The Psychological Action Of Opium

Sun, water, soil and tender loving care is all they need.

(Editor’s note) This is Chapter 8 of Dr. Calkins’ book, and as you will notice he is getting really wound up about the impact that Opium was having on American society in his day. Less noticeable, throughout the book he acknowledges from time to time that if Opium is consumed in moderation, in its pure, natural form, it has none of the horrendous impact on the mind or body that the poisonous creations of the international Opium cartel had and still have (yes, it existed then as it does now). Pure, natural Opium also must be distinguished from the toxic brews of the hundreds of “patent medicine” quacks that included companies that were the direct ancestors of today’s Merck, Bayer, Robbins, and other Pig Pharma criminals, the very ones behind and profiting from the current “Opioid Crisis” they have created – again. It’s hard to keep track but I believe that this is about the fifth or sixth “Opioid Crisis” to be inflicted on America & the world over the last 200 years by these evil charlatans with the full participation of the international oligarchy and their lapdog governments.

The solution, if there is one, is for people to learn to work together cooperatively to grow our own Cannabis, Coca Leaf and Opium Poppies and not to give in to the siren song that tells us “It’s So Easy” just to buy your drugs rather than grow them yourself. But the fact is that not one of the Pig Pharma drugs that are scourging mankind today are anything but chemical manipulations of what would spring pure and natural from Mother Earth under the care of ethical growers.

(From) Opium And The Opium Appetite

by Alonzo Calkins, MD (1870)

Chapter VIII: The Psychological Action Of Opium

“The dreary void, The leafless desert of the mind, The waste of feelings unemployed.” – Byron.

“C’est une atonie degoutante, une prostration absolue de toutes les faculties et de toutes les Energies de Pame.” — Abbe Hue

The moral aspect presented by the opium eater is that in which the negative qualities rather are what stand out in relief. The willpower being now prostrate though indeed self-consciousness has survived, the mind appears sunk in a somnolent and impassive quiescence. Under this spiritual thralldom all the generous sympathies shrink within themselves and fade, the relish for society and its enjoyments is extinguished, and the abject sufferer courses along “spe pendulus horae” buffeted by wind and wave, without power to shape his course, without resolution to make the effort, drifting towards a lurid and desolate shore, to be thenceforward cut off from the living world as by a Styx nine times intervening.

This phase of moral obtuseness Hue adverts to thus: “The spectacle of the family brought to extreme distress, the cries of wife and children, extorted by the pangs of hunger and the pinchings of cold, fail to revive in the parent so much perhaps as a momentary recognition. Such stolidity under abasement is less an index of callous indifference than an implied conviction of helplessness and a settled gloom too deep for Hope’s cheering ray to pierce:

“For a mortal coldness o’er the soul like a death-damp has stole on;

It cannot feel for others’ woes, it dare not dream its own.”

“The days of the opium eater (as observes the Hon. Mr. Tiffany, of the India service) pass along, divided between sloth and remorse, and when night with its pall shuts in the day, again he falls, palsied and unresisting, into the trail of the sorceress that mocks with her finger as she beckons him on.”

“The pernicious effects that come of an unrestrained and excessive devotion to opium (thus writes Prof. C. A. Lee), be the purpose that of obliterating the sense of the present and actual, or of creating a forced and exaggerated ideal of existence, are scarcely liable in the description to any overdrawing. The opium devotee is at once the most abject of slaves as he is the most hopeless of unfortunates. Happy only in the sphere of dreamy illusions, he rushes along towards that slippery verge where the fanciful merges into the dark real, and then he tumbles irrecoverably. The moral sense has become deranged and diseased even out of proportion to the physical deterioration; all the worst propensities of the man, sedulously concealed so long as the mind continued normal, now work up to the surface, exposed in all the grossness of their deformity, and thenceforward shadows, clouds and darkness brood over and around.”

“There is no darkness like the cloud of mind.

The wilds of enchantment, all vernal and bright

In the days of delusion, by fancy combined,

Abandon the soul like a dream of the night,

And leave but a desert behind.”

