opium poppy

Opium History Up To 1858 A.D.

Alfred W. McCoy

Opium as Folk Pharmacopoeia

Regardless of level of development, most societies have used drugs for religion, recreation, and medicine. Discovered and domesticated during prehistoric times in the Mediterranean basin, opium became a trade item between Cyprus and Egypt sometime in the second millennium B.C.

The drug first appeared in Greek pharmacopoeia during the 5th Century B.C. and in Chinese medical texts during the 8th century A.D. Inferring from such slender evidence, it appears that opium farming first developed in the eastern Mediterranean and spread gradually along Asia's trade routes to India, reaching China by the eighth century A.D. Once introduced into China, opium gained a significant role in formal pharmacopoeia.

It was not until the 15th Century that residents of Persia and India began consuming opium mixtures as a purely recreational euphoric, a practice that made opium a major item in an expanding intra-Asian trade. Indeed, under the reign of Akbar (1556-1605), the Mughal state of north India relied upon opium land as a significant source of revenue. Although cultivation covered the whole Mughal empire, it was concentrated in two main areas--upriver from Calcutta along the Ganges Valley for Bengal opium and upcountry from Bombay in the west for Malwa opium.

The persistent role of opiates as folk medicine and recreational euphoric for nearly 4,000 years raises very real questions about the enormous difficulties in effecting its eradication. Through interaction with opiate receptors in the brain, opium and heroin may well have an inherent biological logic that makes their mass abuse a likelihood at most times, in most societies, where ample supply of the drug is available. Historically, every society that has been introduced to opium as a commercial euphoric has consumed the entire supply made available to it.

Early European Opium Trade (1640-1773)

The earliest European expeditions to Asia also mark the start of their involvement in the region's opium trade. As Portuguese captains first ventured across the Indian Ocean during the early 16th century, they realized the potential of opium. If your Highness would believe me, Affonso de Albuquerque, the conqueror of Malacca, wrote to his monarch from India in 1513, I would order poppies...to be sown in all the fields of Portugal and command afyam [opium] to be made...and the laborers would gain much also, and people of India are lost without it, if they do not eat it.. From their ports in western India, the Portuguese began exporting Malwa opium to China, competing aggressively with Indian and Arab merchants who controlled this trade.

Eager for a commodity to barter for Chinese silks, the Portuguese imported tobacco from their Brazilian colony half a world away. Although the Chinese frustrated the Portuguese by growing their own tobacco, the pipe itself, which had been introduced by the Spanish, turned out to be the key to China's markets. Indian opium, mixed with tobacco and smoked through a pipe, was somehow pleasing to the Chinese palate. By the early 18th century, opium smoking was spreading across China, prompting the empire's first attempt at suppression in 1729 when the Emperor Yung Cheng issued an edict banning the smoking of opium.

Arriving in Asia a century after the Portuguese, the Dutch soon became active in the region's opium commerce. Instead of trading directly with China like the Portuguese, the Dutch established a permanent port at Jakarta in 1619 and began purchasing opium from Bengal in 1640 to supply Java's limited demand. As Dutch colonials won monopoly rights for Java's populous districts, their Company's opium imports from India rose dramatically from 617 kilograms in 1660 to 72,280 kilograms only 25 years later.

Dutch profits from the opium trade were spectacular. Buying opium cheap in India and selling high in Java allowed the Company a 400 percent profit on shipments in the 1670s. Opium, moreover, proved to be a key trade good that drew Asian merchants to Jakarta. By 1681, opium represented 34 percent of the cargo on Asian ships sailing out of Jakarta. No longer a lightweight luxury or medical item, opium was on its way to becoming a commodity.

Although the last of the Europeans to enter the trade, it was the British who finally completed the transformation of opium from luxury good into bulk commodity. The British East India Company had acquired coastal enclaves at Calcutta in 1656 and Bombay in 1661, but it did not become a major factor in the opium trade for another century. In the interim, a syndicate of Indian merchants up the Ganges River at Patna held a monopoly over the Bengal opium trade, making cash advances to peasant farmers and selling the processed opium to Dutch, British and French merchants. Marching inland from their port at Calcutta, the British conquered Bengal in 1764 and soon discovered the financial potential of India's richest opium zone.

In this period, the major change involved a shift from a limited trade in opium though intra-Asian networks to an expanding European commerce that stimulated both supply and demand. In the 16th century and earlier, there had been a pre-existing, modest demand for opium in China and Southeast Asia, and low-level production of opium in India.

Working separately, European mercantile companies commercialized both opium cultivation and commerce, making it the basis of a profitable long distance trade in low-weight, high-value goods. At first, the Portuguese transported Indian opium to China. Then the Spanish developed a way to mix tobacco with opium so it could be smoked. Finally, the Dutch took advantage of this rising demand for opium, but their main market was limited to Java and some re-export to China. Through these European efforts, the problem of opium addiction became so serious in China that the Emperor had it banned in 1729.

The extraordinary profitability of this low-weight, high-value commodity was a key incentive for escalating European involvement in the Asian opium trade. In particular, the Dutch V.O.C. made a 400 percent profit on its 1679 shipments.

Increase/decrease in World Opium Production:

--Dutch East India Company (VOC) imports from India rose at a rate of 1.5 per annum during the 1660s--rising from 0.6 metric tons in 1660 to 72.3 tons only 25 years later.

--In 1699, the Dutch imported 87 tons of Indian opium for distribution to Java and the Indies.

--British exports of Indian opium to China increased from 15 tons in 1720 to 75 tons in 1773.

Changes in Opium Cultivation by Region:

Indian production increased by unknown amounts in response to stimulus of European and Indian opium traders.

Changes in Quantity of Opium Consumption by Region:

For the first time in its history, China experienced a significant, but unquantified, level of mass opium addiction.

Summary and Analysis of Trends within Epoch:

In this period, opium entered a proto-modern phase in which its capacity for growth as a major commodity first became evident. Significantly, European and Indian merchants played a catalytic role in commercializing and expanding the India-China opium trade.

It is during this era that opium's extraordinarily profitability becomes manifest. Through its peculiar properties, opium is the ideal trade good during this epoch. As an addictive drug, opium requires a daily dose giving it the inelastic demand of a basic foodstuff. Long distance sea-trade in bulk foods was beyond the capacity of current maritime technology, but opium had the low weight and high mark-up of a luxury good like cloves or pepper. In the early modern era, opium combines the reliable demand of a basic food with the logistics of a luxury good. Compounding its profitability, the Chinese emperor reacted to the rise of mass addiction by banning opium and thus denying China the opportunity to produce opium locally to undercut the high price of Indian imports.

European Mercantilism (1773-1858)

The modern era in the global opium trade began in 1773 when the British Governor-General of Bengal established a monopoly on the sale of opium. Over the next 130 years, Britain actively promoted the export of Indian opium, defying Chinese drug laws and fighting two wars to open China's drug market for its merchants.

Under the British, Indian opium became a major global commodity, giving this modern commerce a scale and organization that distinguishes it from earlier forms. When the East India Company conquered Bengal, it took control of a well-established opium industry involving peasant producers, merchants, and long-distance traders.

In 1773, the British Governor abolished the Indian opium syndicate at Patna and established a colonial monopoly on principles that operated for the next half-century. Under the new regulations, the Company had the exclusive right to purchase opium from Bengal's farmers and auction it for export. Realizing that opium was illegal in China, the Governor barred the Company's ships that called at Canton to load tea from carrying opium, leaving actual sale of the addictive drug to the private European merchants who bid at the Company's Calcutta auctions.

In 1797 the Company eliminated the local opium buyers in Bengal and established a system of direct collection that lasted for over a century. Under the new procedures, the Company, and the colonial state that succeeded it, controlled opium cultivation, processing, and export. At its peak in the late 19th century, Bengal's opium country stretched for 500 miles across the Ganges River Valley, with over a million registered farmers growing poppy plants exclusively for the company on some 500,000 acres of prime land.

From their factories at Patna and Benares in the heart of opium country, senior British officers directed some 2,000 Indian agents who circulated through the poppy districts, extending credit and collecting opium. Processed under strict supervision at the two Company factories, the opium was packed into wooden chests, each containing forty balls and weighing 140 pounds. Bearing the Patna and Benares trade-marks, the chests were sent down to Calcutta under guard and sold at auction to private British merchants.

Since the Chinese state had damned opium as a destructive and ensnaring vice and banned all imports in 1799, British sea captains bribed Canton's mandarins and smuggled the chests into southern China where the Bengal brands commanded twice the price of the inferior local products. For its first quarter century, this system assured prosperity for British India and a stable opium supply for China. Not only did opium solve the fiscal crisis that accompanied the British conquest of Bengal, it remained a staple of colonial finances, providing from six to fifteen percent of British India's tax revenues during the 19th Century.

More importantly, opium exports were an essential component of a triangular trade that was central to England's position as a world power. Trade figures for the 1820s, for example, show that the triangular trade was large and well balanced: 22 million pounds sterling worth of Indian opium and cotton to China; next, 20 million pounds worth of Chinese tea to Britain; and, then, 24 million pounds of British textiles and machinery back to India.

In managing this trade, the Company prized stability above profit, and for over twenty years it held India's opium exports at 4,000 chests--or 280 tons, just enough to finance its purchase of China's tea crop.

The system's success was the cause of its downfall. The vast profits of the Britain's opium trade attracted competitors. Moreover, the Company's steadfast refusal to raise Bengal's opium exports beyond the quota of 4,000 chests per annum left a vast unmet demand for drugs among China's swelling population of opium smokers. As demand drove the price per chest upward from 415 rupees in 1799 to 2,428 rupees just 15 years later, the Company's monopoly on Bengal opium faced strong competition from Turkey and west India.

Britain's most daring rivals were the Americans. Barred from bidding at the Calcutta auctions, Yankee traders loaded their first cargoes of Turkish opium at Smyrna in 1805 and sailed them around the tip of Africa to China. Through these efforts, Turkish opium remained an alternative to the Bengal brands until 1834 when the Yankee captains were finally allowed to bid at the Calcutta auctions and abandoned the long haul around Africa.

The major threat to the Company's monopoly, however, came from Malwa opium grown in the princely states of west India. Malwa opium captured 40 percent of the China market by 1811. Determined to defend their trade, the Company's directors decided to promote unlimited production in Bengal. In 1831 the Governor-General of India, Lord William Bentinck, toured the upper Ganges with revenue officers to explore new areas for poppy farming and within the decade cultivation doubled to 176,000 acres.

After the East India Company lost its charter in 1834, its informal regulation of the China opium trade collapsed, allowing profit-hungry American and British captains to take control. Indeed, the Company's demise launched a fleet of new opium clippers to tack to China against the monsoon winds. As the Company loosened its restrictions in the 1820s and then lost its monopoly in 1834, China's opium imports increased nearly ten fold--from 270 tons in 1820 to 2,558 tons twenty years later. Opium addiction spread rapidly, reaching some three million Chinese addicts by the 1830s.

In defense of its commerce, Britain fought two wars along the China coast in 1842 and 1858, forcing the empire to open itself to unrestricted opium imports. In 1838, the Emperor's launched a moralistic anti-opium campaign that threatened Britain's China trade, and London dispatched a fleet of six warships, capturing Canton in May 1839. The First Opium war ended in 1842 with the Treaty of Nanking which required China to cede Hong Kong, and open five new ports to foreign trade. But China still refused to legalize opium.

