Points Interview—Helena Barop, Poppy Wars: US Global Drug Policies, 1950–1979

Barop Title Card

Editor’s Note: Today, we’re pleased to interview Dr. Helena Barop about her new book , Mohnblumenkriege. Die globale Drogenpolitik der USA 1950-1979—or Poppy Wars: US Global Drug Policies, 1950–1979. Dr. Barop recently received her PhD from the University of Freiburg.

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What We Left Behind in Afghanistan

Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from contributing editor Dr. Stefano Tijerina, a lecturer in management and the Chris Kobrack Research Fellow in Canadian Business History at the University’s of Maine’s Business School.

After twenty years of nation-building in Afghanistan, the United States leaves behind a country in shambles. It might be argued that we slowed down the momentum of terrorist cells and that we kept the Taliban in check for two decades. But there seem to be few positive long-terms stories to highlight—perhaps the empowerment of Afghan women; but that might not last very long under renewed Taliban rule.

Afghanistan is rich in natural gas, petroleum, coal, copper, chromite, talc, barites, sulfur, lead, zinc, iron ore, salt, precious/semiprecious stones, and arable land [1]. But, during the American presence, the country was not targeted by the Western private sector to harness these potential economic development capabilities. The only real area of growth over the last two decades was opium production—that is perhaps our legacy in Afghanistan.

According to the most recent “Afghanistan Opium Survey” report of the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Afghanistan is the largest opium producer in the world [2]. UNODC also reported that the Taliban was the biggest buyer of opium and the biggest collector of opium production taxes as well [3]. Moreover, “sales of opium and poppy derivatives constituted the main source of income” for more than half of the population, and the “gross income from opiates exceeded the value of the country’s officially recorded licit exports in 2019″ [4].

Left: A poppy field in Helmand province, Afghanistan, April 3, 2013. Image courtesy of Wikimedia.

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Watch 2021 “Kreminar” Videos—History of Opiates & Opioids

2021 Kreminar Social Card

In May and June of 2021, the American Institute of the History of Pharmacy and the Alcohol and Drugs History Society hosted and helped organize the second annual Edward Kremers Seminar in the History of Pharmacy & Drugs. The Summer 2021 “Kreminar” explored the theme of Opiates & Opioids and featured six virtual seminars, presentations, and discussions by scholars and practitioners researching and writing about the history and the contemporary status of opiates, opioids, and addiction. The six presentations were:

  • Dr. Benjamin Breen: “Three Ways of Looking at Opium: Flower, Latex, Pharmaceutical.”
  • Dr. Diana S. Kim: “Empires of Vice: The Rise of Opium Prohibition Across Southeast Asia.”
  • Dr. Daniel Skinner in conversation with Kerri Mongenel: “The Humanity of Addiction: What We Can Learn from Families, Educators, and Practitioners”
  • Dr. Nancy Campbell and Dr. David Herzberg: “Unexpected Histories of Opioids and Overdose.”
  • Dr. James Bradford: “Poppy Politics: Drugs in Afghanistan, Past and Present.”
  • Maia Szalavitz: “Undoing Drugs: Harm Reduction, Opioids and the Future of Addiction.”

Each 2021 Kreminar event drew between 50 and 70 attendees for a total attendance of 327 people across the six webinars. The hosts and sponsors of the Summer 2021 Kreminar were: the American Institute of the History of Pharmacy, the Alcohol and Drugs History Society, the University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Pharmacy, and the University of Kentucky College of Arts and Sciences Cooperative for the Humanities and Social Sciences.

Videos of each presentation are embedded below or available to watch on AIHP’s YouTube channel.

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Points Interview: “‘It’s That Difficult of a Terrain’: Opium, Development, and Territoriality in US-Afghan Relations, 1940s-1970s” with co-editor Daniel Weimer

Editor’s Note: Today we present the second interview in our SHAD series. Dr. Daniel Weimer co-edited the newest issue of SHAD with Matt Pembleton and was, until recently, an associate professor of history at Wheeling Jesuit University. He is the author of Seeing Drugs: Modernization, Counterinsurgency, and U.S. Narcotics Control in the Third World, 1969–1976 (Kent State …

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