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Opium: The Heavenly Demon

June 25, 2004 - June 25, 2004

Opium ? potent and evocative ? it holds a near-mythical place in the drug pantheon with connotations of mystery, languor and sinister beauty. For millennia opium has been used medicinally by many cultures around the world. In the West, opium was self-administered until the early 20th century. Trade in opium was legal, as long as duties and taxes were paid, but this changed with concern over the suffering caused by growing addiction in the United States, Europe and China. With changing pharmaceutical laws in the early 20th century, the availability of opium dried up and prices skyrocketed. A previously legal and affordable purchase became an illicit and expensive transaction. Smuggling increased and a whole new criminal class was born. Politicians and the media exploited this situation, demonizing and sensationalizing the addict, the pusher and the drug. On tour from the Vancouver Museum, this exhibition traces opium from ancient cultures to the shores of North America, revealing both the miraculous and devastating effects of opium and its derivatives. The exhibition includes paraphernalia related to opium smoking such as pipes, lamps, containers, an opium bed, movie posters and films which dealt with opium in the west and more.

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