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See also:
参照項目: アルコールタバコ覚醒剤コーヒーテレビ
See also: Consumers Union Report (see chapters 36-40)
See also: OGD report 1997/98 on Japan
See also: Hemp as a "drug"
See also: Drug risks: How dangerous are the most common drugs?

Opium in China
Opium was long used medically in the Middle East, India and China. Opium was introduced into Japan along with Chinese herbal medicine. Since the 1400s it was used there as a pain killer and there were no legal restrictions on its cultivation, possession or use. In China non-medical use of opium became popular from around the middle of the 17th century. Opium was mixed with tobacco and smoked in pipes, often in so called opium dens. Addicts would get so attached to the drug that they would rather go without food than the drug, if they didn't have money for both. In some parts of Southern China and amongst overseas Chinese in South East Asia more than one tenth of the population were habitual opium users, make the addiction almost as common as tobacco addiction is today. Non-medical use of opium was banned in China in 1729.

Tobacco smoking spread from the Portuguese colony of Macaou. In 1638 the Ming emperor also decreed any person trafficking in tobacco to be decapitated but the decree proved ineffectual as smoking spread within the court. A second prohibition was issued in 1641.

In 1796 opium is banned again and once more in 1800, at penalty of death. Yet even executions had no great effect on the number of users. Imports increased greatly in the following decades as foreign trading houses seized on the opportunity by growing or purchasing ample supplies in Bengal, British-India and shipping the opium to Canton, South China. In 1839 troops of the Chinese emperor attacked British traders operating near Canton and the 1st Opium War began, in which China was defeated in 1843. The problem for the Chinese emperor was not that some of his subjects could not let go of a substance, but that this enriched foreign "barbarians", who had the power to dictate the terms of the trade while the emperor was not allowed to put a halt to the trade, as he had also tried (unsuccessfully) with tobacco. China had to permit the importation of opium, and later it also permitted its cultivation until a nationalist backlash stopped it again in 1906. Until after World War II foreign powers enjoyed privileged status in China.

As a direct response to China's defeat and the "unequal treaties" it was forced to sign, the Tokugawa shogunate banned opium in 1846 and strictly enforced the law. It appears that the prime motivation was a determination that Japan should not follow in China's footsteps. One did not want to repeat China's example.

"In the case of Japan and other Asian countries, peoples' perception of the causes and consequences of the Opium War is completely different from that of the western countries for historical reasons. This is the reason why drug control law violations are defined as a serious crime punishable with very heavy penalties."

Dr Tokuo Yoshida (Japan), Narcotics Control,
World Health Organization

Selling opium to the Chinese
A few years later the Tokugawa shogunate collapsed anyway and the new Meiji emperor sought the future of the country in emulating the West. When Formosa (Taiwan) came under Japanese rule in 1895 the custom of smoking opium was widespread there (169,000 smokers were estimated by the colonial government in 1900) but Japan did not try to stamp out all supplies of non-medical opium. Addicts could continue to buy opium for smoking, while at the same time opium was strictly controlled within Japan.

See also: The history of legislative control over opium, cocaine and their derivatives taima CD-ROM

After War War I Japan inherited German possessions in China and acquired control of lands in Manchuria from Russia which had lost a war with Japan in 1903. Opium smuggling taima CD-ROM into China became a lucrative bussines for many Japanese and the port of Kobe became a popular trans-shipment location for opium from British-India bound for China. When supplies of British opium were eventually cut off during the late 1930s and 1940s the Japanese army in China even cultivated extensive opium plantations in Manchuria and Korea and sold the opium into China, to finance the Japanese war effort.

The strict controls on opium in Japan from the first Opium War onwards and the different Japanese policies on opium in Japan on one hand and Taiwan and China on the other indicate that this was never seen as a strictly moral or medical problem, but a colonial power problem. Japan emulated China's position towards western powers, but in itself treated China like those western powers.

Opiate addiction
See also:
See also: Opium, morphine and heroin taima CD-ROM

Opiates have long been used medically. Opium, its active ingredient morphine and its pharmaceutical derivative heroin were used as effective pain killers, for treatment of cough and against diarrhea. Though opiates have a high potential for habituation and addiction and though injecting black market heroin is pretty dangerous, chronic use of pharmaceutically pure morphine or heroin is actually no more harmful than chronic insulin use by a diabetic. It's certainly much less harmful than chronic alcoholism. Nevertheless, Japanese doctors are very reluctant to prescribe morphine and often leave patients in severe pain out of the largely mistaken fear of addicting patients: Opiates do tend to cause physical addiction if used daily for a few weeks, but few patients who take them for pain have problems quitting once they've recovered from the illness or injury that caused the pain.

Opiates in Japan today
Nowadays non-medical use of opium and opiates is fairly uncommon in Japan. Some opium is sold by Iranians but there is very little heroin, a pharmaceutical derivative of opium. An annual eradication campaign is to discourage the illegal cultivation of opium poppies. The Japanese police and hardline politicians take a lot of pride in Japan not having much of a heroin problem, but law enforcement has very little to do with it. When even countries that execute drug users, such as Malaysia and Iran can't get a handle on their opiate problems then there must be more to the Japanese figures.

The relative low popularity of opiates is not only testament to the yakuza's efforts to effectively control the black drug markets, it is also the product of an anti-opium campaign that goes back more than a century. Last but not least it also reflects the Japanese value system that esteems "gaman dekiru", a tenacious endurance of all things unpleasant, including pain. Japanese society honors those who have a high tolerance for pain (in an almost sado-masochist way) and it condemns those who abuse a pharmaceutical substance that kills pain.


See also:
See also: Alcohol, Nicotine (Tobacco), Caffeine (Coffee), Marijuana, TV.
See also: Consumers Union Report (see chapters 36-40)
See also: OGD report 1997/98 on Japan
See also: Hemp as a "drug"
See also: Drug risks: How dangerous are the most common drugs?


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