The History of Drugs

These two companion articles elicited the most 'personal' reaction I've ever gotten. Both times they appeared in print, several Vietnam veterans approached me to say how much my writing reflected their own experience there. (I myself missed the Vietnam draft by six months.)

First Published in the Unification News in May 1992
Second Edition: February 1997

[Polished text on 1/06/08]

This article was first published in May 1992. Unfortunately, little has changed in the nearly five years since, at least when viewed externally. To frame the debate, an understanding of history becomes important.
It's a vast and complex subject. Here we will concentrate on times and places where 'illicit drugs' became the basis of large-scale commerce, or of governmental foreign policy. As we shall see, there are far too many of these. Some of these incidents are well known, others obscure, and a few are still highly controversial. Few nations come out with clean hands.
One of the earliest documented incidents of a drug-centered policy comes from the Middle East. From 1090 until 1256 AD, the Hashisheen flourished in several towns and fortresses in what is now Syria and Lebanon. To Europeans they were known as the Sect of the Assassins. They used hashish and other 'forbidden pleasures' to woo their converts, and their fedayeen warriors aimed to overthrow the Muslim states. They reached an accord with their neighbors, the Crusader states, but were destroyed by invading Mongol forces. Some historians tie their remnants to the notorious thuggee cults of India.
Opium has been cultivated in India since ancient times. In the early 1700s the Mogul dynasty held a monopoly over the opium trade, and profited from its sale and taxation. Eventually these operations were taken over by the British East India Company, centering at Ghazipur on the Ganges river.
At the same time, Dutch traders introduced the habit of smoking opium for its narcotic effects into Manchu China. From ancient times, it had been used only as a medicine–and in the proper hands, it remains an effective one today. The Manchu government saw the threat of this spreading addiction and issued edicts against it in 1729 and 1780. These were only weakly enforced, and the Portuguese gained a monopoly in trading opium for Chinese goods and silver.
The British inherited and expanded this trade. They pressured the Manchu rulers, and this resulted in the Opium Wars of 1839-42. By 1858 the Brits were transporting 10 million pounds of Indian opium into China. Domestic cultivation had also taken root in China. By 1906 some 44 million pounds of domestic opium was produced.
Dr. Sun Yat Sen's early Republic of China moved to stamp out this production. With some international help, the "trade" was seriously impacted by 1913, and by 1917 it had declined to almost nothing. However, due to political instability, local warlords regained power, and sought the easy profits possible. By 1924 production had rebounded.


In the ancient territory of Vietnam, the fierce and independent hill tribes have long cultivated opium poppies, while the 'civilized' lowland peoples grew rice. In 1884-88, the French moved into Vietnam in force, establishing a colony. Following the British pattern, they taxed and profited from the opium trade, establishing trading stations below the hills. They were to continue this system for some 50 years.
During the 1930s and early 40s, the Japanese were taking advantage of the disarray in China, gradually annexing territory. The Chinese warlords continued opium cultivation on their territories, while the trade was expanded by itinerant Chinese and Korean traders.
Japan's Kwantung army, along with their kai secret societies, decided to weaken China -as well as enrich themselves- by taking over this trade. They pioneered the practice of 'psycho-chemical warfare,' operating heroin factories through their puppet government. They bragged that they, "the superior race," were "above drug addiction," while the "decadent Chinese, East Indians and Europeans" were going to serve them, even as they withered away.
During the turmoil in China, both Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalists and Mao Tse-tung's Communists traded opium products on the black market. Before long, the victorious Communists were to make good use of this industry.
By the 1950s, the French were slowly losing the war against Ho Chi Minh's communist Viet Minh. With little understanding of the jungle-covered hills, and waning support at home, the French generals lost a series of remote garrisons. Finally, they planned to draw out the Viet Minh, and fortified a town called Dien Bien Phu as the bait. One reason the French selected it was that the lucrative opium trade centered there made it an attractive target.
Older readers and history buffs will recall the stunning French defeat there in May 1954. The victorious Viet Minh inherited the opium trading system intact!
In the 1950s, the victorious Chinese Communist government made use of the lesson learned at the hands of their Japanese occupiers. This strategy kind of actually goes back over 2,000 years, to the famous military writer Sun Tzu. About 400 BC, he wrote: "All warfare is based on deception," and "Those skilled in war subdue the enemy's army without battle."


