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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The emergence of an international drug control consensus

The century-long opium trade was devastating for China, from both a health and a social point of view. Opium merchants, shippers, bankers, insurance agencies and governments profited greatly, but the social and economic costs of having a growing number of drug addicts in China and across East and South-East Asia became untenable relatively quickly.

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