Opium

OPIUM is thought to have been introduced to China by Arab traders during the ninth century. Initially, it was taken internally as medicine (Singer, 1974). Not until the mid-seventeenth century was the practice of smoking opium (usually in pipes) introduced by the Portuguese. Little of the opium poppy (Papaver somniferum) was actually grown or used in China before the sixteenth century. By the eighteenth century, however, opium had become a profitable cash cargo—from British India to China's ports, where foreigners were allowed only confined access to trade—for the Portuguese, Dutch, and English—and then after 1810 for the Americans (Goodie, 1963). Smoking opium had become so widespread and so debilitating in China that its sale was forbidden by imperial decree as early as 1729 and its importation was prohibited in 1800. The emperor's declarations were not universally honored, however, and much disagreement existed on how to deal with opium addictions, the drain of silver to foreigners, and the tribute system of then-developing foreign relations (Fairbank, Reischauer, & Craig, 1965).

Meanwhile, an illicit opium trade continued to grow—for example, from approximately 5,000 chests imported to Canton in 1821 by British traders to approximately 30,000 chests by the late 1830s (Fairbank, Reischauer, & Craig, 1965). Efforts in an anti-opium campaign were stepped up, and hostilities between China and Britain eventually led to the Opium Wars. Britain had asserted that it was not bound by the trade restrictions imposed on Canton, and Britain won the wars. As a result, Hong Kong, a major port and center for all kinds of trade, was ceded to Britain in 1842. Illicit opium remained an important export until 1911, at which time the British Parliament forbade its shipment to China. By this time, however, cultivation of the opium poppy was flourishing in China, and markets for MORPHINE, HEROIN, and other narcotic concentrates were growing. Although opium dens provided an atmosphere and opportunity for drug use by individuals or as a social activity, in China opium smoking remained one of the four vices.

Much of the research on ALCOHOL and other drug use has grouped all Asians and Pacific Islanders together. Only two studies have compared Asian groups, and they have suggested significant differences among them. In a 1981 study conducted in Los Angeles, Kitano and Chi (19861987) found differences in alcohol consumption patterns among respondents from four groups of Asians: Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Filipino. Most of the respondents were from thirty to sixty-one years old. Except in the Japanese sample, the majority were foreign born and most had an average annual income of 20,000 to 30,000 dollars. Among these four groups, the following identified themselves as abstainers: 31.2 percent of Chinese males and 68.8 percent of females; 32.8 percent of Japanese males and 33.8 percent of females; 34.5 percent of Filipino males and 80.0 percent of females; and 45.8 percent of Korean males and 81.6 percent of females.

The lowest prevalence of heavy drinking was reported by Chinese Americans (14% male, 0% female), followed by Koreans (25.8% male, 0.8% female), Filipinos (29.0% male, 3.5% female), and Japanese (28.9% male, 11.7% female). Most of the male heavy drinkers were in the age category 2635 among Chinese, in the age category 36-45 among Koreans, and evenly divided among age categories for Japanese and Filipinos.

Kitano and Chi found that among Chinese Americans in their Los Angeles sample those most likely to drink at any level were men, under the age of forty-five, and of relatively high social and educational background. They found that parental drinking and going to or giving parties were the most important variables distinguishing drinkers from abstainers among their Chinese adult male sample (Chi, Kitano, & Lubben, 1988). Going to bars and having friends who drank were also significant factors.

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