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Akha Human Rights - Akha University


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Opium: Scourge or Bliss?

An opium smoker rolls a freshly mixed ball of opium over the flame to solidify it.

Old opium that smokes into the ceramic pot at the end of the breathing tube turns hard and brittle.  It is ground up with a  metal pestle and new opium is added along with chinese aspirin powder.
Depending on the quantities they smoke, opium smokers often do not have a very active life and may see it shortened considerably as their bodies continue to atrophy.
Money needed for food or other household requirements can often be eaten up by this habit.  Both men and women smoke opium.  Though considered a victimless habit, opium smoking is the cause of many a marital dispute.

Depending on whether times are good or bad. Opium smokers often are part of a micro economy in a village, buying for themselves, selling at a profit to others in the village, or having to buy from a neighbor. In observation I found that many of the opium smokers were quite clever to always have a coin or two.

However, it should be noted that in many documented cases it is the "drug users" in the village who are the most committed to village leadership, community and  preservation of both the culture and language.  
Putting a man or woman in prison for many years is hardly the solution.
A large needle is used to move the bubbling opium across the vent where it is pulled into the flask by inhaling in long breaths.  The smoke from the heated opium is inhaled, though the bulk of the opium remains in the flask and cools.  Once full, the "shit" is scraped out and ground into powder and used again.
Chinese aspirin powder packets can be seen to the left. 
Years of smoking leave the hands stained dark.

Copyright 1991 The Akha Heritage Foundation