Globalization is the process that businesses and other organizations develop to international influence or begin operating on an international scale. Through most of humankind, trade has been an essential in obtaining products and gaining information. As centuries passed communities developed into nations and trade was conducted on a larger scale, which developed into international trade. Opium, the sticky, yellowish, latex residue that is dried and that comes from the poppy plant, has been a global commodity for centuries.
This plant contains approximately 10% of the analgesic alkaloid protein that is chemically processed to produce natural and synthetic opioids that are used both legally and illegally (Drugs. com). The comprehensive history of opium is about as convoluted as its moral and ethical effects on the world; is about as convoluted as the solution to the many issues this plant has brought to the world. The extensive history of opium and its products are beyond illustrious, especially when it comes to the interconnectivity in the international market.
Opium was used before the common era when humans were first learning how to use tools to when they developed their first nation-states. The oldest poppy seeds date back to 5000 BCE during the Neolithic age and they are suspected to be used for food, anaesthetics, and ritual purposes. By 3400 BCE, Poppy was cultivated in Mesopotamia. They called it Hul Gil, “the joy plant”, due to its euphoric effects. They then traded this plant with the Assyrians, they traded with the Babylonians and they traded with the Egyptians. In 1300 BCE, Egyptians began the cultivation of poppy fields and traded with Phoenicians and Minoans who traded opium across the
Mediterranean Sea to Greece, Carthage, and some European Countries. Hippocrates, dismissed “magic” for the effects of opium. In 460 BCE he acknowledged its use as a narcotic, treating internal diseases, and treating the diseases of women (menopause, menstruation, PMS, etc), as well as other illnesses. Alexander the Great conquered Egypt in 332 BCE he brought opium to Persia (present day Iran) and India. During this time period the distribution of opium traveled along with territories conquered by larger entities (Lee). In 400 AD, Opium was introduced to China by Arab traders.
A few centuries later opium would play a large role in China’s economy. During the 1300s, opium disappeared from European historical record. According to The Inquisition, anything from the East was considered to be linked to the Devil. Two centuries later the Portuguese discovered and smoked the opium that came from the East China Sea. Once they found out the Chinese were connected, they seized in smoking since those from that region were depicted as savages. A century later, during the 1600s, China and India became major opium imports with England.
With trade increasing in popularity over the years, more countries decided to trade with China. This is how the Dutch introduced smoking opium in a tobacco pipe to the Chinese in 1700. Chinese Emperor Yung Cheng prohibits the smoking and domestic sale of opium, unless it was used for medicinal purposes in 1729, because he noticed many of his citizens were abusing the drug. In India, the British East India Company held a monopoly over the opium trade between 1767 and 1793. This was enacted so they were unable to sell opium to any competing trading companies.
1796, the import of opium into China becomes illegal and 3 years later Chinese Emperor Kia King bans opium completely making all trade and cultivation illegal. While opium economy flourished in Asia; Europe had plans to stimulate the opium market further. Friedrich Serturner of Paderborn, Germany discovered the active ingredient of opium. In 1803, he dissolved the opium in acid and neutralized it in ammonia, thus creating morphine. E. Merck & Company of Darmstadt began the first commercial manufacturing of morphine in 1827. Though the Asian and European economies were doing well, issues between nations in the two continents arose.
The First Opium War, fought 1839 to 1842, and ended with the Treaty of Nanjing. This established treaty ports in China. From 1856 to 1860, the Second Opium War was fought to legalize the opium trade, and the indentured slave trade in countries the European nations saw as savages (Asian, African countries, etc. ). Europe and Asian countries dominated the bulk of the opium market, but the Americans became curious (Lee). The US attempted to join the opium smuggling trade in England and China. In 1840, New Englanders brought 24,000 pounds of opium into the United States this caused the government to add a duty fee.
C. R. Wright, an English researcher, synthesizes heroin by boiling morphine over stove in 1874. This discovery deeply affect the consumption of opioids as the world knew it. Congress formed regulations on narcotics, as well as tax opium and morphine in 1890. While in 1902, medical journals published that morphine was a suitable drug to help with heroin addiction. These medical journals were not able to alleviate the alarming rates of heroin addiction in the US. So, in 1903 Congress bans opium. The US also took additional measures to protect consumers by creating the Pure Food and Drug Act in 1906.
