Opium: The Business Of Addiction

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The exhibition tells the story of the Forbes family’s involvement in the nineteenth century opium trade, its links to the current opioid epidemic, and its lasting impact on US-Sino relations.

In the early nineteenth century, New England traders moved from slave-trading to selling opium to the Chinese in exchange for tea, an American obsession at the time. Other domestic products were exported from China for American use: silk, nankeen, porcelain, and artwork. Along with the Cabots, Peabodys, Delanos, Endicotts, Coolidges and other Boston Brahmin families, eleven members of the extended Forbes family were involved in the China Trade, spanning the years 1784 to 1887 and including the First and Second Opium Wars.

The exhibition continues in the Historical Resource room at the Milton Public Library. There the focus will be on current events: the latest facts on the opioid epidemic, the impact of the COVID pandemic on those who have substance use disorders, and research into new treatments.