A brief review on the history of the fight against drugs in Afghanistan

Part one

Lawyer Hazratgul Hesami



The adverse economic, social, political and medical impacts of narcotics and its unlawful use, cultivation and harvest, and the universal fight against this nasty phenomenon is to be discussed, because it is strictly forbidden by the Holy Quran, prophet’s narratives and consensus of ummah and its harmful economic, social, political and medical impacts are crystal clear and is considered as one of the world’s acute issues that is briefly clarified in here:

As mentioned hereinabove, each individual and the society as a whole are affected by the numerous harmful effects of the narcotic drugs, and no one can ignore it; a number of its disadvantages are listed hereunder:

Religious disadvantages





Security and

Psychological disadvantages

The aforementioned harmful effects are mentioned in detail in many books, magazines and publications of the World Health Organization and other international and national publications, and short term and long term measures have been recommended in many national and international conferences.

The objective of this article, as its heading reads, is to make a short review on the history of drugs and fight against it in Afghanistan prepared and arranged in three chapters.

In the first chapter you will read about the background of cultivation and production of narcotics in the world, in the second chapter the types of narcotics and their harms, and in the third chapter the fight against narcotics in Afghanistan have been explained. 


Chapter one

The history of cultivation and opium production in Afghanistan and in around the world

We discuss the issue in the following three paragraphs in this chapter

Paragraph 1:

The history of emergence and spread of narcotics in the world

Paragraph 2:

The emergence and spread of narcotics in Islamic countries

Paragraph 3:

Narcotics and its course of cultivation and distribution in Afghanistan


Paragraph 1:

The history of emergence and spread of narcotics in the world

The use of narcotics has a long history among the communities, and its form of use has been different depending on each community’s different grounds and context. Throughout the human history, narcotics have been used sometimes as food, medicine and sometimes for pleasure and enjoyment or for escaping from shock and inconveniences, and for relieving or elimination of pain.  Therefore, throughout the human history rarely there has been a nation that had not misused drugs. (1)

Many historical documents and instruments show that since the beginning of the history of human beings had been using narcotics to relieve pain. (2)

Contrary to what is known that the Chinese were the first people who were familiar with opium, however, sages and Chinese scientists had long been familiar with the healing properties of opium, the first Chinese book in which the medicinal properties of this substance was discussed was published in the ninth century, but up to twelfth century opium had not become widespread in China, but with the Mongol invasion and occupation of this territory, the Mongols started eating of opium and slowly some people become addicted to opium in some parts of China, but their number was limited.

The manuscripts that have been left from the civilization of Samaritans indicate that Sumerians have been the ancient people who had not only been using opium, but had called it as “Joyful Herb” which is still the common name for it. The Assyrian physicians also, hundred years before the birth of Christ, had come to know about the medicinal properties of opium. Dr. Thompson the author of “The typical herbs among Assyrian” mentions the name of some herbs that have had medicinal usage including poppies which has been mentioned in the list of the aforementioned herbs. He believed that opium had been prescribed by the Assyrians physicians in the seventh century before Christ. (3).

The ancient scripts indicate that opium had been used throughout the history of Babylon, Egypt, Greece and Rome and even “Homer” a Greek poet has talked about the flower of opium in his works and has recognized the opium flower as one of the ornamental flowers of Rome gardens in the sixth century before Christ. (4).

In the Homer myths an island has been mentioned in which the champions of odyssey had been involved in an addictive substance that the stopping or abandonment of which has been impossible. The writings on the papyruses left from Egyptians indicate that the Egyptians were familiar with the use of opium from long ages back. The book of special physician of Pharaoh, which has been written 1350 years before Christ, reads about the use of opium as such:

The tooth of the Babylonian king was supposed to be taken out, they called “Bora Boryash”; the “Sinoha” and I, before taking the tooth out, injected some opium into the blood vessels of the king, and I took the tooth out almost with no pain and the physicians who were present there thought that the king would kill me due to the pain of tooth removal, they wondered a lot and asked me that what had I done that the king had not felt pain? I responded that the drug I injected to his vessel eliminated pain, and it is one of the best drugs of Egypt and this drug is obtained out of the coating of an herb, and this plant is only cultivated by Egyptian monks and this drug has been provided by them. This relieves any kind of pain and if people gain access to it, they will not fear pain anymore and the community order will be endangered then.

Among the things which had belonged to ancient pharmacists which are exhibited in the London Science Museum, some pitcher shaped like the poppy capsule can be seen which are made from ceramics with an almost 12.5 centimeters height. On one of the pots; signs of scratches like that of blades on poppy capsule are visible. The aforesaid pots belong to the late 1500 BC which are made in Cyprus which most probably had been used for reserving opium solution in water or wine so that they can export this narcotic product to Egypt. Soon the Egyptians themselves started to grow poppy. They engraved some signs of a poppy capsule on the coins and Greek ceramics and the jewelries used to be seen on the coffins and Greek idols, which indicate they had known about the properties of opium.

