At the beginning of the 20th century, after 2 bloody opium wars, the hugely profitable worldwide trade in drugs was, according to the UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime), becoming ‘a global problem’. In 1909, relenting to pressure wielded by anti-opium activists, a group of foreign diplomats held the first international conference on narcotics in Shanghai at which they agreed to set up the International Opium Commission.
I’m taking it that the words ‘a global problem’ referred to governments making money out of people taking drugs that rendered them a drain on society.
This meeting in Shanghai paved the way for a multilateral system that controlled production, trafficking and abuse of drugs to be developed over the next fifty years. As a result governments all over the world introduced laws to control drug use and trafficking.
Cut to a piece in The Telegraph dated 10 April revealing that prescribed drugs are to blame for a spate of violence among US soldiers. It claims that ‘110,000 Army personnel were given antidepressants, narcotics, sedatives, antipsychotics and anti-anxiety drugs while on duty last year, according to new figures by the US Army Surgeon General’. Former military psychologist and combat stress expert, Bart Billings, is quoted as saying that the army has never before medicated its troops to such a degree.
The article goes on to state that: ‘Drug use, especially stimulants, was banned in the US military 10 or 12 years ago but since the Iraq war many troop deployments are only approved if medications are prescribed.’
It has also been revealed that nearly all the perpetrators in mass school shootings like that at Columbine High, were taking psychotropic medication at the time.
Now think of the millions of other people being prescribed these drugs and you’ll see that governments are still making money out of individuals taking drugs that render them a drain on society.
Considering nothing’s changed, perhaps governments should extend existing drug laws to include prescription drugs. Or better still, apply them only to prescription drugs seeing as those addicted to opium, for whom these laws were originally designed to control, were never a physical threat to other people.
J M Leitch is author of The Zul Enigma, a futuristic thriller looking back at a cataclysmic event that occurred on 21 December 2012, end of the Mayan calendar.