The fifteen years following the First Opium War brought a new peak in the China trade. Illicit imports of Indian opium nearly doubled, rising to 4,810 tons in 1858. At the Calcutta auctions, frenzied bidding drove opium prices and profits to new heights, making a fast run to the China coast essential and launching 48 new clippers for the opium fleet. Among the 95 clippers in the fleet, the Calcutta's Cowasjee family owned six, the Americans of Russell & Co. had eight, and the British giants, Dent and Jardine, operated a total of 27.

The era of the opium clipper ended when China finally legalized the drug trade after its defeat in the Second Opium War (1856-1858). In negotiations over the tariff provisions of this new treaty that ended the war, the British emissary Lord Elgin forced the Chinese to legalize opium imports.

In the aftermath of legalization, Chinese officials began encouraging local production, and poppy cultivation spread beyond the country's southwest. As addiction spread throughout China, imports of Indian opium rose from 4,800 tons in 1859 to 6,700 tons twenty years later. After peaking in 1880, Indian imports declined slowly for the rest of the century as cheaper, China-grown opium began to supplant the high-grade Bengal brands.

Demand Increasing Ahead of Production:

It appears that opium, once commercialized as recreational euphoric, produces a disproportionate demand that soon exceeds the original supply. In this case, the carefully controlled number of chests from Bengal soon proved insufficient for the demand in China. The result was stimulation of production in other opium regions.

Thus, Malwa and Turkish production increased to help meet China's growing demand. In the end, England capitulated to market pressures, abandoned its self-imposed restraint, and encouraged an expansion of opium production in India.

Once introduced, commercial opium stimulated demand in China beyond supply, encouraging thereby increased cultivation back in India; which, in turn, stimulated more demand in China, sparking, yet again, higher poppy plantings in India. In effect, even in this earliest era of commoditized opium trading, demand and supply increase through a process of reciprocal stimulation that makes it difficult, analytically, to determine which is the dominant cause.

During the 18th and 19th Centuries, China had a limitless capacity for opium consumption that continually outstripped all production, both local and global.

Changes in Shipping Technology:

Since there was now an unlimited amount of opium that could be grown in India, improvements in shipping technology were needed to move greater amounts to China. Hence, a competition and the appearance of the clipper ship. Speed now determined profitability in the opium trade.

Chinese Government Policy:

The Chinese Imperial decrees of 1729 and 1799 banning opium smoking and importation did not restrain the rising addiction problem. However, the legalization of opium consumption in 1858 encouraged a sharp rise in both production and consumption. With legalization, domestic opium superseded imports, making speed less important in the shipping of opium and allowing steamships to replace the clippers.

Thus, we must conclude that China's policy of prohibiting opium consumption and cultivation from 1729 to 1858 assured the East India Company a de facto monopoly over this fast growing market and created the basic underlying conditions for the hyper profitability of the India-China opium trade.

Without this prohibition on cultivation, China could have reacted the Company's aggressive exports of Bengal opium by encouraging local opium harvests and destroying both market and profits for the Indian imports. As it was, China's addicts and their near insatiable demand for the illicit drug created high profits and inspired ferocious competition among merchant captains competing for a share of this lucrative market--English out of Calcutta, Indian and English out of Bombay, and Americans out of Smyrna, Turkey.

Nature of Chinese Demand:

In the midst of the acute demographic and caloric crisis of southeastern China in the late 18th and early 19th Centuries, opium attributes as a appetite suppressant may have increased its appeal to users at a time of scarcity and high food prices. At certain periods, the use of opium may have suppressed appetite sufficiently to make its addiction economical in comparison to the cost of eating a normal diet.

Economics of European Mercantilism:

In colonial Asia of this period (1773-1858), all successful European economic initiatives involved commercialization of drugs in some form--caffeine, nicotine, or opiates. This 18th century trade transformed these drugs from luxury goods into commodities of mass consumption, making them integral to the economies and lifestyles of both Asian and Atlantic nations.

In Java after 1720, the Dutch V.O.C. collected a tax in coffee in the Priangen region of west Java and made vast profits through sales in Europe and America, becoming the globe's greatest coffee broker and gaining thereby a substitute for its substantial share of the China opium trade lost to Britain after 1720.

Consciously imitating the V.O.C., Bourbon Spanish reformers in Manila established the Tobacco Monopoly in the 1782 and, for the next century, financed their colonial administration from their exclusive control over the cultivation and sale of this addictive drug to Filipinos.

In Bengal, the British East India Company imposed a monopoly over opium in 1773 and used its sale to China to finance purchase of caffeine, in the form of tea, for export to Europe and North America. Within the monopolistic logic of mercantilism, the East India Company achieved the highest profits from opium because, from 1773 to 1830, its strong controls over key aspects--production, export, and sales.

Increase/decrease in World Opium Production:

--The area under cultivation in Bengal, India increased from 90,000 acres in 1830, to 176,000 by 1840, and, finally, a peak of 500,000 acres by 1900.

Changes in Opium Cultivation by Region:

--Reflecting directly increases in production, Indian opium exports to China rose from 75 tons in 1773 to 4,810 tons in 1858--a sustained, high-level of growth over the space of 75 years.

--Again reflecting increases in production, Turkish exports to China increased from 7 tons in 1805 to 100 tons in 1830--creating another instance of steady, high-level growth in production over a protracted period.

Changes in Quantity of Opium Consumption by Region:

--Rising from insignificant levels in the early 1700s, by the 1830s China had an estimated 3 million opium smokers.

--US imports of opium rose 8 tons in 1840 to 62.7 tons in 1858.

Summary and Analysis of Trends within Epoch:

From the late 18th century onward, opium became a major trade commodity. Under the British East India Company (BEIC), centralized controls accelerated the export of Indian opium to China--from 13 tons in 1729 to and 2,558 tons in 1839. Using its full military and mercantile power, Britain played a central role in making China a lucrative drug market.

The Company's steadfast refusal to raise Bengal's opium exports beyond its self-imposed quota of 4,000 chests per annum left a vast unmet demand for drugs among China's swelling population of opium smokers. When demand drove the price per chest upward from 415 rupees in 1799 to 2,428 rupees just 15 years later, the East India Company's monopoly on Bengal opium faced competition from Turkey and west India.

As the Company loosened its restrictions in the 1820s and then lost its monopoly in 1834, China's opium imports increased nearly ten fold--from 270 tons in 1820 to 2,558 tons twenty years later. Opium addiction grew rapidly, reaching some three million Chinese addicts by the 1830s. Simultaneously, China's illicit imports of Indian opium nearly doubled, rising to 4,810 tons in 1858.

High Imperial Opium Trade (1858-1907)

During the latter half of the 19th century, opium became a major global commodity. Across the Asian opium zone, from the Balkans to Manchuria, there was a steady increase of local opium cultivation and consumption. Moreover, in the latter half of the 19th century, the modern pharmaceutical industry made opiates a drug of mass abuse in the cities of the West--Europe, the Americas, and Australia.

By the early 20th century, opium and its derivatives, morphine and heroin, had become a major global commodity equivalent in scale to other drugs such as coffee and tea.

In retrospect, the growth of mass narcotics abuse in the West seems part of the transformation of diet and health care in the late 19th century. In an era when Western medicine had still not developed genuine therapeutic remedies, self-medication with opium and the profession's reliance on morphine injection encouraged drug abuse.

Indeed, opium was a genuinely effective against the gastrointestinal diseases that were epidemic in the cities of 19th Century England and America. Introduced to skeptical American doctors in 1856, the hypodermic syringe proved an effective means of relieving pain with morphine injection, and by 1881 many physicians used the drug as a panacea for wide range of illness.

With the approval of the medical profession, Western pharmaceutical manufacturers such as Bayer and Parke-Davis began selling substantial quantities of opiates and coca in the form of popular remedies. Such successful marketing made mass addiction to cocaine and heroin a significant feature of late 19th century life in the West.

Soon after the Bayer Company introduced heroin as a non-addictive substitute for morphine in 1898, the American Medical Association (AMA), continuing the profession's long reliance on opiate medications, initially endorsed the new drug as safe for respiratory ailments.

The spread of mass addiction was part of a new diet in the industrial nations based on a global trade in proteins and stimulants. After a century of constant dietary habits, the average Englishman's consumption of sugar, jumped four-fold from 1850 to 1900. During the same period, England's per capita consumption of tea increased three-fold.

Similarly, in the United States between 1865 and 1902 coffee consumption increased nearly three-fold, while sugar jumped four-fold. The simple 18th century diet of milled grains had given way to one spiced with large quantities of protein (eggs and beef), glucose (sugar), and stimulants (coffee and tea).

If an energized diet of proteins, glucose and caffeine could be used to stimulate the body through a long working day, then narcotic-based medicines could be used to relax it in the short hours of rest.

Paralleling the growth of sugar and coffee use, American consumption of opium rose over four-fold from the 1840s to the 1890s, and the number of addicts peaked at 313,000 in 1896. In the United Kingdom, sales of patent medicines, most of them opium-based, increased almost seven-fold between 1850 and 1905. Significantly, the average consumption of opium per 1,000 population increased from 1.3 pounds in 1827 to over 10 pounds 50 years later.

Reflecting and reinforcing these global changes, the legalization of opium in China quickly transformed the country into the world's leading producer. After the Second Opium War ended in 1858, Chinese officials encouraged local production, and poppy cultivation spread beyond the southwest to nearly every province. As addiction rose throughout China, imports of Indian opium increased from 4,800 tons in 1859 to an historic high of 6,700 tons in 1879. Despite the growth of Indian imports after 1858, most of the higher demand was supplied by Chinese domestic production.

By the 1880s, China was in the midst of a major opium boom, particularly in the rugged southwestern provinces of Szechwan and Yunnan. Observers claimed that China's leading opium producing province, Szechwan, was harvesting 10,000 tons of raw opium annually. In 1881, the British consul at Yichang estimated the total opium production in the southwest at 13,525 tons, a figure that at first seemed exaggerated. Twenty-five years later, however, the first official statistics showed that Szechwan and Yunnan were in fact producing 19,100 tons, equivalent to 54 percent of China's total harvest.

Although estimates varied widely, by 1885 China was probably growing twice as much opium as it was importing. By 1906, China had 13.5 million addicts consuming some 39,000 tons of opium. With bountiful supplies and legal retail sales, China had 27 percent of its adult males addicted to opium--a level of mass addiction never equaled by any nation before or since.

During the 19th century, Southeast Asia experienced a confluence of socio-economic forces--demand, supply, and state policy--that expanded its total opium trade and the degree of European dominance. First, Chinese migration to Southeast Asia accelerated the demand for drugs throughout the 19th century, creating a substantial market of wage laborers with the means and motivation for opium smoking. Pressed for revenues to finance public works, European colonial governments established opium farms and leased these revenue contracts to overseas Chinese merchants.

No mere vice, opium became a major factor in Southeast Asia's economic growth in both public and private sectors, reflecting and reinforcing the region's ongoing modernization. In many parts of 19th century Southeast Asia, the opium franchises were integral to the rise of overseas Chinese capital.

