War and drugs: together since forever

Alcohol-drenched medieval battlefields. Opium-laced imperialism. Modern-day narco-terrorism. There’s a lot of history between armed conflict and psychoactive substances.

(6 Aug 2019, feed from Knowable Magazine) “War on drugs”: It’s a term that may elicit memories of the US government’s 20th-century campaign against the sale and use of illegal psychoactive substances. But that ongoing “war” is only one episode in a long, multifaceted and often direct relationship between addictive drugs and armed conflict, says Peter Andreas, a political scientist at Brown University.

War and drugs are profoundly intertwined, he writes in the Annual Review of Political Science and in a forthcoming bookKiller High: A History of War in Six Drugs. Despite the recent history of nations campaigning against them, psychoactive substances — both legal and illegal — have often been central to how states pursue their strategic goals, Andreas says.

Consider amphetamines: They fueled the activities of German, Japanese and Allied soldiers during World War II. Or opium, for which the British government went to war — twice — with China. Against China’s express wishes and laws, Britain shipped vast quantities of opium grown in South Asia to China — all so that Britain could use the revenue to buy a different addictive substance from China: caffeinated tea.

Read the full story from Knowable Magazine here.


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