November 13, 1987

Opium and the People: Opiate Use in Nineteenth-Century England

Author Affiliations

Columbus Veterans Administration Outpatient Clinic Columbus, Ohio

Columbus Veterans Administration Outpatient Clinic Columbus, Ohio


by Virginia Berridge and Griffith Edwards, 370 pp, $13.95, New Haven, Conn, Yale University Press, 1987.

JAMA. 1987;258(18):2593. doi:10.1001/jama.1987.03400180127044

An impartial observer surveying our society's response to drug abuse might be amused or appalled, but not admiring. Some dangerous drugs, such as tobacco and alcohol, are dealt with in an ambivalent manner, despite widespread acknowledgment of their devastating effects. Other dangerous drugs, such as opiates and cocaine, are strictly and harshly controlled in a manner suggestive of moralistic zeal rather than public health concern. The rationale for these differing approaches is clearly not based solely on pharmacology and has its roots in societal and historical factors. The understanding of these roots by those concerned with drug abuse treatment and policy formulation might lead to a more informed approach to these areas. This book provides such an understanding for one drug, opium.

Written mainly by a historian (Berridge) aided by a psychiatrist specializing in addiction (Edwards), this volume traces the evolution of opium use in Great Britain in the 19th