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Books, Journals, New Media
February 17, 1999

OpiumOpium: A History

Author Affiliations

Harriet S.MeyerMD, Contributing EditorJonathan D.EldredgeMLS, PhD, Journal Review EditorRobertHoganMD, adviser for new media


Not Available


Copyright 1999 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved. Applicable FARS/DFARS Restrictions Apply to Government Use.1999American Medical Association


by Martin Booth, 381 pp, $24.95, ISBN 0-312-18643-6, New York, NY, St Martin's Press, 1996.

JAMA. 1999;281(7):670-671. doi:10.1001/jama.281.7.670-JBK0217-6-1

The author of this book presents an interesting description of the origins and consequences of adverse political and socioeconomic factors associated with opiate abuse throughout world history. Unfortunately, however, British writer Martin Booth's perception of opiate use and abuse is dramatized within an exaggerated polarization of good and evil. For example, the concluding paragraph states, "To every discovery mankind has ever made, from the lighting of the first fire to the splitting of the atom, there has been a good side and a bad side. Opium is no different. It can stop pain and, as Thomas Sydenham observed over 300 years ago, few doctors would be hard-hearted enough to practise medicine without it. Millions have been saved by it: yet it has also destroyed millions of lives, enslaved whole cultures and invidiously corrupted human society to its very core."

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