In the late 19th century, these franchises gave way to state-licensed opium dens that became a unique Southeast Asian institution, spreading and sustaining addiction throughout the region. At first, the region's colonial governments had restricted their role to importing the opium from India and auctioned opium farms, or franchises, to the highest bidder, usually a consortium of Chinese.

In 1881, however, the French administration in Saigon established the Opium Regie, a direct state marketing monopoly that showed greater profitability. By century's turn, every Southeast Asian state, from Burma to the Philippines, had either an opium monopoly or an officially licensed franchise.

In 1930, for example, Southeast Asia had 6,441 government opium dens that served 272 tons of opium to 542,100 registered smokers. In no other region of the world did so many governments promote mass drug abuse.

Dutch opium commerce on Java fostered both a vast state enterprise and a large illicit traffic. From 1640 to 1799, the Dutch East India Company (V.O.C.) imported an average of 56 tons of opium annually, large quantities for their day that rose steadily throughout the 19th century to 208 tons by 1904.

By starting their retail monopoly two centuries before the other European powers, the Dutch developed a large clientele of native Javanese opium smokers. Despite efforts to reduce sales, the Dutch monopoly was still operating 1,065 opium dens in 1929 that retailed 59 tons of opium to 101,000 registered smokers.

While opium addiction weakened the local populations, it strengthened the finances of colonial governments. In 1905-1906, for example, opium sales provided 16 percent of taxes for French Indochina, 16 percent for the Netherlands Indies, 20 percent for Siam, and 53 percent for British Malaya. Despite heavy opium consumption, Southeast Asia did not become a significant opium producer until the 1950s, a full century after China.

Afraid that smuggling from their remote tribal highlands would undercut high official prices, the state monopolies did everything possible to discourage local opium production. Although poppy cultivation did spread somewhat in the highlands during the decades before World War II, the region still remained a minor producer.

Finding even this level of cultivation troublesome, Burma, Thailand and Indochina mounted suppression operations that reduced region's production to only 15.5 tons in 1940--far from the Golden Triangle's 3,050 ton harvest a half century later.

Increase/decrease in World Opium Production:

--In 1907, the first systematic survey of opium indicated that world production stood at 41,624 tons--over ten times the 1994 world illicit opium supply.

Changes in Opium Cultivation by Region:

--Rising from low levels in the 1840s, China produced 35,000 tons of raw opium in 1906-07--equivalent to 85 percent of world opium supply.

--Reflecting changes in production levels, Indian opium exports to China rose from 4,810 tons in 1858 to peak at 6,700 tons in 1879. Thereafter, Indian exports dropped by half to 3,368 tons by 1905, and then dwindled to insignificant amounts after 1913.

--Of the 41,624 tons produced worldwide, Southeast Asia produced 2 tons; Southwest Asia (Turkey, Iran, India, Afghanistan) 6,258 tons; and China 35,364 tons.

Changes in Quantity of Opium Consumption by Region:

--The number of opium smokers in China increased from 3 million in the 1830s to 13.5 in 1906.

--US opiate addicts increased from low levels in the 1840s to a historic high of 313,000 by 1896.

--US imports of all opium increased dramatically from 32.8 tons in 1859 to 298.1 tons in 1907.

--Average American consumption of opium increased four-fold from 12 grains per person in the 1840s to 52 grains in the 1890s.

Summary and Analysis of Trends within Epoch:

During this period of high imperialism (1858-1907), Britain loses the near monopoly over the Asian opium trade that it enjoyed under mercantilism and the drug becomes, for the first time in its history, a free-market commodity. Traded in mass volume through unrestricted trade, opium gains new markets in the West and expands its trade in Asia.

To maintain profits and tax revenues, European colonial regimes in establish state opium monopolies throughout Southeast Asia in the 1880s and 1890s, continuing an element of the restrictive mercantilism prevalent in an earlier epoch.

While controls remain over opium sales within the colonies, its international trade is now unrestricted. In Asia, China removes its ban on opium cultivation and thereby undercuts the hyper-profitability of British exports. Now fully commoditized, opium spreads beyond its Asian trade axis to become, through the modern pharmaceutical industry, a major item of mass consumption in the West. Driven by this global commerce, world opium production reaches an historic peak of 41,000 tons in 1907--10 times its level in 1993.

Multilateral Control & Syndicate Crime (1907-1940).

In the late 19th century, a Christian crusade, through skillful propaganda and lobbying, transformed itself from a populist movement into a novel form of drug diplomacy that continues today under the United Nations.

Led by Protestant clergy and laity, a global anti-opium movement created mass support for the imposition of legal controls over individual drug abuse, culminating in a series of treaties that restricted the global narcotics trade.

Starting with the Shanghai Opium Commission of 1909 and the International Opium Conference at The Hague in 1911-1912, these early meetings led to a succession of opium control treaties under the League of Nations in 1925 and the United Nations after 1945.

On balance, the most profound and lasting legacy of this movement remains the underlying concept of applying the force of law and police to regulate what individuals do to and with their own bodies. The intrusion of the state into a realm previously thought personal and private marks a small but still significant watershed in modern political history.

As the anti-opium movement grew at century's turn, narcotics were already a global commodity that sustained heavy opiates abuse in China, Europe, and America. With an addict population representing over a quarter of the country's adult males, opium had become a staple of the China's consumer economy.

Moreover, during the late 19th century the steady rise of mass opiates addiction in England and America added a new dimension to the global drug trade, forming a resilient commercial connection between Asian opium growers and Western consumers.

Launched when the drug was already a major commodity, the anti-opium movement's goal of a total prohibition produced a contradictory legacy. The movement did force governments to cease active promotion of drug use through licensed dens or patent medicine sales. Paralleling these prohibition efforts, however, new criminal syndicates quickly emerged in the major cities of Asia and the West to organize a global traffic in illicit drugs.

Between 1895 and 1910, moreover, medical opinion within the U.S. turned against the mass prescription of opiates. From the 1870s onward, a growing number of doctors in both the United Kingdom and the United States documented the dangers of addiction from repeated opiate use.

Moreover, research into bacteriology discovered the causes of previously incurable diseases, thereby discouraging the use of broad-spectrum palliatives. In a sharp reversal of past practice, in 1920 the AMA passed a resolution recommending the prohibition of heroin.

The early anti-opium movement began as a loose alliance between British Protestants, China missionaries, and Chinese imperial officials. Formed in 1874, the Anglo-Oriental Society for the Suppression of the Opium Trade soon attracted the patronage of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

For 30 years Britain's missionaries and moralists fought a relentless campaign that culminated in 1906 when Parliament passed a motion to end India's opium exports. With strong mandates for suppression, a year later British and Chinese diplomats agreed on a ten-year, step-by-step reduction in both Indian imports and Chinese cultivation.

When Britain finally abandoned its advocacy of the Asian drug trade in 1907, opium had become a global commodity comparable in scale to the commerce in stimulants such as coffee and tea. Representing about 85 percent of world production, China's opium harvest of 35,000 tons sustained 13.5 million addicts, or a quarter of its adult male population.

After the revolution of 1911, China's new Republican government proved corrupt and its opium suppression campaign faltered. China's poppy cultivation revived, morphine and heroin pills appeared as substitutes for smoking opium, and the new Republic's cabinet was found taking a bribe from an opium syndicate. Nonetheless, in January 1919, the Republic burned the last chest of Indian opium at a public ritual before invited guests at Shanghai. After more than 300 years, the India-China opium trade had ended.

While Britain engaged in bilateral negotiations with China, the United States sought a solution through multilateral drug diplomacy. After occupying the Philippine Islands in 1898, the United States discovered Manila had 190 dens retailing a total of 130 tons of opium. Responding to pressures from the anti-opium movement in the US, in 1903 the colonial regime appointed the Episcopal missionary Bishop Charles Brent and two medical doctors to an investigative opium committee that recommended total prohibition.

Between 1906 and 1908, the U.S. regime banned opium smoking in the Philippines, becoming the first American government to outlaw narcotic drugs.

The Philippine ban launched America's attempts at domestic suppression and drug diplomacy. Aware that opium smuggling from China was sabotaging the Philippine prohibition, Bishop Brent convinced President Theodore Roosevelt to organize the first international opium commission.

With Brent in the chair, delegations from thirteen countries met at Shanghai for a month in 1909, passing unanimous, non-binding resolutions that urged the gradual suppression...of opium. Two years later, the United States used its influence to draft The Hague Opium Convention which required each signatory nation to pass its own domestic drug legislation.

As a party to the Convention, the United States fulfilled its diplomatic commitments in 1914 when Congress passed the Harrison Narcotics Act, the country's first federal law restricting drug use.

In 1925, the League of Nations convened the Geneva Conference, launching a new round of drug diplomacy, moving away from voluntary national laws to mandatory international controls over drugs.

Restrained by the colonial lobby, this cautious diplomacy produced international treaties that gradually restricted the right of governments to traffic in narcotics, producing an 82 percent decline in world opium supply--from 42,000 tons in 1906 to 16,000 tons in 1934.

Although none of Southeast Asia's states actually abolished their opium monopolies, all made gestures that reduced the region's opium sales by 65 percent in the fifteen years after World War I. The Netherlands Indies, for example, cut the colony's consumption by 88 percent, from 127 to 15 tons.

Although these reforms reduced Southeast Asia's legal opium sales, they could not eradicate a mass demand for the drug cultivated by three centuries of colonial rule. As soon as governments slashed imports or closed opium dens, smugglers and dealers emerged to service the unmet demand. On the mainland, Thailand and Indochina found it impossible to close their mountain borders to the overland caravan trade from Yunnan and Burma. With 50 percent of the region's smokers and 70 percent of its dens, Bangkok and Saigon were Southeast Asia's premier opium markets, offering high profits which drew the caravans southward from the opium hills.

Republican China's attempts at opium prohibition expanded both production and consumption. After 1906, the reduction in British imports and Chinese suppression led gradually to several negative developments: an increase in China's opium cultivation; a shift in consumption from domestic opium to imported heroin; and a centralization of criminal controls over the illicit opiates trade.

Significantly, China's experience in the decades before World War II demonstrated that the international opium trade had already developed a resilience that would allow it to survive almost any attempt at suppression.

After 1909, China's early attempts at eradication created a demand for illicit morphine and opium. As Szechwan's opium production declined, Shanghai's licensed syndicates, notably the Green Gang, began importing morphine and heroin from Europe. Moreover, this localized suppression in Szechwan stimulated both the spread of cultivation to other provinces and smuggling of illicit opiates into China.

Between 1911 and 1915, Japanese traders smuggled major supplies of morphine and heroin into China. By 1923, Shanghai syndicates were importing 10.25 tons of heroin from Japan and Europe annually to meet consumer demand.

Starting in the late 1920s, the country's rising criminal syndicates shifted from the import of heroin to its manufacture and distribution. On balance, the growth of the heroin trade in northeast China was a market response to both global and local attempts at suppression.

