The War on Drugs in Afghanistan

Work Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



Liberal Arts and Sciences


For much of the first half of the twentieth century, opium and hashish from Afghanistan were used by consumers throughout South and Central Asia. But in the 1960s and 1970s, the demand for Afghan drugs grew beyond regional markets, and the Afghan government, under pressure from the United States and the international community, implemented a series of drug- control policies attempting to curb the illicit drug trade and its globalization. This chapter explores why Afghanistan emerged as a global drug hotspot, what the Afghan government did to try to stop it, and ultimately, why attempts to stop the drug trade failed.

Little has been written about the history of drugs in Afghanistan, nor about how it fits into the broader histories of the global drug trade or of international drug control policies. Unearthing the history of drugs and drug control in Afghanistan reveals how, in the 1970s, more stringent anti-drug policies were implemented largely as a vehicle for the expansion of state power, which parallels what happened in other countries’ drug wars. This chapter also calls into question the notion that drugs thrive in undeveloped economies. Indeed, it explores the ways economic development, rather than serving as a deterrent, proved critical in helping to build and shape the illicit drug trade.


This is a book chapter that is published in the book The War on Drugs, edited by David Farber and published by NYU Press: