Prohibition of drugs

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents in a training exercise
Huichol religion worshiped the god of Peyote, a drug.
A painting of opium ships sailing into China. Chinese attempts to suppress opium smuggling sparked the First Opium War.
Papaver somniferum. The sale of drugs in the UK was regulated by the Pharmacy Act of 1868.
Thomas Brassey was appointed the head of the Royal Opium Commission in 1893 to investigate the opium trade and make recommendations on its legality.
Newspaper article from The Daily Picayune, New Orleans, Louisiana in 1912 reporting on a drug arrest, a month after the International Opium Convention was signed and ratified at The Hague.
American drug law enforcement agents detain a man in 2005.
Opium poppies growing in Afghanistan, a major source of drugs today.
People marching in the streets of Cape Town against the prohibition of cannabis in South Africa, May 2015
Total incarceration in the United States by year
US cannabis arrests by year
Coffeeshop in Amsterdam
Dareton police search the vehicle of a suspected drug smuggler in Wentworth, New South Wales, Australia
Protest against the Philippine drug war. The protesters are holding placards which urge Rodrigo Duterte to stop killing drug users.

Common means of attempting to prevent the recreational use of certain intoxicating substances.

- Prohibition of drugs

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Recreational drug use

Use of a psychoactive drug to induce an altered state of consciousness either for pleasure or for some other casual purpose or pastime by modifying the perceptions, feelings, and emotions of the user.

Adriaen Brouwer, TheSmokers (1636)
Edgar Degas, L'Absinthe (1876)
Bhang eaters from India c. 1790. Bhang is an edible preparation of cannabis native to the Indian subcontinent. It has been used in food and drink as early as 1000 BCE by Hindus in ancient India.
A man smoking cannabis in Kolkata, India
A rational harm assessment of drugs<ref>{{Cite journal|last1=Blakemore|first1=Colin|last2=Saulsbury|first2=William|last3=King|first3=Leslie A.|last4=Nutt|first4=David|date=2007-03-24|title=Development of a rational scale to assess the harm of drugs of potential misuse|url=|journal=The Lancet|language=en|volume=369|issue=9566|pages=1047–1053|doi=10.1016/S0140-6736(07)60464-4|issn=0140-6736|pmid=17382831|s2cid=5903121}}</ref>
This 1914 photo shows intoxicated men at a sobering-up room
alt=A chart showing dependence potential versus safety ratio.|An analysis of the dangers of drugs<ref>{{Cite book|url=|title=Drugs and Society: U.S. Public Policy|last=Fish|first=Jefferson M.|date=2006|publisher=Rowman & Littlefield|isbn=9780742542457|language=en}}</ref>
Total recorded alcohol per capita consumption (15+), in liters of pure alcohol
Caffeinated alcoholic beverages, such as Vodka Red Bull, are widespread and legal routes of administration for multiple drugs.
Insufflation of powdered drug
Injection of heroin
Cocaine is a commonly used stimulant
alt=A chart showing relative drug harm.|A chart showing relative drug harm.

In 2015, it was estimated that about 5% of people worldwide aged 15 to 65 (158 million to 351 million) had used controlled drugs at least once.

War on drugs

Colin Powell, then the US Secretary of State, visiting Colombia in the early 2000s as part of the United States' support of Plan Colombia
Mexican troops during a gun battle in Michoacán, 2007. Mexico's drug war claims nearly 50,000 lives each year.
California Attorney General Kamala Harris visiting the U.S.–Mexico border on March 24, 2011, to discuss strategies to combat drug cartels
Operation Mallorca, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, 2005
Graph demonstrating increases in United States incarceration rate
D.C. Mayor Marion Barry captured on a surveillance camera smoking crack cocaine during a sting operation by the FBI and D.C. Police
Total incarceration in the United States by year
The U.S. military invasion of Panama in 1989
Mexico is scheduled to receive US$1.6 billion in equipment and strategic support from the United States through the Mérida Initiative.
An American domestic government propaganda poster c. undefined 2000 concerning cannabis in the United States
Approximately 1 million people are incarcerated every year in the United States for drug law violations.
USS Rentz (FFG-46) attempts to put out a fire set by drug smugglers trying to escape and destroy evidence.
US yearly overdose deaths, and the drugs involved. There were 70,630 drug overdose deaths overall in 2019 in the USA.

The war on drugs is a global campaign, led by the U.S. federal government, of drug prohibition, military aid, and military intervention, with the aim of reducing the illegal drug trade in the United States.

