Opium

Martin Booth, Author, Booth, Author
Martin Booth, Author, Booth, Author Thomas Dunne Books $24.95 (400p) ISBN 978-0-312-18643-2
Reviewed on: 12/29/1997
Release date: 01/01/1998
Opium was a common drug among the ancient Greeks (who extolled the ""healing dreams"" it brought on), a convenient poison for the Romans, a narcotic in medieval England and a popular painkiller and sedative in 19th-century Europe and America. Veteran British author Booth takes us from P. somniferum to ""black gold,"" compellingly documenting the influential role of the opiate trade throughout history. British colonizers, for example, used both legal and illicit opium production as a chief source of revenue in India, while for Dutch, British and Portuguese traders opium was a means to pacify and carve up China. The CIA's alleged drug-dealing exploits--to finance covert operations and to bribe local leaders--are also amply documented here. Although Booth delves into the opiate-taking habits of Graham Greene, Wilde, Cocteau, Dickens, Poe and Coleridge, he doesn't romanticize drug use. While the facts can be rather dry, his comprehensive, nation-by-nation survey of international narcotics trafficking--which he views as a global societal disorder--may deter potential initiates. This history of the mechanics of the heroin trade industry brings us right to the present, where the market for the drug, Booth argues, is tied up with legitimate global trade. (July)
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