In the decade following the League's first attempt at opiates control in 1925, Shanghai emerged as a major center for illicit heroin. During the 1930s, China began to supply a substantial, but unquantifiable, share of the U.S. domestic drug market. In 1931, the League of Nations imposed restrictions on the manufacture of heroin in Europe, and just three years later the U.S. Treasury attache in Shanghai noted a sudden shift of the traffic in narcotics from Europe to the Orient.

When the Geneva convention banning European heroin exports took effect in 1928, Europe's criminal entrepreneurs moved first to Istanbul, the center of a Turkish drug trade which harvested 845 tons of opium in 1928 and manufactured 13.2 tons of heroin and morphine in 1932.

Pushed by that city's violent criminal milieu and pulled by the scale of the Asian drug trade, leading European drug dealers such as the Eliopolos brothers moved to Shanghai and Tientsin in the early 1930s. In his 1934 report to Washington, the U.S. Treasury attache in Shanghai reported that there had been an influx into China of individuals formerly identified with the traffic in Europe.

In particular, the Jewish syndicates that dominated New York's drug trade under the leadership of Yasha Katzenberg and Louis Lepke Buchalter sent agents to purchase heroin through European dealers based in Shanghai.

Simultaneously, Shanghai's Green Gang leader Tu Yueh-sheng emerged as the city's leading drug dealer and a key intelligence operative for the Nationalist Government--an alliance that protected the narcotics network from the regime's anti-opium campaign of the 1930s.

By 1934, the U.S. Treasury attache in Shanghai reported that the Green Gang leader was the opium King of the nation. Through his close relations with the Nationalist regime, Tu's cartel was a major force in the Yangtze River opium trade that dominated China's drug traffic.

After the annual harvest in the southwestern highlands, according to the US Treasury agent in Shanghai at least 18,000 tons of Szechwan and 10,000 tons of Yunnan opium passed through the major river ports downriver to Shanghai. At the city of Hankow, half way down Yangtze, the government's Special Tax Bureau collected $20 million in annual opium transit fees.

Indicative of Tu's control, the head of the government's Opium Suppression Bureau, was an active member of the Green Gang who still remains loyal to his benefactor, Tu Yueh-sheng. In effect, the League's attempt at global regulation and the Nationalist regime's local suppression combined to expand China's illicit narcotics traffic.

Moving beyond simple opium growing, China had emerged as the world's main heroin manufacturer. As League regulations barred diversion of heroin from legal laboratories to criminals, Shanghai's Green Gang emerged as Asia's first major heroin producing syndicate in the 1930s.

Causality underlying above changes:

Over the space of two centuries, China had thus progressed from opium importer to heroin exporter through the intersection of three key factors--a global commodity trade in opiates, the failure of successive interdiction campaigns, and an alliance between drug syndicates and military intelligence services.

Increase/decrease in World Opium Production:

--World opium production declined from 41,624 tons in 1907 to an estimated 16,653 tons in 1934.

--Licit world heroin production declined from an estimated 20,000 lbs. in 1926 to only 2,200 lbs. in 1931.

Changes in Opium Cultivation by Region:

--Although world total declines markedly during this period, the percentage of world production in each region within the Asian opium zone remains relatively constant.

Changes in Quantity of Opium Consumption by Region:

--Between 1896 and 1924, the number of opiate addicts in the United States declines from 313,000 to an estimated 200,000. --Although there is no indication of any decline in overall level of addiction in China, opium smoking declines and heroin use increases rapidly.

Summary and Analysis of Trends within Epoch:

Anti-Opium Movement:

Within the Protestant churches of England and America, a moral reaction to the excesses of a market-driven expansion of drug abuse inspired a global anti-opium movement in the late 19th Century. Inspired by the larger temperance movement, the anti-opium crusade gained its force from the institutional strength of the Churches and its urgency from
(1.) the influence of their China missions which felt stigmatized by the European opium trade; and,
(2.) a moral revulsion against the excesses of alcohol and narcotics. Through the religious origins of the anti-opium movement, the Western, particularly American, debate over drugs becomes bound up in the metaphor of Christian warfare against evil with the parallel political goal of total extirpation.

Law and Body:

For the first time in the modern era, the anti-opium movement, in alliance with the larger temperance crusade, succeeded with new laws from the state restricting the individual's control over the body.

Under the laissez-faire principles of 19th Century social practice, the state did nothing to restrict the individual's right to indulgence. With the passage of the Harrison Narcotics Act in 1914, the American state, for the first time, imposed the force of law over the right to use or abuse the body as the individual saw fit. This change in law constitutes a significant turning point in American social practice.

Failure of Prohibition:

The prewar attempt at multilateral controls over narcotics had a mixed result. In the West, the stronger state apparatus could actively influence social behavior and reduce drug consumption through a ban on legal sales. In the colonies with strong, authoritarian states, such as British India, opium restrictions were even more effective than in the West. But in Third World areas with weak states, such as China, the attempt at prohibition produced a florescence of organized criminality.

Thus, in the 1920s, the legal opium trade, whether by states or corporations, yields to a transnational criminal trade with powerful Chinese syndicates in Shanghai supplying organized crime groups in the United State. With the end of alcohol prohibition in 1932, American syndicates became even more dependent upon drug trafficking, elaborating their transnational contacts and expanding the illicit trade.

One of the main consequences of multilateral controls was the rise of organized crime that blunts the effectiveness of drug prohibition, forcing consumption to the social margins in the First World and production to the spatial margins in the Third. Although repression does reduce both production and consumption, the high profits inherent in the opiates traffic remain to sustain criminal syndicates which now act as an unintended market response to limit state control over the drug trade.

Despite all these considerable drawbacks, multilateral controls do have their successes. By limiting the power of states and corporation to traffic in drugs without restriction, the League of Nations did effect significant reductions in the gross consumption and production of narcotics.

Through these efforts, the constant, century-long upward trajectory in drug abuse was finally broken, and, for the first time since the 18th century, both use and production began to decline. Through these efforts, world opium production declined from 41,600 tons in 1907 to 16,600 tons in 1934, while licit world heroin production, much of it for recreational use, dropped sharply from an 20,000 lbs. in 1926 to only 2,200 lbs. in 1931.

Although the political parameters of the world drug trade in the prewar era were distinct, the legacy of multilateral controls, today found in the UN Commission on Drug Abuse Control, might well prove a viable alternative to our recent attempts at bilateral eradication.

War & Transition (1940-1947)

During World War II, restrictions on shipping and strict port security produced a marked hiatus in global opium trafficking. In sum, the war cut the long-distance smuggling routes between Asia and the West, confining the drug traffic to regional markets. Denied illicit opiates from Asia, the United States drew limited supplies of low-grade heroin from Mexico that failed to meet even a fraction of consumer demand. By the end of the war, the US addict population had dropped to an historic low of some twenty thousand.

In the Middle East, Turkey and Afghanistan continued to supply the large Iranian market without serious disruption. Similarly, China sustained its large addict population from domestic production, with considerable assistance from the Japanese occupation forces who were active participants in the heroin traffic. In Southeast Asia, however, local opium monopolies were cut off from their major source in India and were forced to expand domestic production to meet existing demand.

Despite extensive opium consumption during the colonial era, Southeast Asia had remained a minor producer. In 1936, for example, the Shan States of Burma produced only 8 tons of raw opium, while Laos and northern Vietnam together produced 7.5 tons in 1940. Since India supplied their monopolies with low-cost opium, governments had no reason to encourage local cultivation. How then do we account for the marked increase in the Golden Triangle's opium production of 15.5 tons in 1940 to 3,050 tons in 1989?

The Golden Triangle's rise as an illicit opium producer began slowly during World War II and then expanded rapidly in postwar decades. Cut off from sources in India and China by the war, the French Opium Monopoly reversed its policy of suppression and encouraged poppy cultivation among the colony's hill tribes, particularly the Hmong of Laos and Tonkin, raising Indochina's opium production from 7.4 tons in 1940 to 60.6 tons in 1944.

This 800 percent increase in the local harvest was sufficient to maintain supplies for the colony's 100,000 plus addicts and allow a rise in drug revenues from 15 to 24 million piasters.

During the war, moreover, Thailand annexed the Shan States of northeastern Burma and used its military occupation to supply Bangkok's monopoly with smoking opium. In May 1942, the Thai Northern Army marched into the Shan market town at Kengtung where Major General Phin Choonhawan, governor of what Bangkok now called the United Thai State, established a military administration.

A few months later, the Thai Opium Monopoly imported 36 tons from the Shan States, raising opium revenues to a record level.

At war's end, when Japanese forces began to suffer reverses on the Indian front, Bangkok ordered Governor Phin home from Kengtung and demobilized his Northern Army. Although this operation was a minor footnote to the war's main battles, some of the political links that would later bind these disparate highlands into the Golden Triangle opium zone were forged during the Thai occupation.

Significantly, after World War II many of the key Thai military who dominated the country's politics and controlled the opium traffic with Burma were veterans of Shan State occupation.

Increase/decrease in World Opium Production:

--There is no accurate data of any description on world opium production for this period.

Changes in Opium Cultivation by Region:

--In Burma, opium production increased from 8 tons in 1936 to an approximate 36 tons in 1942.

--In French Indochina (Laos and North Vietnam), opium production increased from 7.4 tons in 1940 to 60.6 tons in 1944.

--Mexico experienced some increase in opium production in response to demand from the United States.

Changes in Quantity of Opium Consumption by Region:

--In the United States, the number of heroin addicts decreased from an estimated 200,000 in 1924 to just 20,000 in 1944-45.

Summary and Analysis of Trends within Epoch:

Developments in the drug trade during World War II show, as China would after the war, that perfect coercion can have an influence, direct and dramatic, on the international heroin trade. Massive wartime security over ports, impossible in peacetime, meant an end of drug smuggling to the United States. By implication, less than perfect coercion will little impact on the global narcotics traffic and will, under most circumstances, produce minor seizures that will serve as a surcharge that will be passed on to consumers.

Cold War Opium Expansion (1948-1972)

The forty years of the Cold War brought major changes to the world's illicit opium traffic. The Communist victory in China eliminated the world's major opium market within a decade, and simultaneously forced remnants of the old Nationalist regime into margins of Southeast Asia where they played a catalytic role in expanding that region's drug traffic.

Although the Asian opium zone contracted geographically, Cold War geo-politics, combined with illicit market forces, stimulated a steady increase in opium production in the remaining area, which now stretched from Turkey to Thailand.

Supplied by the Asian zone, other markets expanded their consumption of opiates steadily during this period. With morphine base from Turkey, the Corsican syndicate laboratories of Marseilles, the so-called French connection, processed an estimated 80 percent of the high-grade No. 4 heroin consumed in the US from 1948 to 1973, nearly a quarter century.

Similarly, Turkey and Afghanistan produced smoking opium for the near insatiable demand among the million plus opium smokers of Iran, which became, after the Chinese revolution, the world's leading opium consumer.

After 1949, the Chinese Communist regime used a mix of unrestrained repression and social reform to eradicate the world's largest opium market. By the mid 1950s, highland opium areas had converted to new crops, dealers had been executed, and the country's estimated 10 million addicts has been forced into compulsory treatment.