Illegal drug trade

International drug routes
The nephews of President Nicolás Maduro, Efraín Antonio Campo Flores and Francisco Flores de Freitas, after their arrest by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration on 10 November 2015.
US$207 million and additional amounts in other currencies were confiscated from Mexican Zhenli Ye Gon in 2007.
Hashish seized in Operation Albatross, a joint operation of Afghan officials, NATO, and the DEA
5 cm hashish packages taken from a smuggler by police.
The U.S. Coast Guard offloads seized cocaine in Miami Beach, Florida, May 2014
War on drugs in Arizona, October 2011
Drug trafficking tunnel discovered near U.S.-Mexico border in San Diego–Tijuana metropolitan area
Seized drugs in Bogota, Colombia, April 2013
Colombian drug lord Diego Murillo Bejarano was extradited from Colombia to the U.S. in May 2008
Four ounces (113 grams) of cannabis
A field of opium poppies in Burma
Heroin woven into a hand-made knotted carpet seized at Manchester Airport, 2012
Methamphetamine smuggled inside a car tire
Heroin or methamphetamine drug use kit ("works") with needles and a spoon
Prostitutes buy cocaine capsules from a drug dealer in Berlin, 1930. The capsules sold for 5 marks each.

The illegal drug trade or drug trafficking is a global black market dedicated to the cultivation, manufacture, distribution and sale of prohibited drugs.


Overarching term that covers many drugs including those that increase activity of the central nervous system and the body, drugs that are pleasurable and invigorating, or drugs that have sympathomimetic effects.

Ritalin: 20 mg sustained-release (SR) tablets
A chart comparing the chemical structures of different amphetamine derivatives
Roasted coffee beans, a common source of caffeine.
Tablets containing MDMA
Lines of illicit cocaine, used as a recreational stimulant
Catha edulis

Stimulants are widely used throughout the world as prescription medicines as well as without a prescription (either legally or illicitly) as performance-enhancing or recreational drugs.


Any chemical substance that causes a change in an organism's physiology or psychology when consumed.

Uncoated aspirin tablets, consisting of about 90% acetylsalicylic acid, along with a minor amount of inert fillers and binders. Aspirin is a pharmaceutical drug often used to treat pain, fever, and inflammation.
Nexium (Esomeprazole) is a proton-pump inhibitor. It is used to reduce the production of stomach acid.
An Amazonian shaman
San Pedro, a psychoactive cactus.
Cannabis is a commonly used recreational drug.

Many recreational drugs are illicit and international treaties such as the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs exist for the purpose of their prohibition.

International Opium Convention

The expression International Opium Convention refers either to the first International Opium Convention signed at The Hague in 1912, or to the second International Opium Convention signed at Geneva in 1925.

The International Opium Convention (or 1912 Opium Convention) which was signed at the end of the Hague Conference, on 23 January 1912, is considered as the first international drug control treaty.

Sumptuary law

Sumptuary laws (from Latin sūmptuāriae lēgēs) are laws that try to regulate consumption.

Le Courtisan suivant le Dernier Édit by Abraham Bosse – a French courtier casting aside lace, ribbons and slashed sleeves in favor of sober dress in accordance with the Edict of 1633.

Policies to which the term has been critically applied include alcohol prohibition, drug prohibition, smoking bans, and restrictions on dog fighting.


Practice, behaviour, or habit generally considered immoral, sinful, criminal, rude, taboo, depraved, degrading, deviant or perverted in the associated society.

Allegorical representation of the Vice of Envy, by Federico Zuccari
A 1912 portrait of Frankie Fore, sitting in a room during a vice raid in Calumet City (formerly known as West Hammond), Illinois.
In Saudi Arabia, the commission for the promotion of virtue and prevention of vice is the authority which is the Vice squad.
Virtues fighting vices, stained glass window (14th century) in the Niederhaslach Church

In the United States, the term is also used to refer to crimes related to drugs, alcohol, and gambling.

Life imprisonment

Any sentence of imprisonment for a crime under which convicted people are to remain in prison for the rest of their natural lives or indefinitely until pardoned, paroled, or otherwise commuted to a fixed term.

Mugshot of Burton Phillips, sentenced to life imprisonment for bank robbery, 1935

Crimes for which, in some countries, a person could receive this sentence include murder, torture, terrorism, child abuse resulting in death, rape, espionage, treason, drug trafficking, drug possession, human trafficking, severe fraud and financial crimes, aggravated criminal damage, arson, kidnapping, burglary, and robbery, piracy, aircraft hijacking, and genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes or any three felonies in case of three-strikes law.

Opium den

Establishment in which opium was sold and smoked.

Two women and a man smoking in an opium den, late 19th century
Opium den in San Francisco boarding house, late 19th century
"A New Vice: Opium Dens in France", an illustration from Le Petit Journal, 5 July 1903.
Drawing of opium smokers in an opium den in London based on fictional accounts of the day
Rare Photograph of two women outside Ah Sing's Opium den from the London Science Museum

Despite this, the 1870s attracted many non-Chinese residents to San Francisco's dens, prompting the city fathers to enact the nation's first anti-drug law, an 1875 ordinance banning opium dens.