There is a lot of useful information in your webpage FrontLine: Opium Throughout History, and it is devoid of glaring factual errors. Its main problem is that it lacks impartiality.
Nowhere in this piece is there any mention of the pain and suffering that opium use relieves or its enormous importance in medicine. Instead, we are given highly emotional, and often misleading statements about the harm that supposedly has been caused by opium. Image a chronology, "Cars Throughout History" which listed only fatalities and pollution associated with cars--this is what you have created for opium.
Below is a list of the most disturbing statements made on your webpage.
- The webpage states that the 2000 chests of opium imported into China in 1767 is "staggering". A subjective and emotional word such as "staggering" does not belong in a piece of journalism. Even worse than the use of such a manipulative word, no reason is given as to why this amount is large. In fact, it is not a large quantity given the number of people living in China at that time: it represents under half a gram of opium per person per year--less than half the amount used today, worldwide.
- It is stated that Elizabeth Barrett Browning "falls under the spell" of morphine, but that it does not impede her writing ability. Browning suffered from anxiety; today, she would be given Valium--a drug at least as dangerous as morphine. In addition, Browning loved morphine and did not think of it as a vice that she had to work around. Instead, it made life and art possible.
- Dreser at Bayer did not find that heroin lacked morphine side effects, he found that it was a more effective cough suppressant than morphine. The article also implies that Bayer was somewhat responsible for the development of heroin chemically, which is not true.
- The article also perpetuates the myth that it was widely believed that heroin was non-addictive and that it was advertised as a cure for morphine addiction. It is unclear why this myth is so popular. It probably has something to do with the wish to make heroin the output of a science that is unreliable. Only an unreliable science could unleash such an evil substance as heroin upon the world.
- The article states the heroin addiction reaches alarming rates in 1903. Again, the article uses a word that is highly emotional. But regardless of the level of addiction, the heroin addiction itself caused almost no negative effects on the lives of the addicts. Would anyone say that "coffee addiction has reached alarming rates"? The reason it seems acceptable to say such a thing about heroin, is that heroin addiction is assumed to be bad by definition. This is a most questionable assumption.
- The article mentions that the availability of opium to users declines significantly, at this time. It does not point out, however, that users switch to other opiates--most significantly, the far more potent semi-synthetic heroin which was still legal.
- The article states that in 1910, "After 150 years of failed attempts to rid the country of opium, the Chinese are finally successful in convincing the British to dismantle the India-China opium trade." The implication of this statement is that opium was (at least in practical terms) eliminated from China. This is not true, of course. Opiate addiction in China is still far greater than it is in the United States, despite the fact that the Chinese punish continued opiate use with death.
- Exactly what the purpose of the Harrison Narcotics Act was, is unclear. For many years, however, it was used to control public access to drugs.
- Heroin was not banned in 1923. Its production was banned in 1924. It was not until 1956 that heroin was officially banned from the United States.
- To say that River Phoenix died of a speedball overdose is typical of the belief that these drugs (heroin and cocaine) are so harmful that if they are found inside a dead person, they must kill him. Phoenix had countless drugs in his body when he died--including large amounts of alcohol. The article also mentions John Belushi. It is not certain what killed Belushi, but it looks like he died of a heart attack brought on as much by his weight as the cocaine he was injecting. Regardless, it does not seem that heroin was responsible for his death at all.
If you care about reporting the truth in as objective
a manner as possible, please consider the comments in this letter
and make the appropriate changes to your website. Thank you very
much for considering these important matters.
Heroin Helper, Managing Editor