The collapse of the Nationalist Chinese regime in 1949 forced its remnants into the drug markets of Hong Kong and Southeast Asia where they soon played a catalytic role in an expansion of opium production. In 1949, Shanghai's narcotics syndicate fled to Hong Kong where they soon opened heroin refineries. Suffering reverses in a struggle for control of the colony's heroin trade against local syndicates, Green Gang faded by the mid 1950s and was replaced by small syndicates of ethnic Chiu Chau criminals who traced their origins to nearby Swatow on China's south coast.

Using the Green Gang's chemists, these new narcotic networks expanded the colony's heroin consumption during the 1950s and then extended their operations into Southeast Asia in the 1960s. Significantly, Hong Kong syndicate chemists opened the first No. 4 heroin laboratories along the Thai-Burma border in the late 1960s, introducing the technology that made the Golden Triangle the world's largest heroin producer.

Through an accident of history, the southern borders of China and the Soviet Union, a major fault line of Cold War confrontation, happened to parallel the Asian opium zone. Since the 18th Century, opium has been cultivated as a cash crop in a highland zone that extends for 5,000 miles across the southern rim of Asia from Turkey to Thailand. During the forty years of the Cold War, the coincidence super power confrontation and opium cultivation made geo-political pressures a real force in shaping the political economy of this zone.

As various national intelligence agencies mounted special operations along the Asian zone, they found that the region's opium brokers and ethnic warlords were their most effective covert-action assets. Surveying the steady increase in world opium production since the end of World War II, we can thus discern periodic surges in opium supply that coincide with ethnic conflicts or special operations in the drug zones.

The sudden growth of Golden Triangle opium production in the 1950s appears, in retrospect, a response to two stimuli. Reacting to international pressures, governments abolished legal opium sales and thereby created a sudden demand for illicit opiates in the Southeast Asia's cities.

Moreover, an informal alliance among four intelligence services--Thai, American, French and Nationalist Chinese--played a catalytic role in promoting the production of opium in northern Laos and the Shan Plateau of northern Burma. In particular, the Nationalist Chinese (Kuomintang, or KMT) occupation in 1950, combined with the Shan secessionist revolt after 1958, transformed the Shan States into a region of conflict that reduced government control and allowed a marked expansion in local opium production.

During the First Indochina War (1947-54), French intelligence officers integrated their covert warfare with the Golden Triangle opium trade through a motivation that seems, on its face, simple. Denied funds by National Assembly, French intelligence merged the opium supply of Laos with the drug demand of Saigon to fund covert operations against Vietnam's communists.

After the French colonial regime abolished the Opium Monopoly in 1950, military intelligence took control of the drug trade. French paratroopers fighting with Hmong guerrillas in Laos and Tonkin shipped their clients' opium south to Saigon on French military aircraft where it was sold in smoking dens run by the Binh Xuyen bandits, a criminal syndicate that controlled the city. Through this operation, French intelligence, particularly the SDECE, integrated narcotics into Indochina's political economy and its anti-Communist political forces.

Across the Mekong in Burma and Thailand, an alliance of intelligence services--Taiwan, Thailand, and US--fought a purer kind of covert warfare by operating indirectly through their local clients.

Controlling the opium hills of northeastern Burma, Nationalist Chinese irregulars supplied the demand for drugs in Bangkok. To provide logistic support for their forces, the Nationalists forged a tactical alliance with Thailand's dominant military leader, Police General Phao Sriyanonda, that soon evolved into a de facto division of the Burma-to-Bangkok opium trade.

Initially, the Nationalist Chinese forces invaded Yunnan Province in southwest China, seeking to inspire a mass uprising against the new Communist regime. After at least three failed invasions of Yunnan with heavy losses of men and equipment in 1951-1952, the KMT forces fell back into Burma's prime opium lands between the Salween River and the China border--7,300 troops in the Wa States and 4,400 further south in Kengtung State.

As allied aid gradually declined, the Chinese KMT irregulars turned to opium trading to finance their operations. Forcing local hill tribes to produce opium through a mix of coercion and market incentives, the Nationalist troops presided over a massive increase of poppy cultivation on the Shan Plateau and sent opium caravans south into Thailand to supply the region's growing illicit markets.

After a joint Burma-China military operation evicted them from the Shan States in 1961, the KMT forces established new base camps just across the border in Thailand and from there dominated the Shan States opium trade until the early 1980s. During their decade-long occupation of Burma's prime opium lands between the Salween River and the Chinese border, the KMT fostered a generation of local opium warlords such as Olive Yang, Lo Hsing-han, and Khun Sa who remained in Burma after the KMT departure to struggle, as both antagonists and allies, for control of the local traffic.

By the mid 1960s, the high profits of the Shan opium trade financed the formation of new armies, notably Khun Sa's Shan United Army (SUA), that would challenge Nationalist Chinese dominion and expropriate much of the traffic by the late 1970s. Even after the KMT's control faded, opium continued to dominate the region's economy, corrupting all contenders for control of Burma's northeast--Shan rebels, Chinese warlords, the Communist Party of Burma, and Rangoon's military regime.

By the mid-1960s, Southeast Asia had a self-contained narcotics industry producing enough raw opium to sustain addicts in the region's cities. Following a pattern seen elsewhere, local demand raised the region's opium harvest to levels sufficient for an eventual entry into the world market, and then sustained it during periodic downturns in global demand. Although Hong Kong's chemists had been producing heroin from Southeast Asian opium since the mid 1950s, heroin laboratories did not open in the Golden Triangle until the US military presence in South Vietnam created a local demand for No. 4 heroin.

In 1968-1969, Hong Kong syndicate chemists opened a cluster of heroin laboratories at the epicenter of the Golden Triangle. Controlled by the Nationalist Chinese generals in Thailand and the Commander of the Royal Lao Army, these laboratories produced substantial quantities of 90 percent pure heroin.

Fueled by these nearly limitless supplies, heroin use among US troops in South Vietnam reached epidemic proportions. In September 1970, Army medical officers questioned 3,103 soldiers of the American Division and found that 11.9 percent had used heroin since their arrival in Vietnam.

In November, an Army Engineers battalion in the Mekong Delta reported that 14 percent of its troops were regular heroin users. In 1972, the White House Office for Drug Abuse Prevention interviewed 900 enlisted men who had returned from Vietnam in September 1971, the peak of the epidemic, and found that 44 percent had tried opiates while in Vietnam and 20 percent regarded themselves as having been addicted. The full extent of the problem was not revealed until 1974 when the Office for Drug Abuse Prevention published later surveys showing that 34 percent of US troops in Vietnam had commonly used heroin. Assuming this figure to be correct, then by mid 1971 there were more American heroin users in South Vietnam (81,300) than there were in the entire United States (68,000).

The causes underlying the GI drug epidemic were complex. In retrospect, however, boredom and bad morale provided much of the motivation. Under President Nixon's Vietnamization program launched in 1969, US troops were confined to cantonments as a strategic reserve for ARVN, and most units, without a clear mission, suffered a sharp decline in morale.

With days stretching into months without event or ending, soldiers apparently took heroin to dull the psychological pain and accelerate the 365-day clock that marked the maximum tour of each soldier. Not surprisingly, the accelerated withdrawal of U.S. combat forces in 1971-1972 forced Southeast Asian syndicates to seek new markets for their heroin production.

Increase/decrease in World Opium Production:

--World opium production dropped dramatically from an estimated 16,653 tons in 1934 to only 1,094 tons in 1970.

Changes in Opium Cultivation by Region:

--During the 1950s, all opium production in China was eradicated, eliminating the producer of 85 percent of total world production in 1906-07.

--For the first time, Southeast Asia's Golden Triangle region becomes a significant opium producer--increasing from 15.5 tons in 1940, to 97 tons in 1944, to 713 tons in 1970. By 1970, the Golden Triangle accounts for 67 percent of world illicit opium supply.

--In Burma, opium production rose from 8 tons in 1936 to 500 tons in 1970.

--In Southwest Asia (Iran, Afghanistan, India, Turkey) opium production dropped from 1,126 tons in 1934 to 381 tons in 1970.

--Rising from low, unknown levels, Mexican opium production reached 15 tons in 1970.

Changes in Quantity of Opium Consumption by Region:

--The US addict population rose from 20,000 in 1945, to 68,000 in 1969, to an estimated 559,000 in 1973.

Summary and Analysis of Trends within Epoch:

Production Areas:

External intervention in the remote tribal areas along the Asian opium zone contributed to the rise of drug lords and their armies, allowing them to position themselves for a massive expansion of local opium production. By providing arms, logistics, organization, and political protection, external alliances created the preconditions for a later leap in opium production in Burma and Afghanistan.

Chinese Eradication:

During the Cold War era, the most dramatic change was the sudden and complete eradication of opium in China. Under a powerful communist state, perfect prohibition works and produces a major change in the opium trade, eliminating the source of some 85 percent of prewar world supply. This extraordinary event has, however, no real lesson for capitalist democracies struggling with the problem of drug abuse. To extract some tenuous policy prescription from the Chinese Revolution would serve to trivialize a major historical event.

Origins of US Bilateral Suppression (1973-1979)

As American troops were withdrawing from Vietnam in 1972, President Richard Nixon inadvertently created a new market for Southeast Asian heroin by declaring a war on drugs in the Mediterranean.

As the progenitor of the three drug wars the US has fought over the past 20 years, Nixon's effort commands close attention. Despite a short-term victory, there were two long-term consequences of this drug war:
(1.) increased global opium production; and,
(2.) rising heroin consumption.

Acting on reports that Turkey's poppy fields and France's laboratories supplied 80 percent of America's heroin, Nixon pressed these two allies to eliminate the drug trade. By 1973, Turkey, supported by $35.7 million in U.S. aid, had eradicated all opium production and the French government had closed most of the heroin laboratories in the Marseilles region.

Within months, the street price of heroin in New York had tripled and purity dropped by half--both indicators of a serious shortage. Indeed, the DEA estimated that the U.S. addict population dropped from some 500,000 in 1974-1975 to only 200,000 by the end of the decade. Clearly, President Nixon had scored a major victory in his war on drugs.

Ironically, President Nixon's victory in Turkey increased global drug demand, unleashing market forces that would ultimately expand both production and consumption of illicit narcotics. The Nixon drug war rested on the premise that Turkey was an isolated opium producer that could be eliminated through a strong enforcement effort.

Turkey, in 1970, had produced just 7 percent of the world's illicit supply. It was, moreover, the western extremity of a near continuous opium zone that stretched for 5,000 miles along the mountain rim of Asia--through Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Burma, Thailand, and Laos.

Although U.S. officials seemed to view this broad zone as a series of self-contained sectors (Middle East, South West Asia, and Southeast Asia), this functional economic region responded to stimuli from the global drug market with a simultaneity that seems to indicate economic coherence.

Any reduction of production in a single sector, such as Turkey, soon became a strong market stimulus for increased production elsewhere along the opium zone. Reacting to the decline in heroin shipments from the Mediterranean, the Chinese syndicates of Southeast Asia began exporting their surplus heroin to America, in effect following the GIs home. Rising from insignificant levels in the late 1960s, Southeast Asian heroin captured 29 percent of New York's street supply by 1972.

In Chicago, Southeast Asia's share jumped from 6 percent of all samples seized in 1972 to 48 percent in 1973. A wave of arrests of Chinese merchant seamen jumping ship on the East Coast in 1972 signaled an upsurge of Asian heroin smuggling. During the early 1970s, Southeast Asia's share of the overall U.S. heroin market reached an estimated 26 to 30 percent of total street supply.

