disease all would be tempted to take to it and the human race would be in danger of extermination.

6. How would one's parents and friends at home feel if he should write that he had rendered himself proof against all the deadly diseases of the East by becoming an opium smoker!

7. Opium can never be reckoned as a food. It is true that the opium smoker eats less, but this is because his secretions are diminished so that he becomes constipated, and as it were uses his food over and over again. Ugh! It makes me sick to think about it. No wonder he suffers from auto-toxaemia, and becomes yellow, weak and emaciated. The amount of opium a healthy person can consume daily without injury is absolutely nil. There is no room for the comparative degree in opium smoking. Any amount is already too much.

8. All opium smoking is injurious. An opium smoking soldier is not worth the powder and lead it would take to kill him. The weakness and the diminished power of endurance shown by opium smokers have conclusively demonstrated that opium does not supply the place of the food it supplants; and that those habituated to its use, damaged as they are in every fiber, do not possess the same endurance of fatigue and the same power of resistance to external morbific influences as to the healthy. Furthermore, clinical experience has amply proved that opium smokers do not bear chloroform well, that they succumb more quickly to injuries and surgical operations, and that they possess much less power of resistance than non-smokers to the inroads of acute disease.

9. Many rich Chinese smoke all night and sleep nearly all day. Artisans, coolies, etc., waste from one to four hours at the pipe, and this waste occurs not once or twice a week but every day in the year without curtailment and without fail.

10. If a smoker gets ill, except in some acute violent sickness such as pneumonia, he smokes more and more, and the more chronic the disease the more firmly established the habit.

11. A physician directing an opium smoker to stop smoking is only wasting his breath--he might as well talk to the winds.

12. In this country nearly all moral imbeciles are opium smokers, but it by no means follows that all opium smokers are moral imbeciles. Without opium in China 80 percent of the present smokers would, in all probability, be respectable citizens.

13. A friend of mine once asked a beggar, who slept next door to an opium den, where he lived, and he replied, "Next door to hell."

14. In the opium smoker there does not seem to be one spark of manhood left, nothing to which we can appeal. In pleading with him we feel utterly helpless and hopeless. It is well for Job's reputation that he never had to deal with opium smokers.

15. Opium is the handiest of all suicidal agents. Mr. Bourne, acting chief justice of Shanghai, says, in speaking of Yunnan:--"Another bad result of the opium being so ready at hand is the frequency of suicides, especially among women. We heard of a case in which a mother and daughter-in-law both took opium and died, because of a quarrel over the breaking of a tea cup."

16. The opium smoker neglects wife and children, pawns their clothes for opium, drives them to commit suicide and on occasion sells them, it may be, into something worse than slavery.

17. If the smoker can get his allowance he is quiet and retiring, but an opium-smoking chair coolie or boatman will out-quarrel creation to get the wherewithal to fill his pipe, and no greater sharks disgrace the earth than the yamen runners of China, who are all the time "raising the autumn wind" to get the money to buy opium.

18. The smoker keeps a clear head in regard to money matters, and except for wasting it for opium he is often more careful in spending it than non-smokers. Rich, stingy fathers, whose sons are spending money fast and furious with wine and women, sometimes hire parasites to lead them into opium smoking with a hope to saving money.

19. Opium smoking tends to beggary, and in China nearly all beggars, thieves and sharpers are given to opium.

20. Opium has been used all over China for only about sixty years and yet, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica, one-fourth to three- tenths of the people are already opium smokers.

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