Confessions of an English Opium-Eater HTML version

seaworthy for two days under the ordinary storms and wear and tear of life; and
indeed, if that were the creditable way of disposing of human bodies, he must
own that he should almost be ashamed to bequeath his wretched structure to
any respectable dog. But now to the case, which, for the sake of avoiding the
constant recurrence of a cumbersome periphrasis, the author will take the liberty
of giving in the first person.
Those who have read the Confessions will have closed them with the impression
that I had wholly renounced the use of opium. This impression I meant to convey,
and that for two reasons: first, because the very act of deliberately recording
such a state of suffering necessarily presumes in the recorder a power of
surveying his own case as a cool spectator, and a degree of spirits for
adequately describing it which it would be inconsistent to suppose in any person
speaking from the station of an actual sufferer; secondly, because I, who had
descended from so large a quantity as 8,000 drops to so small a one
(comparatively speaking) as a quantity ranging between 300 and 160 drops,
might well suppose that the victory was in effect achieved. In suffering my
readers, therefore, to think of me as of a reformed opium-eater, I left no
impression but what I shared myself; and, as may be seen, even this impression
was left to be collected from the general tone of the conclusion, and not from any
specific words, which are in no instance at variance with the literal truth. In no
long time after that paper was written I became sensible that the effort which
remained would cost me far more energy than I had anticipated, and the
necessity for making it was more apparent every month. In particular I became
aware of an increasing callousness or defect of sensibility in the stomach, and
this I imagined might imply a scirrhous state of that organ, either formed or
forming. An eminent physician, to whose kindness I was at that time deeply
indebted, informed me that such a termination of my case was not impossible,
though likely to be forestalled by a different termination in the event of my
continuing the use of opium. Opium therefore I resolved wholly to abjure as soon
as I should find myself at liberty to bend my undivided attention and energy to
this purpose. It was not, however, until the 24th of June last that any tolerable
concurrence of facilities for such an attempt arrived. On that day I began my
experiment, having previously settled in my own mind that I would not flinch, but
would "stand up to the scratch" under any possible "punishment." I must premise
that about 170 or 180 drops had been my ordinary allowance for many months;
occasionally I had run up as high as 500, and once nearly to 700; in repeated
preludes to my final experiment I had also gone as low as 100 drops; but had
found it impossible to stand it beyond the fourth day--which, by the way, I have
always found more difficult to get over than any of the preceding three. I went off
under easy sail--130 drops a day for three days; on the fourth I plunged at once
to 80. The misery which I now suffered "took the conceit" out of me at once, and
for about a month I continued off and on about this mark; then I sunk to 60, and
the next day to--none at all. This was the first day for nearly ten years that I had
existed without opium. I persevered in my abstinence for ninety hours; i.e.,
upwards of half a week. Then I took--ask me not how much; say, ye severest,