What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you read the word ‘America’s War on Drugs?’ Like many other people the first thing that might have come in your mind might be the ruthless drug cartels operating in Mexico and the United States.

For decades, drug cartels have been smuggling different types of drugs from Mexico to the United States through the southern US border.

The regulatory authorities in both countries are trying their best to stop these cartels from distributing dangerous drugs in both countries.

However it might come as a shock to many people that this isn’t America’s first fight against drugs.

The United States of America has been at war with drugs since the 19th century.

The drugs might have changed but the fact that drugs have a negative effect on society stay the same.

What Was America’s First War On Drugs?

America’s first war on drugs was against opium. Opium is a powerful drug that is usually smoked by people in China and Afghanistan.

In the 19th century, many Chinese immigrants made their way to the United States.

The Chinese used to smoke opium religiously during that time and when a large population of Chinese people immigrated to America, they brought their habit of smoking opium with them.

During that time there weren’t any strong laws against the use of drugs which rose as an opportunity for people who wanted to gain advantage from selling opium.

In the mid of 19th century, a large population of Chinese people immigrated to the US.

As they were prone to smoking opium, they kept doing it in the United States as well.

As opium was legal at that time, the Chinese immigrants did not hold back.

Opium was easily found in many different states of America. The best place to get opium in that time was at the Opium Den establishments.

It was the Chinese population who started the Opium Den however, like we see the drug problem today, opium quickly found a strong following amongst the local population as well.

Opium Dens had a very calming environment. People went to these dens to smoke opium and relax.

You could enjoy smoking in these dens like no other place. They weren’t expensive but they gave a very luxurious and relaxing feeling to the visitors.

What Did The Regulatory Authorities Do?

As more and more people started visiting the world famous opium dens, the government and respective regulatory authorities also realized the danger it was bringing to society.

China, at that time wasn’t a bustling economic power as we see it today.

It was a land of people who liked to smoke a lot of opium. The general population was weak and lazy.

All of this was due to the drugs. Had the authorities not intervened, the same would have happened to America.

The opium dens turned into luxurious public places where people could go and smoke opium without a worry in the world.

However after some years, the government decided to ban opium in several different states of the country.

Even after getting banned, opium could still be easily bought at many different locations.

The thing about opium dens was that when they were introduced to the American public, there was temperance movement going on in the country.

Temperance movement was a special movement that advocated against the consumption of alcohol.

So when there was a large movement against the consumption of alcohol the next best option for Americans was opium.

The War Against Opium And Opium Dens

California was hit the worst with this new type of drug from China. After years of seeing the damage it caused, the government decided to take the matters in to their own hands.

These opium dens had become so embedded in the culture that people from all walks of life and all social classed visited them.

The government realized that it was high time to rage a war against opium. They knew if they wanted to save their country from becoming like China of that time, they had to work hard and fight against opium.

The process of stopping opium from ruining the country wasn’t just a one step process but it happened over a period of several years.

The first step the government took was that they prohibited entry of Chinese laborers into the country. This was known as the Chinese Exclusion Act. This was passed in 1882.

This was done because the Chinese were too accustomed to smoking opium that even if they were allowed to immigrate to the US, they would have found some ways to get access to opium or they would have tried to smuggle it in.

In addition to that the government also passed Pure Food and Drug Act in 1906. This made it impossible for American to important opium into the country.

The significance of this act can be judged from the fact that it was one of the reasons that an authority like FDA- Food and Drug Administration exists in America.

Even after all this, you could still find some opium dens in regions where there was a large Chinese population.

However all that changed in 1909 when the government passed another act i.e. Smoking Opium Exclusion Act.

The previous act already banned the import of opium. With this new act, the possession and use of opium was also made illegal. In the coming years the government kept passing acts against opium.

However the use of opium and opium dens were still operational in many parts of the country.

Some even saw this as an anti-Chinese movement by the American government.

What Actually Took Down The Opium Dens?

The US government tried but failed to fully erase opium dens from the American soil. They were successful to some extent but they couldn’t completely get rid of it.

So why don’t we see opium dens these days? What actually killed them?

Well, it wasn’t any act or bill or even force that took down opium dens, it was actually a shift in culture.

The mid of 20th century saw an extreme change in people’s behavior and attitudes.

Alcohol was again legal and people started moving towards drinking alcohol was considered a less of a vice than smoking opium.

The year 1957 was the last time Americans saw an opium den. The country might have gotten rid of opium dens but the war against drugs continues with full force.

Continue Reading


Send this to a friend