This requires labeling on patent medicine by pharmaceutical companies and because of this the availability of opiates and opiate users declined. The United State’s first drug prohibition would be the ban of opium imports in 1909. Trade between the US and China declined due to this ban. The Harrison Narcotics Act was legislation passed by the US to lessen chronic drug abuse. This bill banned sales from all narcotics, legal or illegal. The influx of legislation against opium opened up the black market in New York City’s Chinatown in which, uncoincidentally, a majority of the drugs were smuggled from China.
With China illegally continuing trade with the US, they finally convinced the British to dismantle the India-China opium trade in 1910. This agreement created more opportunities for those countries to continue trading freely (Lee). The underground drug industry prospered through the unsuspecting connections developed in the wars. Between 1948 and 1972 Corsican (French) gangsters dominated the US heroin market through Mafia drug trades. They refined the drug in Turkey and made it easy to sell large amounts in heroin in New York City. While this was occurring the US and France attempted to restrain the spread of communism.
They traded arms with warlords for the production and sale of opium; this created a boom in the illegal heroin market in the United States. Between 1965 and 1970 the US, involved in the Vietnam War, was blamed in the increase of illegal heroin being smuggled into the US. The number of heroin addicts in the US reached approximately 750,000 people. To crack down on the illegal drug distribution President Nixon created the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) on July 1st, 1973. During the mid-70s Saigon fell, and “China White” was replaced with “Mexican Mud” until 1978.
The US and Mexican governments sprayed the poppy plants (grown in Mexico) with Agent Orange. Due to the decline of heroin in Mexican and Asian countries; Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan took over the production and trade of illegal heroin. A few decades later in the 1990s, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Mexico, Columbia, and other countries tried their hand in smuggling opioids into the US, but the Clinton Administration created antidrug campaigns through “institution building”. There were many countries and entities involved in the heroin epidemic in the United States, but the US would play a role in how the opioid market would change (Lee).
While tensions grew in the MiddleEast, so did opium fields. Until, Taliban leader Mullah Omar banned poppy cultivation in Afghanistan. The United Nations Control Program confirmed that. Until 2 years later, when the UN Drug and Crime Prevention Agency announced that Afghanistan has regained its position as the world’s largest opium producer (currently approximately 80% of the world’s opium). Portugal decriminalizes all drugs for personal consumption in July 2001; in the hopes to reduce drug abuse. In In December 2002, the UK Government health plan will make heroin free on National Health Service.
This in accord to what Portugal did, except they ensured there would be a government safety net. The United States, however, was not compelled to grant its citizens free drugs or free access to drugs, but limit that access. In October 2003, the FDA and DEA launched special task force to limit online sales of narcotics (Booth). While the US tried their best to protect their citizens from addiction, one major issue fell through the crack. Purdue Pharma released many popular opioid medications from 1972 to the present in North America (Purdue Pharma L. P. ).
Like other opioids of the past, these pills were used medicinally and recreationally. Purdue Pharmaceuticals failed to notify doctors and patients of the drug’s addictive properties. Because they decided to conceal the truth, a $600 million dollar lawsuit was settled in May 2007 (Meier 2007). This is the past repeating itself, and presenting larger repercussions. There has been almost 7,000 years of evidence and history to prove why the need for a stronger opioid is not necessary. Yet, the FDA approved a stronger opiate, Zohydro.
It is 5-10 times more potent than Vicodin (Engel). Through the centuries of opium consumption; methodology and potency has changed, but so has its effect on the user and the surrounding community. There may be differences from the past and present, but the similarities are uncanny, and cannot be carried into the future. In 7 millenia, opium has shaped mankind for the better, and worse. Through the globalization of opium, there have been wars on the battlefield, or in a broken home. There have been economies that have flourished, or faltered. There were some that lived, or died.
Opium, in its naturality and artificiality can send someone into a euphoric state as the pain is stripped away physically, mentally, and emotionally. We have spent so much time developing the best ways to not to feel; that we do not realize the agony and destruction we have caused to our surroundings. We have forgotten that pain is not a vital sign. We have forgotten that some pain can be fleeting; in some cases it can be malleable. Through individual and group effort we can develop a proper support system for those who are directly or indirectly affected by opium. It all starts with accountability.