The War on Drugs is a losing one. Everyone can agree on that. Millions have died as a result of dirty drugs, overdoses and cartel violence—generations have been impacted and may never be the same again. But as bad as the War on Drugs has been and as many lives as it has claimed, it’s nothing compared to some of history’s other major conflicts, many of which were fought over drugs or, in some cases, while the combatants were all high on drugs.

The Opium Wars

The First and Second Opium Wars were conflicts that the British Empire would rather everyone forgot about. The first of these wars was fought for three years beginning in 1839, while the second went on for four years beginning in 1856.

There were a lot of politics at play here but in essence these wars were about trade and about the world’s strongest empire bullying one of the world’s biggest countries. The British Empire wanted to control opium trade routes and to continue flooding the Chinese market with this drug, even though the Chinese government was trying to ban it.

The Chinese people were hooked, buying huge quantities and suffering from an epidemic of addition that makes the modern opioid epidemic would like child’s play. They wanted to stop the British from poisoning their people, but the British were making vast sums of money and didn’t want to lose it. Even American smugglers were getting involved, with most of the opium smuggled in into free trade regions, after which Chinese dealers would spread it throughout China.

The Chinese Emperor sent a letter to the Queen of England pleading for this practice to stop, and when it was ignored he began ordering the seizure of all imports and a blockade of all ships, leading to a British military response and the ensuing conflict.

China were very much on the losing side, with foreign powers gaining more access to the country’s trade and their total GDP dropping by half.

The Second World War

Amphetamines and methamphetamine use was rampant throughout the Second World War, with Nazi troops given the drugs to help them focus, to stay awake for long hours, and to kill their inhibitions. These drugs were very common amongst tank crews, where they earned the name “Panzerschokolade” or “tank chocolate”, but they were also given to the airforce and the infantry.

Hitler is known to have used amphetamines extensively to keep him sharp, but it is unlikely that he had an addiction to them. He was probably addicted to opioids though, as his physician is known to have prescribed him an extensive list of drugs throughout the war, before noting that the dictator suffered from severe withdrawals when his supply ran out.

Vietnam War

The Vietnam War is one of America’s biggest and most condemned military failures. The conflict ran for twenty years and was ultimately a loss for the United States, but the effects weren’t limited to the soldiers who didn’t come home or the politics left on the battlefield.

Many soldiers turned to marijuana to get through the day as the drug was widely available and easy to acquire in Vietnam. But then the media caught wind of this habit and supply was stopped, leading many soldiers to turn to another widely available drug: heroin.

By the end of the war, 20% of servicemen identified as heroin addicts, and that’s only the ones that actually admitted to it. Estimates suggest that the real figure is much higher and that the number of servicemen who actually used heroin is higher still.

The American Civil War

Morphine was growing in popularity around the time of the American Civil War, leading to it being used to aid injured and dying soldiers on the battlefield. But as soon as the soldiers receiving and administering the drug realised just how potent and euphoric it was, its use became common in healthy soldiers as well.

In the space of a few short years morphine went from a drug strictly used to help those in need, to one used by the majority of servicemen on both sides. Over 400,000 American soldiers were addicted by the end of the conflict, and before the century was out it was estimated that more than 1 million citizens were addicted.

In the US, morphine was classified as a controlled substance before the first World War rolled around, but the drug and its derivatives continued to be used extensively throughout the Great War by nations on both sides of the trenches.

This article was provided by Nicky Sarandrea on behalf of sober living Colorado providers Carla Vista. Visit the link to learn more.

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