Bulletin on Narcotics

A Century of International Drug Control

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The present issue of the Bulletin on Narcotics contains a historical review of the international drug control system, one of the oldest consensus-based multilateral systems in existence. It is rooted in efforts made a century ago to address the largest substance abuse problem the world had ever faced: the Chinese opium epidemic. With this as a starting point, the article outlines the development of international mechanisms to tackle issues related to illicit drugs.

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International drug control under the auspices of the United Nations

From 1946 on, the United Nations assumed the drug control functions and responsibilities formerly carried out by the League of Nations. In the years around the Second World War a number of new synthetic narcotics were developed, the most important of which were methadone, developed by German scientists in 1937, and pethidine (Demerol). Both substances, produced and marketed by German companies, were in great demand by both soldiers and civilians affected by the war.

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