In 1965, it is reported, Chinese leader Chou En-lai bragged to Egypt's Pres. Nasser that they planned to "demoralize and subvert the U.S. soldiers in Vietnam." They actually hoped that as many U.S. troops as possible would be stationed there for as long as possible! Chou claimed: "We are preparing the highest grades of opium for them."
By 1970, hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops were in Vietnam. Heroin was being sold on the streets, even by children, for as little as $20 per ounce, some one-fiftieth of its normal value. Many soldiers became addicts, as well as heavy users of hashish, etc.
The number of new addicts was reportedly 60,000 or more. Upon their return home, they were intended to spread drug use, and the drug trade, to every region of America. The Chinese further hoped to alienate these Americans, with an eye towards future revolutionary activities.
The French had left Vietnam, but their 'French Connection' remained. The Sardinia-based French Mafia brought tons of heroin into New York, via Marseilles.
The Soviets followed a similar pattern. Their KGB ran a drugs-for-arms operation through a Bulgarian subsidiary. They traded Middle Eastern heroin for a variety of armaments, in order to gain much-needed hard currency, arm their allied governments and terrorist groups, and flood the West with illicit drugs. Even without Soviet backing, heroin is still produced in Lebanon's Bekaa valley, now under nominal Syrian control.


In early America and England, drugs were completely unregulated. The original Coca Cola (r) ontained actual cocaine. In England, children's 'quieting syrup' contained laudanum, another opium derivative. However, as the terrible health effects became known, the 'first drug war' made these illegal, and the public turned against their use. One of the last efforts in this war was the much-maligned film Reefer Madness.
In the 1960s, drug use again became popular in America. Cultural gurus like Timothy Leary, with 'a wink and a nod' from many elite organizations and universities, almost single-handedly convinced millions to try dangerous, powerful drugs such as LSD.
By the 70s cocaine was the "glamour" drug of choice. Its South American growers, especially in Columbia, prospered, evolving into the now-infamous Cartels. They've had plenty of ongoing assistance from Fidel Castro's communist regime in Cuba–for the familiar twin reasons: money, and subversion of the enemy.
However, it is not only the enemies of the West that engage in drug trade. In the 1950s, some French units -both from their military and intelligence communities- were accused of opium trading.
During the Vietnam conflict, a number of American soldiers were court-martialed for engaging in drug smuggling, using U.S. facilities and both military and civilian transports. These activities may have reached into the higher levels of American government. Certainly, the CIA at least 'looked the other way' when an avowedly anti-communist tribe leader engaged in "the trade." It is entirely possible that some of our POWs were left behind because they knew too much.
Even today, these hill tribes continue their activities in the infamous Golden Triangle area. There are several ethnic groups involved, including remnants of Nationalist Chinese armies which fled south across the Chinese border in the 1950s.
While it is well known that this region of Burma, Thailand and Laos remains a top heroin-producing area, it is officially denied that opium is grown and processed in China's Yunnan province, right across the border. In fact, while ruthlessly stamping out domestic opium/heroin sales and addiction, its export has become an important Chinese revenue source, as well as a foreign-policy instrument. Also, a means of revenge for their humiliating Opium War defeats of a century and a half before.
Insight magazine has reported that civilian Landsat satellite data, for Yunnan province, cannot be obtained--and photographs of the nearby Golden Triangle area clearly depict opium cultivation. Perhaps this is a policy to save the Chinese government from "embarrassment."
We have seen that the Big Money involved in the drug trade has again and again proved an irresistible temptation. Virtually every government, army, tribe and organization that has had the opportunity has taken it. The official corruption, and public health effects, have in every case been horrendous. This has been true whether or not the drugs in question were legal at the time.
However, the legalization of such drugs, in America or anywhere, would only increase their use, make them more pervasive, and thus, accessible to small children. And the intended demoralization of America and the West would continue–at an even faster pace. The current 'medicinal marijuana' debate is another story, with pros and cons of its own.
Several groups, lead by the radical Christic Institute and now backed by certain politicians, are claiming that "the racist U.S. government" has "flooded the inner cities with crack cocaine, in order to destroy the Black race." The instrument was said to have been the CIA, in league with the anti-communist Nicaraguan Contras.
Others turned the table, accusing some of America's top leftists of drug involvement, mainly though an obscure airport at Mena, Arkansas. Alleged connections with Chinese Military Intelligence, via Hong Kong and Indonesia, also came to light.
While these alarmists are pointing their fingers in every direction, their basic theory may indeed be correct!


