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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A century of international drug control

A century ago, the Chinese opium epidemic spurred international action on drug control as policymakers realized that the problem was too complex for any one country to tackle in isolation. Starting with the International Opium Commission (Shanghai, 1909), Governments over time established an international consensus on the need for the regulation of psychoactive substances. Moreover, a set of normative instruments and multilateral bodies and systems were developed to help States implement and adjudicate such regulation. As a result, the three main drug control conventions, which form the foundation of the international drug control system, today enjoy near universal adherence, with more than 180 States parties. This volume presents an outline of the historical development of the modern drug control system: why and how it arose, its impact on drug production and consumption and its legacy for present and future international drug control efforts.

English Spanish, French

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