Image: via Opium Museum
These opium smokers in Java are all skin and bones – an indication of addiction.
In 1906, the world’s production of opium had reached the astronomical height of more than 41,000 metric tonnes. In comparison, the worldwide production a hundred years later was a fifth of that – 6,610 metric tonnes in 2006. All that opium had to be consumed somewhere, and by the late 19th century, opium dens had sprung up in major capitals around the world, such as London, San Francisco, New York, Paris and many others. Smoking opium was the “in” thing to do, but the standards of the opium dens frequented varied widely, as we will see.