Pierre-Arnaud Chouvy / 2022 / The Oxford Handbook of Global Drug History.
Opium, the ancient narcotic, has fascinated the West where tastes for the exotic arose alongside British and French colonialism. The mystery of poppy origins is equaled by the opacity of the two largest illegal opium-producing regions that emerged after 1950: the so-called Golden Triangle, in Burma (Myanmar) in mainland Southeast Asia; and Golden Crescent, in Afghanistan, in Southwest Asia. Illegal opium production in these two regions developed as part of the deep historical, geographic, and political complexity that explain their remoteness, lawlessness, and protracted armed conflicts. As a result, scholars of various disciplines have long researched opium production, trade, consumption, and traditions. This chapter examines the causes and dynamics of illegal opium production, including how illegal opium production has benefited from the turmoil of Asian history and geopolitics, from synergies between war economies and drug economies, from underdevelopment and poverty, and from decades of failed often-counterproductive anti-drug policies.