Essay: Opium in China

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¶ … opium in China with that of the United States after the Civil War? Provide an analysis as to how the early problems with opiates influenced the drug problems of the 1970s worldwide.

Narcotics and drug abuse is common all over the world. The use of drugs dates back to 5000 BC (all the way up to the New Stone Age). Most drugs, at first were used for medicinal purposes. However, over time, they were introduced as being available for recreational use. It is the recreational use of the drugs, in large doses, that not only harms the user but also the community to which they belong. Most of the drugs have been derived from natural plants and herbs, and mixed with other ingredients to give a soothing, euphoric and relieving effect. One such example is opium.


Opium is derived from a plant called poppy, which has an uncertain history. Few horticulturists are of the belief that it a naturally evolved plant which mutated into its characteristics through changes in the climatic conditions, while others are convinced that it has been cultivated carefully by humans over the centuries. Nonetheless, this little latex of a plant has a lot of significance in drug history.

Opium had been introduced in China via Arab traders in the 8th century as a medicinal drug. Opium contains compounds such as morphine and codeine, which display the behaviors similar to that of analgesics and are used to treat pain (Booth, 1996). However, repeated administration of the drug can lead to addiction to it along with other side effects such as drowsiness, constipation and nausea (Opium Org., 2013) . However, in the early 17th century, the Portuguese trading off coast pioneered its use as a luxury habit, being it expensive and rare at the time. But it was the British who began the opium trade with China on a large scale, making it available to the masses at cheaper rates. Soon enough, the entire nation was addicted to the drug. Even though it was still being used for its medicinal purposes, its main purpose was to be used recreationally. Several writers of history, such as Yangwen Zheng, indicate in their writing that's opium was used even in the smallest village of China, which might not even have access to rice (Zheng, 2003). Opium was mixed with tobacco and other herbs, and smoked with it. This method was highly popular.

In the United States of America, after the end of their Civil War in the 19th century, every other soldier that took part in the War was addicted to morphine, a compound found in Opium. Opium was primarily imported into the country along with being produced on home ground, in order to treat the wounded soldiers in the Civil War. Opium pills were handed out like candy by army surgeons that were surrounded by injured soldiers, screaming of pain. Opium was used also to treat diseases such as diarrhea and malaria that was common amongst the soldiers at the time. Over 2.8 million opiates pills were issued to the Union side soldiers (James Street, Jr., 1988). Even U.S. president, William Henry Harrison, was treated using opium in 1841. After the Civil War concluded, the war veterans who had been rendered invalid by the war, in order to obtain relief from the constant pain of their ghost limbs continued to seek opium as a painkiller. Hence, an era of addiction began. As a result, opiates and other narcotics drugs became readily available to satisfy the market demand. Even American women, were regular users of opium, to treat menstrual pains and morning sickness.

Works Cited

Booth, M. (1996). Opium- a History. New York City: St. Martin's Press.

James Street, Jr. (1988). Under the Influence: Marching Through the Opium Fog. Civil War Times .

Opium Org. (2013). OPIUM- Side Effects. Retrieved from OPIUM:

Zheng, Y. (2003). The Social Life of Opium in China, 1483 -- 1999. Modern Asian Studies, 37 (1): 1 -- 39.

Discuss the effects that marijuana has on the human system. Applying that information to the present debate on legalization identify and discuss four points for why you feel marijuana just or should not be legalized for recreational use.


Over the years there has been a great debate over whether marijuana should or should not be legal. After all, substances such as alcohol and tobacco which are more harmful than marijuana are legal and readily available. If marijuana is legalized, it's use can be regulated, argue many marijuana-advocates. However, it is not simple to control the effects that marijuana can have on the society if legalized.


Marijuana is a psychoactive drug prepared using the Cannabis plant. It can be used medicinally as well as recreationally. Marijuana has been restricted by the federal law due to the harmful effects it may have if taken without a prescription. Marijuana displays qualities of a hallucinogen. Additionally to psychological effects, it also has physiological ones as well. Marijuana slows the psycho-motor co ordination of the brain, leading to impairment in the short-term memory and loss in concentration levels. This means that one shouldn't be driving when high. There is also a discernable change in the mood of the consumer. The physiological effects include lower blood pressure, increased heart rate, increased appetite and impaired locomotive skills. Visible signs include redness in the eyes, dryness felt in the mouth (leading to increased consumption of drinks), and relaxed muscles (which in turn induces hunger). It also alters human perception and things appear brighter than they are to a user after smoking a joint (Bakalar, 2006). Often marijuana is used for medicinal purposes such as inducing hunger in AIDs and cancer patients going through chemotherapy, along with being used as an analgesic. It is a viable cure for depression. This is because the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) compound in the drug stimulates the brain to release chemical endorphins that generate a feeling of euphoria (Lawrence Genen, 2012). However, when the euphoria subsides, the user may feel fear, anxiety and depression. Another side effect of its persistent use is sleep deprivation. And this is where the addiction begins. In order to escape the negative side-effect feelings, joints are smoked with regularity.

Marijuana, if taken in large doses, doesn't have any long-term physiological side-effects (National Instritute of Health, 2012). However, it does cause hallucinations and delusions for the user. Schizophrenia is often associated as the mental illness to which marijuana-smokers are prone to. Long-term users of the drug suffer from withdrawal symptoms after going just 24 hours without the drug. They are also faced with the risk of developing bronchitis and chronic cough.

Due to the effect of marijuana on consumers, there are federal laws in place that restrict its legal use. This is because marijuana causes impaired senses, which may lead the user to harm themselves, or any member of the larger community. However, there are several movements that are vying for its legalizations since the U.S. government put the topic of its legalization up for debate (ARCHIBOLD, 2013). And they have put up a strong case as to why it should be legalized. One of the strongest reasons is that, even though alcohol and tobacco have more dangerous side-effects, and mortality figures, they are legal substances. Marijuana, on the other hand, after numerous studies, has proven to be less harmful, without having any long-term bodily effects that may claim lives. Another reason in favor of its legalization is the tax advantage. Taxing marijuana can lead to huge revenues for the government, and will in turn increase its price which means not everyone below a certain age will be able to consume it. Marijuana laws basically exist so that people do not harm themselves, to prevent its use. However, according to statistics around 2.4 million people try marijuana every year. The marijuana trade has simply gone underground, people still have access to it and are still using it. In addition, the underground marijuana trade leads to more crimes. The pot dealers are involved in all sorts of real crimes, and are hiding behind the marijuana businesses. As a result, real crimes go unreported and criminals run unpunished. However, the increased sense of euphoria and heightened emotions may lead to impaired judgment when it comes to users, and many can often fall victims of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

Secondly, if legal, due to the more expensive prices, users may resort to crime in order to get the money to purchase it. This will lead to an increase in the crime rates. There is also the side effect that marijuana induces sleep and impairs learning; this will stand as a barrier to the development of the minds of the youth using the drug. Moreover, if marijuana is legalized, the population will then turn to a bunch of other hard drugs with proven harmful effects on the mind and body for legalization and consumption. Hence, it is more appropriate that marijuana is not legalized.


Archibold, R.C.… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Cite This Essay:

APA Format

Opium in China.  (2013, May 31).  Retrieved December 10, 2019, from

MLA Format

"Opium in China."  31 May 2013.  Web.  10 December 2019. <>.

Chicago Format

"Opium in China."  May 31, 2013.  Accessed December 10, 2019.