Posted by: Christian | June 25, 2008

Afghan Drug Addiction, Circa 1935

Addiction to opiates in Afghanistan is not new. Its use has been around for a long, long time. References to it abounds in old texts.

Photo by Maynard Owen Williams: Afghans tend a field of opium in 1933.

Afghanistan opium field

Reading through some newer material I found this passage written by a resident of Andkhoy in 1935:

“The people of this village are nearly all addicted to the use of tobacco and snuff. About half the population use the chilim [hookah]. Many of them are, however, also addicted to the use of hashish, opium and poppy-seed. This is the case for both men and women.” (1)

Citation: Jarring, Gunnar. ‘An Uzbek’s View of his Native-Town and its Circumstances’, Ethnos, 1939: pp. 73-80.

I once asked a friend (and junior scholar on China) about the decrease in opium addiction in China in the modern period. I asked what he thought the main factor was. Was it modernization? The war? Communism? His answer was that it probably had something to do with the series of devastating famines that killed off all the weakest in society, including the drug addicts. He noted that opiates are making a comeback in China.

Hopefully, a reduction in Afghanistan’s level of opiate addiction does not require massive famine.

Photo by Anuj Chopra and ISN Security Watch: A Kabul addict lights up.

opium addict kabul


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