Opium Fiend

The Book of the Week is “Opium Fiend” by Steven Martin, published in 2012. This ebook is the personal account of an opium lover living in Bangkok in the last two decades.

The San Diego-raised author, who supported his opium habit through freelance travel writing, also had a passion for collecting antique opium paraphernalia. He considered opium smoking an art form, and its equipment, works of art.

In the mid-1800’s, there were two wars between China and Britain over the lucrative trading of the drug. When China lost, she “…grew ever more addicted, corrupt, and ungovernable. To this day, China and many Chinese around the world view opium as a dastardly British trick that kept their country poor and backward long after the British opium trade had ceased.”

In the 19th-century, Christian missionaries in China produced public outcry against use of opium when they wrote of the drug’s horrible effects from addiction. Meanwhile, bigoted white Americans, seeing opium usage among blacks and Asians, were appalled that the drug  “…encouraged the mingling of different classes and races!” These days, very few people are addicted to opium due to strict drug laws, and because it is expensive and hard to find.

An opium user actually receives a high from the vapors produced from a pipe and an oil lamp with a chimney. So as to preserve the drug’s alkaloid chemical composition, the oil used is camellia, vegetable, peanut or coconut oil, rather than kerosene or alcohol.

Read the book to learn of the way the author fooled himself into thinking he was enjoying his opium-centered life, and how he beat his addiction.