Concerned about rising Southeast Asian heroin seizures, the Nixon administration dispatched a fire-break team of 30 Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents to Bangkok in 1973-1974 to cut the flow. Armed with a financial war chest that included $12 million in narcotics assistance funds, the Bangkok DEA seconded a branch of the Thai police to its service and soon began making substantial seizures of US-bound heroin. By 1976, Southeast Asian heroin dropped from a peak of 30 percent to about 8 percent of the total seized on the streets of American cities.

Moreover, the DEA presence contributed to the elimination of several leading exporters of Southeast Asia opiates. In 1973, the Marcos regime executed a Manila heroin manufacturer, Lim Seng, who was exporting major quantities to the United States. In 1974, Hong Kong Police broke the Ng Sik-ho syndicate, disrupting the colony's export operations. As Southeast Asian exports dropped, Mexico's share of the US market jumped from 40 percent in 1972 to 90 percent in 1975.

Since the DEA did not eradicate opium cultivation on the Shan Plateau or close the heroin refineries in northern Thailand, its seizures simply erected a de-facto Custom's shield that deflected exports from the United States to other markets. If the region's loosely structured opium industry were instead a legal corporation, then the import duties it was required to pay for access to key markets were, in effect, becoming prohibitive. Barred from the prime US drug market, Southeast Asia's syndicates were forced to find new markets or go out of business.

There are, of course, only four First World regions capable of sustaining the high costs of the transnational heroin trade--America, Japan, Europe and Australia.

Denied access to the United States by DEA operations and barred from Japan by an entente between the state and syndicates that discouraged narcotics, Southeast Asian syndicates began exporting heroin to Europe and Australia.

During the 1970s, police statistics from both continents indicated a parallel surge in illicit heroin use. Total European seizures of Southeast Asian No. 3 heroin jumped from 22 pounds in 1972 to 873 in 1978. By 1976, European seizures of 1,177 pounds of heroin, almost all from Southeast Asia, were higher than the U.S. total for all source countries. Indicative of Europe's rising addiction rates, the Netherlands' addict population increased from 100 in 1970 to 10,000 by 1975.

In West Germany, deaths from heroin overdose increased from 9 in 1969 to 623 a decade later. By the end of the decade, Europe was, for the first time in its history, consuming more heroin than the United States. Similarly, in Australia narcotics arrests in the state of New South Wales increased five-fold from 173 in 1972 to 909 in 1977; while over-dose deaths were up three-fold from 14 in 1974 to 49 in 1976.

Although Nixon's drug war thus stimulated the global market, its impact on US domestic supply was more ambiguous. In the late 1970s every indicator--addiction, purity, and price--pointed to a decline in America's heroin supply. Why? Did Nixon's drug war succeed in slowing the flow of drugs into the United States? Mexico had captured nearly 90 percent of the US heroin market, but its granular No. 3 heroin failed to satisfy American demand for the No. 4 powder processed in Europe and Southeast Asia.

In the mid 1970s, as Turkish supplies dwindled and Southeast Asia failed to fill the void, Mexico's production boomed and its Sierra Madre became America's major source of heroin. Although Mexican opium cultivation had been extremely low and supplied a tiny slice of the U.S. heroin market in the 1950s, a quarter century later Mexico's expanded poppy cultivation supplied almost the entire US market.

Mexico's dominance of the U.S. supply with low-grade No. 3 heroin coincided with a marked decline in U.S. heroin demand during the mid-1970s, providing some hope that this bilateral approach might have been effective. As U.S. enforcement efforts took effect and the drug flow from Mexico began to slow in the late 1970s, unmet U.S. demand for drugs stimulated renewed Southeast Asian exports that briefly captured about one-third of the American market. Even so, supplies of heroin from all sources were still limited, and US consumption, by all indicators, remained low.

Looking at these changes, we could conclude that Nixon's drug war had actually worked. Examining other evidence, however, we could attribute this decline to President Carter's foreign policy. His cessation of covert operations from 1976 to 1978 may have removed, albeit inadvertently, the protection that drug lords seem to require. Similarly, Carter's abandonment of the Nixon drug war strategy might have stalled the bilateral operations that had in the past stimulated production. Complicating the situation further, Southeast Asia, the world's major opium producer, suffered a major drought in 1978 to 1980 that slashed its opium production by more than 75 percent.

Given the complexities of the global drug trade, we cannot decide this issue with absolute certainty. Whatever the complex causality underlying the decline in US heroin consumption in the late 1970s might have been, a close review of the global traffic indicates that prohibition and protection were, on balance, the operative factors in a sudden revival of heroin abuse during the 1980s.

Causality underlying above changes:

When President Nixon launched America's first drug war in Asia and brought the blunt baton of law enforcement down on a global commodity, heroin, the results were mixed. Although repression disrupted the global heroin trade for several years, over the longer term Nixon's drug war stimulated both global opium production and heroin consumption. Ignoring these lessons, the Reagan and Bush administrations later pursued parallel policies in Latin America with dismal results.

In essence, all three drug wars extended a local law enforcement model into the international arena in a way that failed to reduce either drug production or exports. Like heroin before it, cocaine grew during the 1980s into a major commodity that was fully, albeit invisibly, integrated into legitimate inter-American economic relations.

Despite Washington's drug wars, U.S. consumption fueled an increase in coca cultivation-- rising in Bolivia from 4,800 metric tons in 1963 to some 56,400 to 155,452 tons in 1988. Stimulated in part by three US drug wars, Asian opium production enjoyed a parallel increase from 1,094 tons in 1970 to 4,016 tons in 1989.

How can we explain the failure of a major US foreign policy initiative? It appears that the policy of repression is based on a misperception of the nature of the global narcotics traffic. White House policy has ignored the market dynamics of the global drug trade. Since the late 18th century, narcotics have emerged as a major commodity with Third World producers and First World consumers linked in an elaborate exchange. The initial prohibition of narcotics during the 1920s did not eradicate the trade, but simply drove it into an illicit economy controlled by upland drug lords and urban crime syndicates.

When law enforcement is applied to such an elaborate commerce, drug syndicates usually react in ways not foreseen by enforcement agencies. Treating the global narcotics traffic as if it were a localized vice such as pornography or prostitution, U.S. drug agencies often apply repression without any awareness of the intricate dynamics of these worldwide marketing systems.

For both legal and illicit commodities, a crop failure in one production zone--whether from war, drought, or disease--creates a shortage of supply and raises the price for producers elsewhere, stimulating increased production in the next crop cycle.

Increase/decrease in World Opium Production:

--World opium production increased steadily from in 1,094 tons in 1970 to 1,450 tons in 1981.

Changes in Opium Cultivation by Region:

--Turkish illicit opium production declined radically from 58 tons in 1971 to zero by 1974-75.

--In Southwest Asia (Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan), opium production rose from 504 tons in 1971 to an estimated 1,400 tons in 1978.

--In Southeast Asia's Golden Triangle, drought cut opium production from 700 tons in 1971 to only 160 tons in 1979.

--Mexican opium production remains relatively constant at 16 tons in both 1971 and 1981.

Changes in Quantity of Opium Consumption by Region:

--In the United States, estimated number of heroin addicts declined sharply from an estimated 500,000 in 1971 to 200,000 in 1979.

--Rising from low levels in 1970, Western Europe had an estimated 190,000 to 330,000 heroin addicts in 1979-80.

--In the Netherlands, estimated number of heroin addicts grew from 100 in 1970 to 10,000 in 1975.

--In West Germany, heroin overdose deaths increased from 9 in 1969 to 623 in 1979.

Summary and Analysis of Trends within Epoch:

Bilateral Suppression & Crime:

During the mid 1970s, the US attempt at bilateral suppression of opiates
(a.) expanded international criminal networks;
(b.) increased global opium production; and
(c.) encourages a spread of heroin consumption to new regions of the globe.

Limits of Bilateral Suppression:

Although bilateral operations in Turkey during the mid 1970s represent the greatest success of any US drug war, the policy implications are limited. In retrospect, Turkey's suppression worked because, like Iran or British India before World War II, the government licensed and controlled opium cultivation. Moreover, the opium farmers were ethnic Turks, the majority population, working at the epicenter of the nation-state, not an alienated ethnic minority, armed and insurgent.

This combination of a strong state and weak local resistance made this exercise in bilateral suppression effective. These conditions are not, however, likely to be replicated anywhere else in the world. Similarly, the strong French state could eliminate the Corsican laboratories in Marseilles when US pressure was insistent. Elsewhere--in Burma, Afghanistan, or Pakistan--the state is weak and ethnic resistance to opium eradication is strong, making future bilateral operations in these critical areas problematic.

Production Increase In Asian Zone (1979-1989)

After a decline in US drug use from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s, a complex of factors encouraged a steady recovery in America's demand for heroin. During the 1980s, global production and consumption of the drug increased steadily, laying the foundation for a sudden surge in supply during next decade that would make heroin a world drug by the early 1990s.

During the 1980s, a complex factors led to an increase in Asian opium production. Unusual weather patterns led to a failure in the monsoon rains, bringing a two-year drought that slashed the Golden Triangle's opium production drastically to some 165 tons in 1979 and 225 tons in 1980.

Responding to the market opportunity, heroin production in South West Asia--Afghanistan and Pakistan--suddenly expanded to fill gaps in the global market. By 1979, South West Asian heroin had captured the European market. As Dutch seizures of Southeast Asian heroin dropped from 193 pounds in 1979 to 6.5 in 1980, so European seizures of South West Asian heroin jumped from 911 pounds to 1,980 in the same period. From insignificant levels of heroin use in 1970, Western Europe had developed an addict population estimated at 190,000 to 330,000 users by the end of the decade--a heroin market larger than America's.

In 1980-1981, heroin from South West Asia also fueled a new surge of use in the United States. After a quarter-century of rising heroin addiction, America had enjoyed a brief respite during the late-1970s. U.S. diplomacy in Turkey and DEA interdiction in Bangkok had slowed Asia's drug exports, allowing America its first prolonged heroin drought since World War II.

By late 1980, however, the flood of heroin from Pakistan and Afghanistan captured 60 percent of the US market and brought a renewed heroin crisis. As heroin-related injuries climbed 25 percent during the year, the US addict population climbed back to 450,000. With an estimated production of 1,600 tons, South West Asia's opium crop was three times larger than the 450 tons that the Golden Triangle had produced in its last good year, 1977-1978.

There were signs that the situation would worsen. Without any restraint on production or processing, heroin exports from Pakistan and Afghanistan continued to grow. Rising from about 100 tons in 1971, Afghanistan's opium production reached 300 tons in 1982 and then doubled to 575 tons in the next harvest.

Recovering from a two-year failure of the monsoon rains, Southeast Asia's Golden Triangle produced a bumper opium crop in 1981 that would, in the words of the U.S. Attorney-General, provide enough heroin to glut the world market. Other illicit drug sales were also rising.

Between 1979 and 1980 alone, street sales of all illicit drugs in the United States increased by 22 percent to $79 billion. While America's heroin imports rose by 7 percent to four tons worth about $8 billion, cocaine supply jumped a remarkable 57 percent to 44 tons worth $29 billion.

