Pubdate: Mon, 25 Nov 2002
Source: Lodi News-Sentinel (CA)
Copyright: 2002 Lodi News-Sentinel


3400 B.C. -- First historical reference to the opium poppy being cultivated 
in lower Mesopotamia (modern Iraq). The Sumerians refer to it as Hul Gil 
(joy plant). The Sumerians passed along the means of cultivating the plant 
and its euphoric effects to the Assyrians who, in turn, passed in on to the 
Babylonians, who then passed it onto the Egyptians.

1300 B.C. -- The Egyptian city of Thebes becomes the drug capital of the 
ancient world. Customers included both the Phoenicians and the Minoans, who 
became middle-level dealers as the drug spread across the Mediterranean Sea 
to Greece, Carthage and eventually Rome.

1100 B.C. -- Growing of the opium poppy moved from an Egypt in political 
chaos to Cyprus where the "People of the Sea" did a flourishing trade with 
such Greek cities as Troy.

460 B.C. -- Hippocrates, "the father of medicine," downplays opium's 
supposed magical qualities, but confirms its use in treating a variety of 

330 B.C. -- While conquering everything he saw, Alexander the Great 
introduced opium into Persia and India.

800 A.D. -- Arab traders introduce opium grown in the Egyptians fields near 
Thebes into China.

1300s -- After more than a millennium, all records referring to opium 
disappear from European history for nearly two centuries. Much of this is 
attributed to the "Holy Inquisition" which considered anything from the 
East to be in league with the devil.

1527 -- With the coming of the Reformation, opium is reintroduced into 
European medical literature as laudanum. These black pills or "Stones of 
Immortality" were made of opium, citrus juice and quintessence of gold and 
prescribed as painkillers.

1600s -- It became fashionable in Persia and India to engage in the 
recreational consumption of opium mixtures.

1606 -- Under orders of Queen Elizabeth I, agents purchased the finest 
Indian opium and transport it back to England.

1680 -- Thomas Sydenham, an English apothecary, introduces Sydenham's 
Laudanum, a compound of opium, sherry wine and herbs which became a popular 
cure-all remedy.

1700 -- The Dutch ship Indian opium to China and introduce the practice of 
smoking opium in a tobacco pipe to the Chinese.

1750 -- The British East India Company takes over the opium-growing regions 
of India and dominates the smuggling of the drug into China trade which by 
1767 reaches 2,000 chest per year.

1799 -- China's emperor, Kia King bans the opium trade and poppy cultivation.

1800 -- The British Levant Company purchases nearly half of all of the 
opium in Turkey for importation into Europe and the United States.

1810 -- German pharmacist Friedrich Sertuerner discovers the active 
ingredient of opium by dissolving it in acid then neutralizing it with 
ammonia. The result is morphine. Physicians believe opium had finally been 
tamed and morphine was hailed as "God's own medicine" for its reliability, 
long-lasting effects and safety.

1816 -- American John Jacob Astor joins the opium smuggling trade. His 
American Fur Company purchases 10 tons of Turkish opium then ships it to 
China. Astor would eventually quit the China trade in favor of selling 
exclusively to the British.

March 18, 1839 -- In an attempt to halt the massive drug addiction of their 
people, Chinese officials order all foreign dealers to surrender their 
opium. In response, the British send warships thus beginning The First 
Opium War.

1840 -- The U.S. Customs Service catches wind that New Englander merchants 
had imported 24,000 pounds of opium into the United States. The federal 
government immediately slapped an import fee on the drug.

1841 -- The Chinese are defeated in the First Opium War and are forced to 
pay a huge indemnity and cede Hong Kong to the British.

1843 -- Dr. Alexander Wood of Edinburgh discovers a new technique of 
administering morphine, injection with a syringe. The effects are 
instantaneous and three times more potent.

1856 -- The British renew hostilities against China in the Second Opium 
War. China is forced to pay another indemnity and to legalize the 
importation of opium.

1874 -- English researcher, C.R. Wright first synthesizes heroin, or 
diacetylmorphine, by boiling morphine over a stove. Meanwhile, smoking 
opium in San Francisco is banned except for the opium dens in Chinatown.

