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The anti-opium movement gained traction in the last decades of the nineteenth century. Religiously motivated reformers joined forces with medical professionals and politicians, all of whom had their own reasons for wanting to restrict narcotics consumption. The United States played a leading role in this effort. Some nations adopted prohibition for themselves, particularly in the colonies during the 1910s. Many also signed international agreements to restrict the trade, sale and consumption of narcotics during the 1910s to 1930s.

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A powerful anti-opium movement emerged, especially in Europe and Asia, during the late nineteenth century. Activists, many of them religiously motivated, criticized opium itself as well as the problems with opium sale and distribution to vulnerable populations. They often focused their efforts on colonized spaces, arguing that anti-opium policies were part of what they understood as the civilizing mission.

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