Despite some initial success, America's drug war had thus produced a paradoxical strengthening of the global narcotics traffic. By the late 1970s, the simplex of the Turkey-Marseilles-New York heroin pipeline had been replaced by a complex of international smuggling routes that tied the disparate zones of First World consumption to Third World narcotics production. With production and consumption now dispersed about the globe, the international traffic was far more resistant to suppression than ever before.

Changes in Italy's heroin market during the 1970s are one example of the negative impact of the US drug war. In effect, the Nixon initiative propelled the mafia to a new plateau of development.

After US diplomatic pressure forced French police to close Marseilles' heroin laboratories in 1973-74, the Corsican syndicates moved their refining operations across the border into Italy in alliance with the mafia. When the Afghan War started in 1979, moreover, the mafia's role in the Atlantic heroin trade reached an unprecedented peak.

By 1981, Pakistani laboratories, with the Sicilian mafia as their intermediaries, were supplying over 60 percent of the US heroin demand and an even greater proportion of Europe's market. By the mid-1980s, an individual mafia cosce, the Badalmenti, was distributing bulk heroin directly across America through the facade of local pizza parlors and accumulating extraordinarily profits.

As seen in Operation Green Ice of 1987-88, the Madonia family of Palermo allied with the Medellin cartel to import 596 kilograms of cocaine from Colombia for distribution in Europe. In effect, during the 1980s, the mafia had emerged as the prime narcotics broker between Asia, Europe, and the Americas--exporting Asian heroin to North America and importing Latin American cocaine for distribution across Europe.

The influx of heroin profits into Sicily during the 1970s and 1980s expanded the mafia's political power. The sudden wave of high-rise construction in corridors beyond Palermo's central city were financed largely by mafia factions laundering their drug profits, allowing major families to increase their local power.

While the modern mafia may have grown Mercury's wings to move drugs across Asia to the Americas, the logic of laundering brought its cosce back home to Palermo to seek a safe haven for narco profits. Such an expanded local base may also have contributed to mafia's growing penetration of the Italian state. With a vast capital from its role as heroin broker, the mafia increased its control over the hidden politics that operated at the intersection of the Italian state, parties, corporations and criminality. Specifically, the better capitalized mafia cosce were able to begin dictating the agenda for public works and the allocation of their illegal profits, reaching beyond the South to the whole of Italy.

Heroin trafficking also had negative consequences for the mafia. In the 1980s, Europe emerged as the world's second major drug market, with an explosive growth and unprecedented profits. Between 1982 and 1991, Europe's seizures of heroin increased from 1,355 kilograms to 6,770, while its cocaine seizures jumped from 396 kilograms to 13,773.

As heroin leached from the mafia's international routes into local traffic, the number of Italian addicts grew sharply. Between 1977 and 1982, heroin overdose deaths in Italy rose from 40 to 252--a clear indication of a rapidly expanding drug problem. As heroin became a Italian affliction, the mafia's involvement in trafficking contributed to a de facto delegitimation, redoubling public and official opposition.

Paralleling these changes in Italy, by the early 1980s the global opiates market had survived the reverses of the previous decade, emerging with the capacity for explosive growth. In part through U.S. interdiction efforts in the 1970s, narcotics consumption had spread to new continents and global production had expanded, rendering the illicit drug trade far more resistant to suppression.

The Reagan-Bush drug wars of the 1980s provide further evidence of the counterproductive impact of U.S. efforts at supply-side suppression. During the 1980s, America experienced an unprecedented drug crisis. Between 1982 and 1985, U.S. cocaine consumption more than doubled to 72 tons.

As supplies grew and prices dropped between 1981 and 1986, the number of Americans using cocaine rose by 38 percent to 5.8 million. Responding to public panic over cocaine, the Reagan and Bush administrations deployed an escalating repression that drew the military into their drug wars.

By early 1991, the Bush White House, citing survey results showing a decline in cocaine abuse, claimed a near-victory in its war on drugs. A closer look at long term trends indicated, however, that the illicit drug trade had again reacted to repression by adjusting in unexpected ways. When Bush's campaign reduced the cachet and quantity of illicit cocaine, the drug market filled the void with a new heroin that appealed to both lower-class crack addicts and middle-class cocaine users.

As the war on cocaine escalated in the 1980s, there were signs that the era of experimentation and casual soft drug use was, after twenty years, coming to a close. While casual use faded, the numbers of regular, or hard core, cocaine and heroin users remained high. As Dr. James Van Wert noted in mid 1991, cocaine-related deaths have increased by 10 percent since 1988, daily cocaine users increased by 15 percent.

Moreover, there were indications of an overlapping demand for either heroin or cocaine in America's illicit drug culture. Although some local markets showed a preference for a particular drug, such as Miami for cocaine or New York for heroin, there was a growing tendency across the country for regular drug users to take both. Between 1981 and 1985, for example, deaths from speedballs, a mixture of cocaine and heroin, rose by 754 percent.

Eclipsed by media focus on cocaine and crack, global heroin production and U.S. consumption rose steadily during the 1980s. World opium production tripled from an estimated 1,500 tons in 1982 to 4,100 in 1989.

The U.S. population of heroin addicts had stabilized at about 500,000 in the early 1980s, but there were subsequent signs of rising use. Between 1983 and 1986, the number of heroin-related deaths doubled. Moreover, a new Mexican black tar heroin appeared in the mid 1980s with a high purity and low price that made it competitive with crack in the western United States.

While supplies from Mexico and South West Asia waxed and waned, the Golden Triangle increased its share of the US heroin market from 18 percent in 1987 to 45 percent in 1990. As the long drought in the Golden Triangle ended in 1980, farm-gate opium prices in Burma soared from $91 in January 1979 to $399 the following June, boosting production from a low of 160 tons in 1979 to 2,528 tons in 1989.

Thus, between 1984 and 1990, Southeast Asia's share of the New York City heroin supply jumped from 5 to 80 percent. Following this significant local trend, in 1993-94, Southeast Asia supplied an estimated 80 percent of the total US market for heroin.

Then, in 1989-1990, a flood of Southeast Asian heroin lowered the wholesale price of China white in New York from $100,000 a kilogram to only $60,000, undercutting the cocaine market and creating a new clientele for the drug. Crack addicts seeking an easier withdrawal were reportedly using heroin in large quantities, as were those mixing the two drugs for a more prolonged euphoria. The heroin situation is growing on a daily basis, reported the DEA's heroin specialist in mid 1990. There's big profits, and the production of opium has doubled...It is the tip of the iceberg.

Although White House drug policy treated cocaine and heroin as discreet drug markets, there was in fact an overlapping demand for both narcotics. Within America's polydrug culture, Asian heroin could and did supply a shortfall in demand for Latin American cocaine.

Increase/decrease in World Opium Production:

--During this single decade, world opium production tripled from 1,450 tons in 1981 to a postwar peak of 4,105 tons in 1989.

Changes in Opium Cultivation by Region:

--South West Asia (Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan) increased its opium production from 800 tons in 1981, to 1,060 in 1989, remaining the world' leading producer until 1986 when it was passed by Southeast Asia.

--Production in Southeast Asia's Golden Triangle rose sharply from 650 tons in 1981 to 2,956 tons in 1989, becoming the source of 72 percent of world opium supply.

--In Burma, opium production grew from 550 tons in 1981 to 2,528 in 1989, making this single country the source of 62 percent of world opium supply.

--Under its new communist regime, Laos increases its opium production from 50 tons in 1981 to 378 tons in 1989.

--In Mexico opium production shot from 16 tons in 1982 to 76 tons in 1989.

Changes in Quantity of Opium Consumption by Region:

--US addict population increased from 200,000 in the late 1970s to 450,000 in 1982.

Summary and Analysis of Trends within Epoch:

Rise of the Drug Lords:

During this period, highland drug lords, for the first time in the history of the traffic, began to act as independent entrepreneurs, responding creatively to market opportunities and taking significant initiatives to expand production and markets for their product.

In Burma, for example, opium production increased exponentially from 550 tons in 1981 to 2,500 in 1989, in large part through the efforts of leading warlords like Khun Sa who controlled some 75 percent of the country's heroin production by the late 1980s. Although there, of course numerous underlying ecological and economic factors, Khun Sa's centralization of control over the Shan revolt and his determination to expand heroin production had a significant impact on the global traffic and the US drug problem. Similarly, the emergence of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar as the dominant rebel leader in Afghanistan created a parallel figure of power who could control much of the country's opium production, heroin processing, and export.

The capacity of powerful warlords such as these to both produce and export has had a growing influence on Western heroin markets--sending vast new supplies of Burmese heroin to America and giving the Sicilian mafia a major new role as brokers for South West Asian heroin to Europe and the United States.

Failure of Tolerance:

While bilateral attempts at suppression may compound the problem beyond the target nation, extreme tolerance or simple inaction over drugs within a producing nation had led to an explosive growth in opium cultivation.

After 1984-85, the Burmese government capitulated to the drug lords and Khun Sa formed a powerful new opium army--a combination that led to a surge in the country's opium production from 550 tons in 1981 to 2,500 in 1989. Similarly, Afghanistan, the collapse over government control over the countryside since the early 1980s is another apt case of the same proposition. The lesson: if a government abandons any attempt at suppression in its opium areas, the capacity for increased production is restrained only by land and labor.

Failure of Drug Wars:

If the United States is to purse a strategy of international repression, then focusing on a single drug seems a prescription for long-term failure. By focusing on cocaine in Colombia and, in effect, ignoring heroin in Burma, the United States allowed Burma's opium production to grow without restraint, creating an ample supply of an alternative narcotic for the US market.

Global Proliferation of Opium (1989-1994)

In the early 1990s, heroin recovered its historic preeminence as a leading illicit narcotic and became something of a world drug. After 1989, Southeast Asia began a sustained heroin export drive to the US that captured over 80 percent of our market by 1993. Simultaneously, the end of Afghan war and repatriation of refugees led to expanded local heroin production.

Increasing Central Asia's potential for opium cultivation, the break-up of Soviet Union led to independence for its former Central Asian Republics and, through ethnic links with Afghanistan, an extension of poppy farming into Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Facilitating the export of Central Asian heroin, the rise of new criminal syndicates in Eastern Europe and Russia, in alliance with Colombian cartels and Sicilian mafia, is creating new smuggling routes that lead from Afghanistan across Russia to the West.

Driven by the unequaled profitability of heroin, the Cali cartel has introduced opium cultivation to the northern slopes of the Andes, harvesting some 20 tons annually since 1991.

Increased opium supply has led to a dramatic proliferation of heroin abuse around the globe--a phenomenon so vast that we can speak, without hyperbole, of a globalization of heroin consumption.

Paralleling the rise of use in established consuming regions like Western Europe and North America, heroin abuse shot upward in new areas--Eastern Europe, southern China, mainland Southeast Asia, India, and Pakistan. Rising from a situation of zero heroin addicts in 1979, Pakistan had, according to official statistics, 5,000 addicts in 1980, 1.2 million in 1985, and 1.7 million in 1993.