1890 -- Congress, in its earliest law-enforcement legislation on narcotics, 
imposes a tax on opium and morphine.

1895 -- Heinrich Dreser, of The Bayer Company in Germany, finds that 
diluting morphine with acetyls produces a drug without the common morphine 
side effects. Three years later, Bayer begins production and coins the name 

Early 1900s -- In the U.S., the philanthropic Saint James Society begins 
mailing free samples of heroin to morphine addicts trying to kick their habits.

1902 -- Articles in a variety of medical journals focus on the side effects 
of using heroin in morphine withdrawal in which it is detailed that heroin 
withdrawal symptoms equal those of morphine addiction.

1903 -- Heroin addiction rises to alarming rates.

1905 -- Congress bans opium but with no regulations to control it.

1906 -- Congress passes the Pure Food and Drug Act requiring contents 
labeling on patent medicines by pharmaceutical companies thereby 
significantly reducing the availability of opiates.

Dec. 17, 1914 -- The Harrison Narcotics Act aims to curb drug (especially 
cocaine but also heroin) use and addiction. However, it does little more 
than require doctors, pharmacists and others who prescribed narcotics to 
register and pay a tax.

1923 -- The U.S. Treasury Department's Narcotics Division (the first 
federal drug agency) bans all narcotics sales. With the prohibition of 
legal venues to purchase heroin, addicts are forced to buy from illegal 
street dealers.

Early 1940s -- During World War II, opium trade routes are blocked and the 
flow of opium is severely limited.

1948-1972 -- Corsican crime lords dominate the U.S. heroin market through 
their connection with Mafia drug distributors. After refining the raw 
Turkish opium in Marseilles laboratories (the so-called French connection), 
the heroin is made easily available for purchase by junkies on the streets 
of America.

1950s -- In an effort to contain the spread of Communism in Asia, the U.S. 
forms alliances with drug lords inhabiting the areas of the Golden 
Triangle, (an expanse covering Laos, Thailand and Burma). To maintain this 
relationship, the U.S. and France supply the drug lords with weapons and 
air transport. This results in a significant spike in the illegal flow of 
heroin into the United States.

1965-1970 -- The combination of U.S. involvement in Vietnam and the 
domestic counterculture is blamed for the surge in illegal heroin use. The 
number of heroin addicts in the U.S. reaches an estimated 750,000.

July 1, 1973 -- President Richard Nixon creates the Drug Enforcement 
Administration under the Justice Department.

Mid-1970s -- South Vietnam falls and the export of heroin from Southeast 
Asia temporarily subsides. Dealers find a new source in Mexico and "Mexican 
Mud" replaces "China White" heroin through the rest of the '70s.

1978 -- The U.S. and Mexican governments attack the poppy fields with Agent 
Orange drastically reducing the amount of "Mexican Mud" in the U.S. drug 
market -- a predecessor to the so-called "Black Tar" heroin which, with the 
end of the defoliation efforts in 1980, would come to dominate the market 
in the Western United States over the next two decades. In response to 
these efforts, traffickers find a new source in the Golden Crescent -- 
Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan which results in a dramatic upsurge in the 
production and trade of illegal heroin.

1992 -- Colombia's drug lords begin introducing a high-grade form of heroin 
into the United States while drug traffickers in Mexico used the American 
highway system to transport vast quantities of "Black Tar" heroin 
throughout the Western States.

January 1994 -- With eradication efforts remaining spotty, the Clinton 
Administration shifts away from the anti-drug campaigns of previous 
administrations towards "institution building" with the hope that 
"strengthening democratic governments abroad will foster law-abiding 
behavior and promote legitimate economic opportunity."

1995 -- The Golden Triangle once again becomes the leading opium producer, 
yielding 2,500 tons annually. According to U.S. drug experts, there are new 
drug trafficking routes through Laos, into southern China, Cambodia and 

1996-2002 -- International drug traffickers in China, Nigeria, Colombia -- 
the more traditional "China White" and Mexico with its "Black Tar" 
aggressively market heroin in the United States and Europe. 
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom