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World’s first drug treaty

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The International Opium Convention was signed by 12 countries, including the UK, on 23 January 1912. The process had begun three years earlier amid concerns about the dangers of smoking opium and the need to control the non-medical trade in opium and other drugs.

The treaty was included in the terms of the peace treaties signed after the 1914–18 war and then taken under the wing of the League of Nations. It was revised in the mid-1920s, by which time it had been signed and ratified by almost 60 countries.  

The 1912 treaty sought to control raw opium, prepared opium, medicinal opium, morphine, cocaine and heroin. Heroin was relatively new, having been originally marketed as a non-addictive alternative to morphine.

The treaty was far from perfect but did inspire much of the national drug control legislation made during the 20th century. For example, the Dangerous Drugs Act 1920 implemented the Hague Convention in Britain by extending and reinforcing the Defence of the Realm Act 1916. This emergency wartime legislation placed the possession, distribution and sale of cocaine and opium under Home Office control and set the precedence of the Home Office over the Ministry of Health in the area of drugs policy.

International drug control was transferred to the United Nations Organization when it was created in 1945 and the International Opium Convention itself was superseded by the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs in 1961.

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From: Beyond pharmacy blog

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