Opium Fiend: A 21st Century Slave to a 19th Century Addiction

Opium Fiend: A 21st Century Slave to a 19th Century Addiction

Steven Martin

Language: English

Pages: 416

ISBN: 0345517830

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


A renowned authority on the secret world of opium recounts his descent into ruinous obsession with one of the world’s oldest and most seductive drugs, in this harrowing memoir of addiction and recovery.
A natural-born collector with a nose for exotic adventure, San Diego–born Steven Martin followed his bliss to Southeast Asia, where he found work as a freelance journalist. While researching an article about the vanishing culture of opium smoking, he was inspired to begin collecting rare nineteenth-century opium-smoking equipment. Over time, he amassed a valuable assortment of exquisite pipes, antique lamps, and other opium-related accessories—and began putting it all to use by smoking an extremely potent form of the drug called chandu. But what started out as recreational use grew into a thirty-pipe-a-day habit that consumed Martin’s every waking hour, left him incapable of work, and exacted a frightful physical and financial toll. In passages that will send a chill up the spine of anyone who has ever lived in the shadow of substance abuse, Martin chronicles his efforts to control and then conquer his addiction—from quitting cold turkey to taking “the cure” at a Buddhist monastery in the Thai countryside.
At once a powerful personal story and a fascinating historical survey, Opium Fiend brims with anecdotes and lore surrounding the drug that some have called the methamphetamine of the nineteenth-century. It recalls the heyday of opium smoking in the United States and Europe and takes us inside the befogged opium dens of China, Thailand, Vietnam, and Laos. The drug’s beguiling effects are described in vivid detail—as are the excruciating pains of withdrawal—and there are intoxicating tales of pipes shared with an eclectic collection of opium aficionados, from Dutch dilettantes to hard-core addicts to world-weary foreign correspondents.
A compelling tale of one man’s transformation from respected scholar to hapless drug slave, Opium Fiend puts us under opium’s spell alongside its protagonist, allowing contemporary readers to experience anew the insidious allure of a diabolical vice that the world has all but forgotten.


Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients: Development, Manufacturing, and Regulation (Drugs and the Pharmaceutical Sciences)

Bad Moves: How Decision Making Goes Wrong, and the Ethics of Smart Drugs

Side Effects: Death. Confessions of a Pharma-Insider

Intoxication: The Universal Drive for Mind-Altering Substances



















one hypersensitive to everything, including the feelings of others. In this matter it has nearly the opposite effect of alcohol. Booze shatters inhibitions; opium fosters empathy. I wasn’t sure whether Roxanna’s reaction to my questions was a soft rebuke. I decided to make one more attempt before dropping it. “Tell me about somebody I might have heard of.” Roxanna took another draw from the pipe and then carefully shifted onto her back, rolling her head on the porcelain pillow until she faced

strictly for takeout. There we almost always just had the pipe boy come around to our apartment or hotel room to roll for us. But Vientiane had some atmosphere back then and I always enjoyed smoking there, even though the conditions were rustic. One opium den was run by an old Vietnamese woman whose tongue had been cut out by the Vietcong. There was nothing left of her voice but a rough whisper.” Roxanna stopped smoking and sat upright. She used a small screwdriver to scrape the dross from

culture that, for the most part, was derived from Khmer art forms after the Siamese sacked Angkor in the fifteenth century and force-marched Cambodia’s court dancers, artisans, and astrologers back to Siam. In turn, the Burmese invaded Siam 350 years later and made off with its cultural treasures. This partly explains why the arts of many of the civilizations in Southeast Asia look so similar—not that such similarities have fostered harmony between the neighboring countries. As has happened many

And if I’m the only one who can tell a piece is fake but nobody else believes me, is the piece really a fake? I don’t know; you tell me.” “I’m sure glad that hasn’t happened with opium antiques. There’s not enough demand,” I said. “Oh, it’ll happen eventually. Willi told me you’re working on a book. Do you have a publisher?” I told her about having finally found one, a small local publisher based in Chiang Mai called Silkworm Books. The writing was finished and the photographing of my

inch of which was covered with platters of Thai food. Two stacks of copies of my book were arranged on a coffee table in the living room. Lisa was already there. She was booked on a flight back to the States later that night so we took advantage of the quiet and talked over things before the guests began arriving. She said that quite a few people from the embassy would be there, although except for the host, I knew none of them because all of my embassy friends had rotated to new postings

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