The simple answer is not to use drugs. It is the only real and effective solution. To end the demand would end both the criminal and the ideological activities centering on the multi-billion dollar drug trade.
There is a positive and hopeful solution! It is based in religious values, and in our own self-image. Rev. Moon has initiated many campaigns, in order to revive America, and especially our young people. The children of caring, God-centered families experience very little drug abuse; while poor, single-parent and selfish, materialistic families can almost count on it.
We Unificationists do carry the answers, and through this nation's countless houses of worship, the message is finally getting out.
With thanks to: Charles Spacek and Dale Milne.
I would welcome any comments, criticisms, compliments, crossfires, curses or corrections. You may reach me at: P.O. Box 74, San Lorenzo, CA 94580

Further Reading

Psychochemical Warfare by A.H. Stanton Candlin
The Opium War by Peter Ward Fay
The Art of War by Sun Tzu
Hell in a Very Small Place by Bernard B. Fall
Various articles in Insight and National Geographic magazines.

(c) 1999 and 2005 by Paul Carlson


First Published in the Unification News in June 1992
Second Edition: January 1997

Last month we reviewed the complicated history of drugs, and their production and use. We touched on the corruption and tragedy that follow the drug trade.
Is there a drug crisis in America? You bet there is. We're surrounded by debate on what to do about it. All of us have been touched, in some personal way, by illegal drug--or by misused legal ones. We all pay for the accidents, illnesses, crimes and other problems stemming from drug abuse.
Many people have mistaken ideas about who uses drugs. There are abusers of every age, race and income level. We think first of crack cocaine from dirty tenements, but there are also misused prescriptions from gleaming clinics. Both alcohol and nicotine are powerful, addictive legal drugs.
How is society dealing with these problems? Are the current solutions working or not?
There are efforts to cut the drug supply, through border controls and raids on drug labs and distribution places. Certainly this is worthwhile. However, the huge profits available will still motivate criminals to 'find a way.' The effectiveness of such interdictment is often indicated solely by an increase in the street price of drugs. Insight magazine ran a series of exposes about border corruption, and the tons of drugs that may be slipping through a deliberately torn barrier.
Some take to opposite tack, saying that the laws themselves are the problem, and that all drugs ought to be legalized. We won't get into the details of this fierce debate here, but we surely don't want cheap legal cocaine lying around where children might find it, as they can find alcohol in so many homes now.
Ideally, the law should hold up a standard, not be watered down for every fad or vice. That's how God's laws are, and man's ought to reflect them.
Several years back there was a Just Say No campaign. While this did reduce overall drug use, it is difficult to get the message to everyone. Meantime, drug dealers have started using modern marketing techniques to gain new customers. Many religious leaders have realized that one must also 'say yes' to something positive, which is the reason behind the success of several well-known street ministries, both Christian and Muslim.


We must understand the attractiveness of drugs. There is a real 'forbidden fruit' factor, in that the very illegality of drugs makes them attractive to many rebellious young people.
Inner-city kids, especially those from broken homes, are attracted by the easy money in drugs, and the flashy lifestyle of the dealers they see.
Some adults have openly advocated drug use, and written glowingly of their alleged experiences. Back in the sixties, Timothy Leary single-handedly popularized LSD, saying it would expand one's mind. Yet, his friend Richard Alpert (now Ram Dass) was later to write: "No matter how high we got, we'd always come down in the morning--and fight about who was going to do the dishes."
Carlos Castenada wrote several bestsellers about peyote-munching, spiritually open Mexican Indians. But he barely mentions that the datura, loco weed, etc., they were supposedly swallowing are in fact rather poisonous.
British writer Aldous Huxley wrote of the profound experiences he had trying LSD. However, this calm, secure, educated fellow never watched a semi-literate school dropout having a 'bad trip,' and nearly drowning himself, as your author has.


