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Opium-Smoking in a Restaurant
Yale University, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
John Thomson: The opium pipe has become an indispensable Chinese luxury, in which the poorest find time and money to indulge. Many of the worst class of beggars are confirmed opium-smokersó men who have been dragged down from positions of comfort or affluence by the vice. Long lost to all sense of honour and self-respect, and sunk so low as to become the begging pests of their former friends and associates, they would give the last rag that covers them to gratify their passion for the drug that has consumed their reputation, their substance, and their flesh ; such men are a prey to morbid fits of melancholy and depression, leading to frequent suicide. The mode of destroying life, most commonly resorted to by such men, Dr. Young, of Hong-kong. tells me, is by taking a dose of opium refuse or ash. This is carefully gathered, and kept by the opium-shop, or restaurant-keeper, so that it may be procured in quantity sufficient to destroy life. It is usually taken in water, after which the unfor- tunate will stretch himself out, to die like a dog, in a lane or dust-heap. The narcotic taken in this form is always fatal, as it adheres so tenaciously to the coating of the stomach as to prevent its removal. The drug sold in the low public opium-shops is of inferior quality, being mixed with opium ash in its preparation. These shops or dens have a noxious atmosphere, heavy with the fumes of opium, which, added to the livid and death-like appearance of the smokers stretched upon the benches, recalls the horrors of a nightmare.