The Greeks at the age of Socrates had come to know about the medicinal properties of opium and had used it as a pain reliever. (5) Among the pharmacists of that period, we can name “Hippocrates and Theophrastus” who prescribed opium for preventing bloody diarrhea and other pains and also for fighting against biting of insects and reptiles especially snake. Plinius the scientist of the first century states: most of the opium that are brought to Alexandria from Asia Minor; are faked ones. They are mixed with some other substances there. The same author says, “Recognition of original and faked opium primarily relating to its smell, secondly if opium is exposed to fire and if it inflames and produces smell, this indicates that the opium is not faked one because a mixed opium with other substances does not produce such a smell and does not have such a luminous flame as well and cannot be easily inflamed….”

Since the third century before Christ the Greek physicians knew opium very well and used it as part of their drugs and some other physicians have talked about the harm of its fatal toxin. At two hundred years before Christ the Nikandreas committed suicide by eating opium, likewise Plinius mentions the name of some popular figures who committed suicide by opium.

The inhabitants of India are also one of the first people who had been familiar with the narcotic plant “poppy” and it is said that when Darrius the Great conquered that country, Indians already knew opium and used it. (6).

Hungary is the first European country which came to know about the poppy and botanists of this country had known it 1200 years before Christ and had been using its saps or extracts (7) and Monro the author of “the lake dwellers” has proven that the poppy seed along with wheat seed and flax and peas had been cultivated in that country. 

The middle ages Europe knew opium to some extents and the physicians of this age the Swiss, Paracelsus and the English Sydenham had used it as a drug and consumed it by the name of Theriaka. Sydenham says “among all remedies that the almighty God bestowed upon humans; none is more effective than opium.

On the basis of the statement left from Naser Khusrow Qobadiani, it can be said that in the middle ages the Land of Nile River had benefited from cultivation of poppy. In the story of returning from Egypt towards home, he says: (…. And on Tuesday of the year 144 I took a ship from Egypt and departed towards Saedul A’la which directs towards south….

There were many cities and villages at the Nile river side that cannot be praised in some words. And we reached to a city called Asyut and opium comes from this city and the plant whose seed is black is poppy. And when it grows high it forms a cocoon. They will break it. Some substance the like of mile comes out of it that is collected and kept as opium. And the seed of the poppy is small like that of caraway seeds. (8)

The background of opium use, given what was mentioned before, extends long back because many thousand years back after it was discovered by Sumerians originally it was used as tranquilizing medicine and slowly it was being used for intoxicating and narcotic purposes.

Whatsoever the use of opium in the past was not like it is being used nowadays; it was only used as medicine and was prescribed by physicians.

But after the fifteenth century, opium became the scourge of colonialism and tool in the hand of Europeans to achieve dominance and leadership, and its cultivation began in the sixteenth century. If we want to find out the history of the emergence and spread of opium in each of the countries as a social pest and plague, we are to scrutinize what time the trade of western nations has had begun in that region, and since when the European visited that place. Since that time the so called civilized Europeans have attempted to dominate the eastern nations and their people with all of their means and power trying to keep them unproductive, corrupted, and underdeveloped.

The colonialists, for gaining the full benefit of opium, have written different stories on the miraculous pleasurable and delighting effects of poppy and have spread among the people, beginning from the recruiting of scholars to scientists, poets and dervish so that they can convince the people that smoking or using of opium is beneficial.  

One day SrJohn More, an Engish General, advised the opium beneficial for the Indian famine-stricken people stated that by the use of a small dozen of opium hunger can be overcome, urged Thomas Quincy, an English writer to adore opium and call it a heavenly grant. Another day Ruffe a French writer considered the normal use of opium beneficial and after him a French Doctor called Courtery wrote his doctorates monograph on the benefits of opium and became one the advocates of this devastating substance. Thus the destructive policy of spreading opium began in the East and the East India Company can be considered as the forerunner of this horrible convoy.

The British East India Company during the year (1775) the monopoly of foreign trade of opium in India and England won.

The East India Company of England achieved the monopoly of foreign trade of opium in India and England in the year 1775. The Company began to expand the cultivation of poppy in all over the Ganga coasts, in the Bengal central valley, in Punjab state and after that in all over India and western coasts of India and China. The abundance of opium crops compelled the Company to influence in the neighboring countries, mainly the vast and populous country of China and to make a good and profitable market for itself.  The flow of opium flood to China and consequently the indulgent use of opium and the increasing number of opium addicts horrified the people in China. The obvious example of it is the opium war and the spread of this narcotic opium in China, where 40 million people became addicted to narcotics, and practically this vast country lost its constructive potential and activities for a long period of time. (9)