Every case of opium eating bears marks of some generic affiliation to other cases, yet each presents peculiar diversities. Here follow two, kindly furnished by Prof. J. Ordronaux, M.D., of New York

Mrs. L., a widow of about 60 years, in temperament sanguino-bilious, who had long been a sufferer from uterine prolapsus, came under observation as an opium eater in 1854, presenting symptoms of a somewhat singular rather than of an aggravated type. The indications of general health were fair, there being no dyspepsia, no anaemia and emaciation. The patient, a small eater, had always a good appetite, which she would frequently satisfy by preference on the coarse greasy food of the kitchen, such as pork and cabbage or fried liver, in preference to the delicacies of the family-table, such as her wealth abundantly sufficed to procure. She was also, and had been, a large consumer of ale, and besides she partook of brandy twice or thrice a day, but in what quantities is not precisely known.

Upon this force-system nutrition was maintained at a good standard and average health was kept up; nor, during an acquaintanceship of seven years’ continuance, did she experience any symptom of severe disease, other than from an occasional diarrhoea with painless watery discharges and some nausea, though accustomed to go abroad in all sorts of weather.

Loth to acknowledge her habit of using the narcotic in any such quantity as could possibly affect the intellect, Mrs. L. admitted, nevertheless, that she did take a dose every night, following, as she said, the prescription of a physician. It was admitted by the domestics that now and then an overdose had been swallowed, but through some mistake purely, as perhaps in the measuring; and such was the explanation of certain strange symptoms occasionally remarked. Usually she began the evening with an ounce of McMunn; but how many repetitions were made does not definitely appear, for she would complain of sleeplessness, and so occupy herself with a book far into the night until drowsiness came.

Once asleep, she presented the symptoms of moderate narcotism. On being awakened in the morning (a thing always difficult and slow), her eyes would open with a glassy stare, somewhat distorted as from strabismus, the heart palpitating and the lungs laboring, so that the face would get bathed in a profuse perspiration, lasting through the hour for dressing. Always aware of her peculiar appearance and expression while as yet en deshabille, she was careful to seclude herself from the family until a cup of black coffee had put her en rapport.

Dr. O. had known the patient to go abroad before the narcotic oppression was entirely dispelled, when she would display so entire a forgetfulness of her surroundings as not even to recognize the place where she was at the time. Again she would insist that she had been to some locality or quarter she had really never seen as yet, professing perhaps that her husband (now dead) had told her this and that about such – all mere impromptu invention. If corrected in any way, she would manifest an utter intolerance of all contradiction, as that she herself ought to know about things, and who indeed should know better? The moral nature too had undergone change. Suspicious of near friends, and misconstruing the plainest acts, she would affirm or deny anything and everything, but believe nothing. Declarations the most inconsistent, falsehoods the most palpable, she would one day asseverate to dispute them the next. The thoughts in the paroxysmal state were but disjecta membra, disjointed figments of a perverted imagination, conceived without forethought, and as capriciously dismissed again.

In truth, memory, conscience, and judgment appeared quiescent, as if in a sleep, except when under the reviving influence of those extra restoratives, coffee and brandy, with snuff for a co-adjutor of which she had become an inordinate consumer.

Throughout the period the various emunctories appear to have been active, though somewhat abnormally, as was evident in a certain factor attaching to the pulmonary exhalations and the cutaneous secretions. The demise was in 1866.

Dr. M., a physician of recognized ability as he became addicted to opium for no ascertained cause, but to what extent did not certainly appear. The very fact of using was itself carefully concealed by the subject, though obvious to gentlemen competent to judge, in view of the narcotic oppression under which he was often seen laboring. If suffering at any time under physical ailments, he would never, upon consulting his professional colleagues, allude for once to the primary cause, but would mask every form of indisposition under that most conveniently accommodative of terms — neuralgia. (Neuralgia has been the scapegoat for a multitude of opium sins.)

The demoralizing effects of the vice were in the present case conspicuous and unmistakable. No sooner did opium enter in than conscientiousness walked out. No longer appreciating the moral value of truth, this man would falsify over and over statements he had deliberately made, exhibiting a perversion of spirit that the most cautious contradiction only aggravated and intensified. One day, having invited a brother (a personal friend too that was) to his office, he there, in the presence of two strangers, proceeded to upbraid him on the ground of having made attempts towards undermining his professional standing, though indeed the incongruity and, in instances, the absurdity of his prescriptions had been the occasion of privately calling in physicians for the protection of his patients against mischance, as also in a manner to shield him from suspicious surmises.

In progress he grew to be so indifferent to his responsibilities and so careless of his duties that friends began to suspect a lurking insanity. Our subject (as is reported of him), in some way or by some means surmounted his habit ultimately, and recovered in a fair degree his former reputation. The condition of mind as here described lasted for about two years.

Among opium eaters has been observed an occasional tendency to some form of mania. For the years 1861-66, there were counted up at the Pennsylvania Hospital for the Insane, 35 men and 36 of the other sex coming under this class, and by the year following the proportion had considerably increased. Dr. Gray, Superintendent of the Utica Asylum for fifteen years, writes, that during his administration, although cases applying have generally been rejected, yet there have been received there of insane people as inmates, who were also confirmed opium eaters, 15 persons, all of whom, with a single exception, were women; and further, that 7 of them recovered of their principal malady (for the opium was stopped of course), 4 made no improvement, and 5 died.

This proclivity to insanity which opium fosters may take the suicidal shape, though the determination, but half-formed or only inceptive perhaps, may pass by like the transient cloud. There was a Canton gentleman of mature age known to Dr. Parker, who in a conversation expressed a longing for death as a deliverance from his bondage, but who, “weak and irresolute,” had faltered as was apparent in the critical hour. Death, but faintly sketched and dimly shadowed out, as viewed in the far perspective, expands on reaching the foreground to the exaggerated proportions of an ogre. “Pleasures, hopes, affections gone, the wretch must bear, and yet live on.”

A case with a melancholy termination, published originally by Dr. Barnes, is with his permission here reproduced in briefer form.

The patient, Rev. G. W. Brush, of good natural physique, was also a man of superior mental endowments. Having suffered for a time from an occasional diarrhoeal flux and a scirrhous tongue besides, he by-and-by (as professionally advised) took to opium, going on by littles and for months, until what had been designed for occasional use only had become a sternly fixed necessity. Sixteen years, as the subject reluctantly confessed, had now gone by, and the dose by this had grown to 1/2 grains of morphine per day, and for extras to “20 or more,” an expression which, as was afterwards learned, was to be interpreted “20 or a good deal more.” (Equivocation and prevarication, humiliating characteristics as they are in every association, seem to attach to opium eaters by a sort of indefeasible claim.)

Mr. B., now grown distrustful of his intellectual gifts in view of his degradation, and nervously apprehensive of a waning clerical influence, would repine and mourn over the past, accounting his life thus far a failure, without better promise. An effort once put forth towards a change had been discouraged by a “diarrhoea setting in like a flood” (as was his expression), which bore him seemingly into the very jaws of death. Anxious to make a new trial as proposed, he proceeded by very considerable reductions, though getting weaker and more haggard the days wore on. Spectres and other ugly visions tormented him, and, what is not usual, in the daytime also, distorted faces grinning from beneath the floods of ingulfing waters, eyes as of fiends gleaming and flashing from out of their oceanic caves.

From November, 1866, a year had passed amid chagrin and shame and doubt and remorse, during which period he visited the office to report himself and for advice a hundred times certainly. Occasionally, yet in a cautious and circumlocutory way, he would advert to the dire though possible alternative – self-destruction. Well posted in all the pathology of the habit (as is common with the opium-eating class), he was able to foresee the liabilities and in a manner to anticipate consequences. The dose had got down to two grains, but this was soon varied from to meet the temporarily-recurring diarrhoea; but soon after, under the administration of arsenic and antimony, and without quinine or brandy either, strength and energy appeared to be reviving. Subsequently the patient professed to have reduced himself to a single grain and a quarter, expressing at the time his confidence in the course and a hopeful issue. All this while, however, he was wavering through habitual infirmity of purpose, and on two occasions in particular he had prepared himself with an extra three-grains, once for the lecture, and again for an interview with his counsellor.

The doctor having now been called away for a week, did not meet the invalid as he had expected awaiting his return. A day passed by, and then another.

“The third – with dirges due in sad array,

Slow through the churchway-path they saw him borne.”

Coleridge, whose soul may be said to have been in a perpetual eclipse, appears on one occasion to have premeditated suicide, if indeed (what is doubtful at best) he was ever capable of working himself up to a fixed purpose of any kind.

