“Opium for the Masses” is a controversial book by a controversial author. In this book, Jim Hogshire, author of several other counterculture works, brings to light the long-forgotten (in the West) practice of making poppy tea and growing poppies for opium extraction. His 1996 arrest highlighted the degree of influence he had in bringing opium’s use back into the popular consciousness, and one gets the impression when reading the book that he got a kick out of assuming the role of a devil on the shoulder and whispering the secrets of opium into readers’ ears.
The inaccuracies in the book may irk some readers, and Hogshire does not provide references for any of his claims, although there is a bibliography at the end of the book. The lack of references is particularly problematic when Hogshire makes “subversive” claims about the history of opium. His attitude towards opium addiction verges on flippant, and, even to someone who shares his affection for the substance, he seems a tad too evangelical about it at times.
If Hogshire isn’t a knowledgeable chemist or botanist, he is certainly a skilled writer. The style of “Opium for the Masses” is brisk, energetic, and unpretentious. The writing is very accessible, and many readers will likely find Hogshire’s anti-intellectualism entertaining. Hogshire doesn’t go into any detail about the chemistry of opiate extraction or the botany of poppies, but he doesn’t need to. His method of making poppy pod tea is easy and effective, and he gives lots of good general poppy growing advice that readers will find useful.
If you’re looking for advice on how to get high, you will probably enjoy this book quite a bit. If you’re looking for serious treatment of the subject matter, you may be disappointed.
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