Anne L. Foster is Associate Professor of History at Indiana State University, author of
To a Declaration of a War on Drugs, 1940–1980
During World War II, warfare disrupted both production and distribution of narcotics. After the war, the United States and the United Nations turned attention back to global prohibition. Despite harsh punitive measures in the United States, drug consumption seemed to grow through the 1950s and especially during the 1960s countercultural movements. In 1971, President Richard M. Nixon initiated a comprehensive campaign against drug consumption which has usually been identified as the start of the War on Drugs.
This chapter explores how, during World War II, the production and supply of drugs were greatly disrupted while legitimate medical demand, especially for opiates, increased. Use of amphetamines increased as well. All governments worked to control narcotics distribution, and illicit use decreased.