People must understand that there is no future in drugs, for themselves or anyone. Certainly, no real skills are involved in dealing them--and no pension plans. More likely: a violent and early death.
Drug users generally share a distinctive attitude. They'll say: "It's my body and my life! Don't tell me how to live it!" They will belittle the dangers involved. Some want 'the high' so much they will ignore anything else, even their own children.
These selfish drug users must understand that they are part of a larger whole. They are pulling down their families, jobs, society and nation. Every dollar they spend is soaked in blood. It funds the violence in their own neighborhoods, in Columbia and Southeast Asia, and all along the way here. They must realize that America is their home, and the hope of the world--and that many who flood this country with drugs actually plan to ruin it.
You may not believe this, but there are scientists who claim that the fight against drugs is useless, even pointless and wrong. They claim that humankind has a 'fourth desire' built in, after those for food, shelter and sex. A desire for 'alternate consciousness,' which means, "wants to get blasted." (Read Intoxication by Ronald K. Siegel.) Another man claims, half-seriously, that "beer was the cause of civilization." That people settled down at the riverbanks to grow grain for the mash.
Siegel describes the use of natural intoxicants by many animal species. In this regard, note that: a) wild animals have somewhat limited entertainment options, and b) the Fall affected the entire creation, not just people.
Remember the classic velvet painting of 'dogs playing pool?' Hmm, how about opossums hang gliding, or chickens playing Nintendo?
These otherwise intelligent scientists know even less about people than did the fourth century Christian writer, St. Augustine of Hippo. He wrote: "We are made for Thee, and our hearts are restless until we rest in Thee." Religious people know a little secret: that long before the dawn of secular history, there was a Fall of Man. We spurned God and, as He then said: "In sorrow thou shalt bring forth children."


Ever since the Fall, people have lived with a kind of pain they don't understand; an inner or heartistic pain. Psychologists have made good efforts at studying this. Religious people know that Original Sin is passed down through the generations. Secular experts now realize that many terrible behaviors, such as alcoholism and child abuse, are usually passed down within families. Also, certain subcultures pass down behaviors like drug abuse.
This fallen world, and our own fallen natures, lead us to such pain that we seek to "drown it" in countless ways. Modern chemistry has provided us with some very powerful agents to use in this quest. Of course, these cannot really work--that is, to solve our problems. Hopefully, people will realize this before things have gone too far. It has been said that even satan has no use for a zonked-out druggie.
Clearly, the real fourth desire is the desire for True Love. It simply the fulfillment of God's intentions for us, as we've learned from religion, especially from the Divine Principle. There we learn of the true source of joy, of the Three Blessings, and of an unfolding Providence of God that we can be a part of.
Does this seem too simple? It isn't! Unselfish love fills hearts, and far outshines any transient thrill that drugs might provide. Rev. Moon speaks eloquently of "swimming in a pool of True Love."
Through a series of recent campaigns, we Unificationists have come into contact with the real heroes of the war on drugs. The people out on the streets with the kids, the gangs and the gun-toting dealers. People making amazing efforts in the face of huge, and often growing, problems. All over America, Unificationists are wondering, "What can we offer; how can we help?"
In 1978, in response to then-Sen. Bob Dole's "cult menace" hearings, we put together a rather amazing Before and After photo album of our members. Obviously, we'd managed to covert and clean up some rather unusual characters. But our numbers were small, and not everyone was seeking something profound, as most of our converts had been.
During 1983-84 we fielded dozens of IOWC teams, 'street witnessing' in cities all across America. Naturally we came into contact with a great many people, and a portion of them were 'street kids.' We learned, the hard way, that it was very difficult for such kids to take on the burdens normally shouldered by our full-time members. Some tried, a few succeeded.


We can make an important contribution here. Although relatively few young people have become full-time members, the course we've followed in Russia points the way. Statistically, religious youth of any flavor are far less likely to get into trouble. Gaining even the most basic grasp of Divine Principle can make a great difference in their lives.
Young people can gain a new self image. Forget psychobabble phrases like 'self esteem.' Studies have found that young punks have, if anything, too much of that heavily-promoted commodity. As an older generation puts it, these cocky kids "think they've sprouted wings."
We do need a God-centered sense of personal value. Like the poster says: "I know I'm something, 'cause God don't make no junk!" People who perceive no bright future are quite willing to ruin their solitary--and deeply lonely--selves. They'll be less likely to wreck what God Himself has provided for them.
The only real solution to the drug crisis is to end the demand. Dealers would be out of work, and there would be very much less trouble.
In Russia, people are making big changes in their lives after hearing a brief, five-day Principle workshop. Including folks who had been lifelong atheists, even combative marxists.
America has made it illegal to read a Bible in school, while in the C.I.S. they now encourage it. (The Koran, too.) Many of their schools, at all levels, are using Principle-based textbooks. And some still wonder how our society got to be so violent, so drug-soaked . . .
We share big ideas and big hopes. This country can be liberated as completely as the Soviet Union was. I hope that everyone can get involved, as much as they are able. We live in special times, and there is much to do!

(c) 1999 and 2005 by Paul Carlson

Top of Page