Opium and Junk Food: Sisters Under the Skin?

Opium Den

In the 19th century, Britain fought a war to force China to allow the sale of opium, which has lead to an epidemic of addiction in that country. At its worst, the addict population was said to have been 70 million, although such things are notoriously difficult to count. The Maoist revolutionaries claimed to have brought this number down to zero, within three years, and with relatively few death sentences, all things considered.

We were struck by some points made in a piece called “How Maoist Revolution Wiped Out Drug Addiction in China,” written by C. Clark Kissinger, who is obviously neither a Republican nor a Democrat. Without endorsing every single word, and bearing in mind that even a broken clock is right twice a day, let’s look at a couple of ideas:

Maoism is not about a few reforms, ‘some money for drug rehabilitation.’ It’s not about individual ‘solutions’ through one-on-one therapy. It’s not about filling prisons with addicts while allowing big capitalists to get rich on drug trade.

That does sound familiar. Big capitalists, called “drug kingpins,” get rich trading in forbidden substances. Other big capitalists get rich by selling us pseudo-food that can be equally addictive. Just sayin’.

In The End of Overeating, Dr. David Kessler explains how the food industry deliberately engineers its products so cleverly as to alter our very brain chemistry. Dr. Pretlow also explores this theme in Overweight: What Kids Say:

Food companies would love to get kids hooked on their products. An addicted kid is a customer for life. And, by definition, foods that are addictive would sell the best.

This behavior is quite purposeful, and in some quarters it is seen as morally deficient, just like when the Brits forced opium on China. It has made its population docile and uninterested in questioning authority, or in doing much of anything, really. The effect of widespread food addiction on the present-day population of the junk-food-colonized world is pretty frightening too.

Remember the fairy tale where a little boy and girl wander to the forest hut of a kindly old lady? She feeds them all kinds of goodies, but it turns out that she has a sinister motive: she plans to cook and eat the children. We’re busy transforming ourselves into a nation of shapeless blobs who will put anything in our mouths, just because somebody tells us to. Maybe we should pause to wonder — what are we being fattened up for? What are we letting the junk food industry fatten up our kids for?

Getting back to the opium plague, no matter how we may feel about its goals or its means, the Maoist revolution was all about reclaiming those people who escaped from life’s misery into opium dreams; waking them up so they would join with others in acting for change, to make the whole society less miserable. Kissinger says,

The system causes the suffering and isolation that makes many people escape into drugs. The system uses drug addiction to weaken the people and enslave them… The revolution completely changed the lives and thinking of millions and millions of people. It led the people to do things that were unthinkable only a couple years before.

The point here is, a whole culture can turn around and reject being poisoned by an entity, such as the junk food industry, that considers profit to be more important than health.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “How Maoist Revolution Wiped Out Drug Addiction in China,” RW Online
Image by Jeremyriad, used under its Creative Commons license.

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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