On a certain day it was when he had gone without his opium for twenty-four hours, as he was sauntering along Bristol docks, having on some trivial pretext excused his Fidus Achates or Man-Friday, he slipped into an apothecary to have his laudanum-bottle filled; but somehow he “let slip the occasion,” as was usual with him whenever the emergency had come.

To the extravagant employment of opium by the Chinese promiscuously as a proximate cause, may undoubtedly be ascribed the extensive prevalence of infanticide. In Fuh-Kien (says the Rev. Mr. Abeel), forty percent of the female infants are sacrificed by their unnatural mothers, and Dr. Cumming found in a neighboring district a laxity of morals even more saddening. Poverty is the specious and ready plea in extenuation of guilt; gambling, and licentiousness its concomitant, reveal the more occult but no less potent cause, the slow-consuming poison there incessantly at work.

The Malay race are somewhat peculiarly affected under the influence, becoming impetuous and irascible, vindictive in their dispositions and reckless of consequences (Parker). In the Javan rendezvous where the dissolute are accustomed to gather for holding their orgies, the authorities have armed sentinels stationed outside the doors for the purpose of repressing any attempted violence, with orders to strike down and even kill any dangerously turbulent person present – so saith Libermann.

This spirit of malicious rancor or fell revenge is sometimes manifested in a very singular fashion among the people of the Celebes, as was witnessed once by Browne in the city of Maccassar. When a man has become for any cause tired of existence, as from adverse experience in business transactions, ingratitude and neglect on the part of relations, or after a criminal or otherwise vicious course of life, instead of committing suicide out-and-out, seeing that such act is held in that country to be dishonorable, he compasses his own destruction by an indirect but no less certain method. Having prepared himself beforehand by stimulation upon opium (opium and hashisch together, Cabanis says), he sallies forth, kris (a sharp dagger) in hand, with a furious impetuosity, assailing and stabbing at any and every one that comes within reach. Upon this is raised the general cry, in which all who hear it join – “Amok! Amok! – Kill! Kill!” and the reprobate is pursued with knives and spears and weapons of every sort, until he is despatched. Such a practice was observed also by Lord Macartney.

To the opium bazaars, those socialistic golgothas in the heart of the frontier empire –

“Where Revel calls, and Laughter, vainly loud,

False to the heart distorts the hollow cheek,

To leave the flagging spirit doubly weak”

– must we turn, would we see in their sheer nakedness the excesses of depravity, the putrid sloughings of moral defilement.

At the shops above ground, in Amoy for instance, just as in the gilded caverns of subterranean Broadway, you encounter singing women and dancing girls, whose facile ingratiativeness, with the super-addition of a tinselly personnel, serves as a “standing invitation” to voluptuaries of all ages, from the juvenes imberbes, to whom dissipation is an untried novelty, up to the veteran gray-beards, who fain would “lag superfluous on the stage,” when the zest of enjoyment, though not the passion for it, has passed away. These Cyprians of an Oriental breed mingle in the scenes familiarly with the rest, imbibing their samshu with the complacency of old stagers, or, for change of scene, withdrawing a space to have a whiff from the opium pipe. Detached from the saloon proper, but communicating with it, is an interior receptacle – a living morgue in fact – and to this the inmates when reduced to the state of stupefaction are transferred, there to finish their stertorous sleep, and there to wake again to the horrors of the morning.

The exhibitions of self-abandonment, depravity, and wretchedness combined, so conspicuous in these half-way houses towards Pandemonium, have over and over the attestations of observers out of every class, government officials, missionaries, sojourning tourists, and gentlemen of the Profession as well; and the scenes noted by such are thus alluded to by the Hon. Mr. Martin:

“Here spectres of fearful vision haunt and distract the mind; the light that once emanated from heaven is now converted into a gloom of Tartarean blackness, and death reigns around. The opium shops such as I visited are the veriest types of hell upon earth.”

“Opium smoking (such is a declaration of the Medical Mission at Peking) is the great barrier to all progress, spiritual as well as temporal, among the Chinese; a barrier far more formidable, in that it excludes all hope of a social resurrection, than was ever the Great Wall to the Tartar invaders.”

“What warre so cruelle, and what siege so sore,

To bring the sowle into captivitie,

As that fierce appetite doth fain supplie!”

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