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March 21, 2017

Incredible Vintage Photographs That Capture Inside a Saigon Opium Detox Clinic in 1949

In 1949, LIFE ran a photo essay depicting life in Saigon, Vietnam. The images featured candid, picturesque snapshots of life during the city's bygone cosmopolitan era. But among the lively slice-of-life photos, there was a surprisingly bleak shot of three opium smokers inside a Saigon detox clinic.

One of the ways opium was made so readily available in Saigon at the time was at the detox clinics like the one where these photos were taken. These clinics – to some observers, they would be more accurately described as "dens" – used to sell increasingly small doses, which could taper an addiction.

Whether they actually helped anyone recover from addiction is a mystery the photographs cannot reveal.

Opium smokers seek escape on one of the melancholy wood benches of a Saigan "disintoxification clinic."

Racks of opium pipes lining walls in drug clinic.

Patient being weaned off opium, receiving limited quantity.

Opium addict lighting up, receiving limited quantity to wean off the drug.

Opium addicts at a clinic in Saigon.

Opium addict at a clinic in Saigon.

Opium addict at a clinic in Saigon.

Opium addict at a clinic in Saigon.

Opium addicts in clinic, being given diminishing doses, weaning them off the drug gradually.

(Photos: Jack Birns—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)


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