As cheaper grades of heroin have encouraged mass addiction, intravenous drug use spread across Asia from Pakistan to Thailand, leading to a sudden surge in HIV infection through injection.

By early 1994, Burma's estimated 400,000 heroin users had the highest HIV rate of any addict population. Between January and June 1988, the seropositive rate for sample addict populations in Thailand had jumped from 1 to 40 percent, the edge of an epidemic that is leading to an HIV rate now approaching a fifth of the country's population.

Increased poppy production in the Golden Triangle is being felt on the streets of American cities. In the 1990s, heroin is back is a drug of choice and Southeast Asia is our main source. Between 1984 and 1990, Southeast Asia's share of the New York City heroin market rose from five to eighty percent. Following these trends, in early 1991 Southeast Asia's contribution to the US heroin supply shot to forty-five percent, up from just eighteen percent in 1987. Today, over eighty percent of all heroin seized in the United States comes from the Golden Triangle.

In the early 1990s, as heroin surged into New York in unprecedented quantities, the City's wholesale price per kilo dropped from $100,000 to $60,000--creating a new clientele for this purer, smokeable drug. Ten years ago the purity of street heroin averaged about four percent, but today it has jumped to sixty-five percent. In the first half of 1993, heroin-related hospital emergencies soared to 30,800 nationwide, up forty-four percent over 1992.

With high purity allowing smoking or snorting, heroin no long carries the risk of AIDS infection through shared needles, shattering a barrier that had long restrained its rediscovery. Stigmatized during the 1960s as a ghetto drug, the mark of the social marginal, heroin has been reborn in the 1990s as the badge of the hip American nihilist.

For those at the cutting edge of a young, creative crowd known as Generation X, heroin is the drug of choice, the symbol of authentic alienation. On the East Coast heroin is back as an old friend, a simple respite from the roller-coaster rip of crack-cocaine and all its craziness. It is on the West Coast that heroin's rebirth as a style statement has been most complete.

In Los Angeles, films such as Drug Store Cowboy and My Private Idaho have mythologized the drug, adding an allure to addiction for the city's edge actors. In San Francisco, bands like Pale Horse and Morphine celebrate the drug, making its trademark dragon iconography a fashionable logo for club-cruising gear, stylish caps and T-shirts.

Seattle's grunge movement is wrapping the drug in an ambiguous embrace, and the heroin-related deaths of local rock icons Andrew Love and Kurt Cobain give it a cultish degeneracy.

Although the surge in global heroin supply in the late 1980s had complex causes, it can be traced, in part, to two key factors--the failure in US interdiction efforts and a larger complex of changes springing from the end of the Cold War. Specifically, the increasing opium harvests in Burma and Afghanistan, America's major suppliers, were, in part, the legacy of Cold War operations past and present.

Just as US support for Nationalist Chinese (KMT) troops in the Shan States increased Burma's opium crop in the 1950s, so Western covert aid to the mujaheddin guerrillas expanded opium output in Afghanistan and linked Pakistan's nearby heroin laboratories to the world market. After serving as the sites of major Cold War operations that intensified indigenous ethnic insurgencies, Burma and Afghanistan ranked, in 1993 estimates, as the world's first and second largest suppliers of illicit heroin.

After Soviet support for the Kabul regime and US arms shipments to the rebels ended in January 1992, Afghanistan's role as a major heroin supplier increased sharply. Indeed, in late 1991 the United Nations anti-drug commission had reported that the Afghan guerrillas, anticipating a cut in US covert support, were already planting a greatly expanded opium crop as an alternative source of finance.

There is, moreover, a strong economic and ecological logic drawing Afghanistan into a sudden and sustained increase in opium cultivation. In 1992-93, the four to six million Afghan refugees who have lived for a decade in camps along Pakistan's Northwest Frontier began returning to war ravaged farms with less than a thousand dollars in UN resettlement funds.

Since much of Afghanistan's agriculture involves perennial crops that take several years to regenerate after damage or neglect, Afghan farmers have an obvious need for a profitable annual crop. Even without the disruption of war, opium has long been the country's most viable crop.

In 1972, a US cabinet committee reported that Afghan farmers made $300-$360 per hectare from opium, twice the average of $175 for fruit: There is no substitute crop--except for hashish--that can...provide anywhere near an equal income. With the recent eruption of civil war in Kabul, Afghanistan does not have government to negotiate either foreign aid or trade agreements for the export of primary products, so its farmers have fallen back on an established illicit commodity with ready markets and an informal laissez-passer at every customs barrier.

Since opium cultivation is already well established, heroin processing is skilled, and syndicate connections with Europe are in place, the poppy is becoming is fast becoming a major economic support for rural Afghanistan in this epoch of economic crisis.

A recent UN report published in Pakistan claimed that Afghanistan's 1991 opium crop was already 2,000 tons, while privately UN anti-drug officials predicted a vast Afghan crop of some 4,000 tons for 1992--a harvest large enough to double the world's entire illicit opium supply.

Although unseasonable rainfall during harvest destroyed much of that crop, the UN's field agents still estimate, often privately, that within the next two to three years Afghanistan has the potential to produce bumper crops of 3,000 to 4,000 tons of raw opium.

If these estimates are correct, the Afghan crop will soon exceed Southeast Asia's, and nearly double the supply of heroin for the world market. Indeed, in the US State Department's conservative estimates, Afghanistan's opium production increased from 415 tons in 1990 to either 685 or 900 tons by 1993.

As in Burma twenty years before, Afghanistan experienced a mix superpower confrontation and local ethnic conflict that facilitated formation of drug networks that can continue to grow long after Cold War intervention had ceased.

Moreover, by attacking heroin trafficking in separate sectors of Asia's extended opium zone in isolation, the DEA inadvertently influenced the market in ways that diverted heroin exports from America to Europe, and also shifted opium production from the South West Asia to Southeast Asia and back again--raising both global consumption and production with each move.

Compounding this problem, White House fixation with Latin America's cocaine traffic diverted resources from the interdiction of Asian heroin. By using a massive interdiction effort to cut supplies of Latin American cocaine without reducing the overall U.S. demand for drugs, the White House created a void in the cocaine/crack market that was soon filled by increased supplies of Southeast Asia heroin. Rising without any threat of disruption by law enforcement, the Asian heroin trade expanded during the 1980s to provide ample supplies of an alternative narcotic when cocaine sales finally declined.

Similarly, in Latin America itself, Colombia's Cali cartel recognized the new market opportunity and in 1991 introduced opium into the northern slopes of the Andes. Within a year Colombia was harvesting 20 tons of opium, half of Mexico's output of 40 tons. Since the United States only consumes about 6 tons of heroin per annum, or 60 tons of opium, Mexico and Colombia combined could supply the entire US heroin market.

In the mid 1990s, the global narcotics trade, operating with the dynamics of a resilient commerce, seems highly resistant to any renewed war on drugs, no matter how extreme the strategy. Since ongoing US and UN policies seem incapable of restraining the opium trade, there is reason to be pessimistic about trends in the global drug problem over the medium term.

Although any prediction about a complex social phenomenon like drugs is prone to error, there are indications that we are at the threshold of a major change in the world drug market. In its recent spread across Central Asia, the opium poppy may have found a natural home where economy, ecology, and society may encourage an quantum increase in production during the next decade.

Just as Szechwan Province once produced 10,000 tons of opium, so Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan are capable, individually or severally, of comparable harvests. Assuming that production in Southeast Asia continues, there is no reason that world opium supply cannot double from the present 4,000 tons in five years and double again in another five.

Looking into the future of the opium trade, there seem four apparent trends:
(1.) a rapid, even dramatic, growth in world opium supply during the coming decade;
(2.) a parallel increase in global consumption of opiates, with increased abuse in established areas and an extension of use to new countries or continents;
(3.) spread of communicable diseases, such as AIDS and Hepatitis-B, through intravenous injection of heroin; and,
(4.) rise in the negative social side-effects of mass heroin use--in particular, police corruption, political venality, syndicate violence, organized crime penetration of politics, gender-specific petty criminality, ethnic insurgency, and illegal arms trading.

Increase/decrease in World Opium Production:

--During this five-year period, world opium production dropped slightly from 4,105 tons in 1989 to 3,969 tons in 1993.

Changes in Opium Cultivation by Region:

--In Southeast Asia's Golden Triangle opium production dropped slightly from 2,956 tons in 1989 to 2,797 tons in 1993.

--Burma's opium production remained constant, changing from 2,528 tons in 1989 to 2,575 in 1993.

--In Southwest Asia (Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Lebanon) production was constant, changing from 1,060 in 1989 to 1,099 in 1993.

--In Afghanistan opium production rose from 585 tons in 1989 to more than 900 tons in 1993.

--Starting opium cultivation, Colombia's production remained largely unchanging, dropping slightly from 27 tons in 1991 to 20 tons in 1993.

Changes in Quantity of Opium Consumption by Region:

--In the United States, the heroin addict population rose from 450,000 in 1982 to some 750,000 in 1993.

--Rising from low levels in the late 1970s, Burma's estimated addict population reached an estimated 400,000 in early 1994.

--In Thailand, the estimated population of heroin addicts rose from 125,000 in 1986 to 375,000 in 1993.

Summary and Analysis of Trends within Epoch:


In the early 1990s, world opium supply is growing without any apparent restraint. Since all opium produced is always consumed, rising supply is now a powerful force driving a sharp increase in world heroin consumption, creating powerful demands that may, in turn, yield further production increases in Latin America or Central Asia.

In the 1990s, we are perhaps witnessing a recurrence of the pattern first evidenced in late 18th Century China: once mass opiate addiction is introduced to a market, demand becomes nearly insatiable and serves to stimulate further increases in global supply.

Opium Production & Consumption:

In the past decade, both production and consumption of opiates have increased in established zones and spread quickly into new areas.


If current trends continue, there is no reason that world opium production, and consumption, should not double every five years into the foreseeable future.


Anti-Drug Crusades in Twentieth-Century China:
Nationalism, History, and State Building

Written by Yongming Zhou, Zhou Yongming, this book chronicles such things as nationalism, reform, and anti-opium mobilization in Late Qing Dynasty; the six-year opium suppression plan and the new life movement; anti-drug crusade in the People's Republic; anti-drug discourse in contemporary China; anti-drug campaigns in the 1990s; and anti-drug campaigns and ethnic minorities in southwestern china: 1950s and 1990s

The Voyage of the Frolic:
New England Merchants and the Opium Trade

The Frolic, a clipper ship from the mid-1800s was employed in the Asian opium trade from 1845 to 1850. The ship's crew ferried Indian opium to China and sold it for silver, which they then used to purchase Chinese tea. A fascinating look at a little known slice of American history.

The Politics of Heroin:
CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade

A greatly revised and expanded edition of Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia. Tells a fascinating story, that opium was often the only viable form of currency. The author produces considerable disturbing evidence that US authorities are guilty at least of complicity in the global drug trade. Exposes basic hypocrisy in American policymaking, and demonstrates that, as long as powerful government bureaucracies work at cross-purposes, America's drug problem will not be easily solved.

OPIOIDS: the birth of a new generation

Opium War
Opium People
Opium Timeline
Just For Chemists
The Afghan Connection
Heroin: A Drug Fit For Heroes?
Confessions of an English Opium Eater