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The Truth About Opium by William H. Brereton

Refutation of the fallacies of the Anti-Opium Society and a Defence of the Indo-China Opium Trade

by Ballard Quass, the Drug War Philosopher

September 3, 2023

Click on the above audio link to listen to a multi-narrator audio version of 'The Truth about Opium'. The text for "The Truth about Opium" may be found at Project Gutenberg.

Important Points

  1. "The poppy is indigenous to China... and has been used in China for various purposes for thousands of years."

  2. "[Opium] is not only harmless but beneficial to the system, unless when practised to an inordinate extent, which is wholly exceptional; whilst spirit drinking ruins the health, degrades the character, incites its victims to acts of violence, and destroys the prospects of everyone who indulges to excess in the practice."

  3. Opium smoking and opium eating are two different things, despite the attempt of opium opponents to confuse the two.

  4. Chinese officials were never driven by public health motives in their opium policies.

  5. Much anti-opium sentiment in UK was aroused by a BIG LIE passed on by an American missionary, who declared that there were two million deaths from opium every year in China, which was an utter falsehood, as regular opium use was more often associated with longevity than with premature death.

  6. "All these anti-opium articles, speeches, and resolutions are based upon the same model. They assume certain statements as existing and acknowledged facts which have never been proved to be such, and then proceed to draw deductions from those alleged facts."

Author's Follow-up: November 15, 2023

Like all of us, Brereton was a product of his time. He was unaware of the carcinogenic nature of tobacco, for instance.

Most problematically, he suggests that Brits will never embrace opium smoking for sociocultural reasons. It's a Chinese thing. And that's certainly going to be true if the drug is demonized and prohibited, but in a free world it is common sense that such use would be attractive to many writers, poets and musicians, seeking inspiration. Although materialist prohibitionists scoff at the idea that opium can provide inspiration, it did, of course, lead to the writing of the poem Kubla Khan. And author Richard Middleton wrote in the 19th century that poets of his time smoked opium "in a series of magnificent quarterly carouses." In other words, they smoked opium wisely and for admirable motives as well. And, of course, HP Lovecraft would not be HP Lovecraft without opium. His tales are full of opiate imagery.

"The spectral summer of narcotic flowers and humid seas of foliage that bring wild and many-coloured dreams." -- Celaphais

But because folks like Coleridge blamed their own moral weakness on opium, the drug has been demonized. It's as if we had outlawed horseback riding because the first well-known horse rider in England had been thrown from his horse.

Author's Follow-up: May 15, 2024

picture of clock metaphorically suggesting a follow-up

Before the reader has a coronary, they might consider the fact that 1 in 4 American women take a Big Pharma med(s) every day of their life. Opium is easier to kick than some of those drugs, like Effexor.1 It's also interesting to point out that Drug Warriors refused to let Americans smoke opium peaceably at home, and now prohibitionists are complaining that opiate users are in the street!


1 Miller, Richard Lawrence, Drug Warriors and Their Prey: From Police Power to Police State, Bloomsbury Academic, New York, 1966 (up)

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Some Tweets against the hateful war on drugs

Prohibition is a crime against humanity. It forces us to use shock therapy on the severely depressed since we've outlawed all viable alternatives. It denies medicines that could combat Alzheimer's and/or render it psychologically bearable.
This hysterical reaction to rare negative events actually creates more rare negative events. This is why the DEA publicizes "drug problems," because by making them well known, they make the problems more prevalent and can thereby justify their huge budget.
The whole drug war is based on the anti-American idea that the way to avoid problems is to lie and prevaricate and persuade people not to ask questions.
The 1932 movie "Scarface" starts with on-screen text calling for a crackdown on armed gangs in America. There is no mention of the fact that a decade's worth of Prohibition had created those gangs in the first place.
I have dissed MindMed's new LSD "breakthrough drug" for philosophical reasons. But we can at least hope that the approval of such a "de-fanged" LSD will prove to be a step in the slow, zigzag path toward re-legalization.
Here's one problem that supporters of the psychiatric pill mill never address: the fact that Big Pharma antidepressants demoralize users by turning them into patients for life.
We need to start thinking of drug-related deaths like we do about car accidents: They're terrible, and yet they should move us to make driving safer, not to outlaw driving. To think otherwise is to swallow the drug war lie that "drugs" can have no positive uses.
Philip Jenkins reports that Rophynol had positive uses for treating mental disorders until the media called it the "date rape drug." We thus punished those who were benefitting from the drug, tho' the biggest drug culprit in date rape is alcohol. Oprah spread the fear virally.
It's an enigma: If I beat my depression by smoking opium nightly, I am a drug scumbag subject to immediate arrest. But if I do NOT "take my meds" every day of my life, I am a bad patient.
In "The Book of the Damned," Charles Fort shows how science damns (i.e. excludes) facts that it cannot assimilate into a system of knowledge. Fort could never have guessed, however, how thoroughly science would eventually "damn" all positive facts about "drugs."
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You have been reading an article entitled, The Truth About Opium by William H. Brereton: Refutation of the fallacies of the Anti-Opium Society and a Defence of the Indo-China Opium Trade, published on September 3, 2023 on For more information about America's disgraceful drug war, which is anti-patient, anti-minority, anti-scientific, anti-mother nature, imperialistic, the establishment of the Christian Science religion, a violation of the natural law upon which America was founded, and a childish and counterproductive way of looking at the world, one which causes all of the problems that it purports to solve, and then some, visit the drug war philosopher, at (philosopher's bio; go to top of this page)