Government Drug Enforcement

In many Dystopian settings, The Government forces everyone to take psychoactive drugs. Maybe it's to keep them peaceful and non-aggressive so they don't hurt each other (or more cynically, to keep them too mellow and torpid to have the energy and desire to revolt). Maybe it's birth control pills to keep the population in check. Maybe it's outright Mind Control. Maybe it's Super Serum to keep their Supersoldiers, well, super. But those who refuse to take the drugs are put into prison, or worse. Or perhaps it's just strongly encouraged to take the drugs, with only outright troublemakers forced to take the drugs whether they like it or not.

Not to be confused with Everybody Must Get Stoned, which is simply the group version of the Mushroom Samba. Closely related to May Contain Evil, but in this case, it's The Government and not merely a Corporation spreading drugs around. See also False Utopia. Contrast High Times Future.

Examples:

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    Fanfiction 
  • Empath: The Luckiest Smurf — Empath mentions in "Smurfnip Madness" that all Psyches in Psychelia are required to take a drug called psychelium, which inhibits their ability to express emotions.

    Film 
  • Dr. Strangelove — Yes, some nutjobs actually thought fluoridated water was this trope, a communist plot to pollute our precious bodily fluids.
  • Equilibrium — Prozium injections suppress emotions. The injections are in tiny vials shaped like bullets, and injected with a device that looks like a gun, directly into the neck, just in case we didn't get that it was a form of metaphorical suicide of the self.
  • Panther — The hoary old conspiracy theory that the U.S. government secretly invented crack and encouraged gangsters to sell drugs in the Black ghettoes to keep Blacks down is presented as fact.
  • SerenityThe Alliance dispersed G-23 Paxilon Hydrochlorate, a drug designed to reduce aggression, into the atmosphere of the planet Miranda. Ninety-nine point nine percent of the population became so docile that they lay down and let themselves starve to death, and one tenth of a percent become the maniacal, cannibalistic Reavers. Oops.
  • Starship Troopers — Future soldiers in an endless Bug War are allowed otherwise-illegal drugs, including time-released cocaine, to keep them awake and alert during prolonged engagements.
  • THX-1138 had the populace kept under control with sedatives, to prevent them from having sex, or otherwise acting in unapproved ways.
  • Children of Men. Numerous advertisements are seen for 'Quietus', which is either available on demand or is actually issued together with each citizen's anti-depressant ration. The instructions assure the would-be user that not only is it quick and painless, but no-one has survived taking it.
  • In Repo! The Genetic Opera the Mega Corp. GeneCo (which is the closest thing to a government the setting represents) produces the highly addictive and euphoric painkiller Zydrate, which it uses in all of its surgical operations. Since the vast majority of the population will require at least one organ transplant, a huge majority are addicted to Zydrate, and the fact that most of the rest become addicted to surgery means that Zydrate is in high demand so that surgeries can be engaged in casually. GeneCo's monopoly on Zydrate and synthetic organs is thus vital to its controlling the populace (preventing anyone from questioning their repossession policies), and attempts to illegally acquire Zydrate from corpses are usually met with lethal force. Zydrate addiction recovery programs are also under GeneCo's control. It is also likely that post-surgery addiction to the (expensive) Zydrate is the reason that so many miss their organ payments.
  • In Wild In The Streets, the first teenage president forces all the grown-ups into concentration camps and fed LSD.
  • All of the teenagers in Springwood take hypnocil whether they know it or not in Freddy vs. Jason.
  • In Pumzi, the Maitu council forces it's citizens to take dream suppressing pills in order to discourage free thought and creativity.
    • The movie Star Trek: Insurrection features the alien Son'a, who want to take over a peaceful planet in order to use its naturally-occurring radiation as a mandatory life-extending drug for their own population.

    Literature 
  • Battlefield Earth — The evil alien Psychlos are being manipulated by the even more evil Catrists through brain surgery and mind control drugs, to prevent them from allowing advanced technology from falling into the hands of less-advanced species.
  • Brave New World — Soma, a euphoric drug that keeps everyone happy, no matter how awful or boring their life becomes. Plus, all non-sterilized women must take birth control drugs to ensure that all children are born in government-run in-vitro baby farms. Finally, the lower castes are given alcohol while still in-vitro to make them physically and mentally challenged, so they accept their low-level menial tasks as merely their proper lot in life.
  • The Forever War — Future soldiers in an endless war are allowed otherwise-illegal drugs to keep them awake and alert for long periods of time.
    • A much better example from the same book is when the main character visits his mother early in the war (Roughly 30 years has passed since he left due to relativistic effects.) His brother, who lives on Luna, tells him not to smoke his mother's pot ration, because Earth pot is drugged.
  • House of the Scorpion Clones, in order for the general populace to be able to accept their status as nonhuman, must be given drugs at birth to stunt their intelligence. The protagonist Matt is an exception to the rule.
  • In the Honor Harrington universe, the evil corporation Manpower, Inc. uses a combination of genetic engineering and powerful medication to control a population of "genetic slaves" to do manual labor, serve as Super Soldiers, and act as sex slaves. Also, it's heavily hinted that Haven used drugs in the drinking water and food supply to keep a lid on rebellious proles in their welfare state gone wild. In a slightly more benevolent mode, it's a given that all the militaries which have men and women serving in the same units require them to be on contraceptives while on active duty. This is also apparently the policy regarding prisoners of war, explicitly stated as being the practice on the Havenite prison planet Hell where the food was laced with them.
    • Though it's speculated that the Peeps might just have not wanted to bother keeping track of (and feeding) children.
  • In The Giver, aside from the usual birth control pills, people are given painkillers for every little hurt, to keep them from feeling even that most basic of emotions, pain. The mandatory pills also remove "stirrings," or sexual desire. Jonas is put on the pills soon after he has his first Erotic Dream about Fiona, a female friend.
  • The sequel Son shows that recreational drugs are unknown in the Community. Claire sees a man on a boat from another Community smoking a cigarette (or an e-cig) and assumes it is some sort of medical inhaler.
  • In the Green-Sky Trilogy, the Wissenberry is considered sacred and given out freely among the Kindar population to abate any kind of physical or "mind" pain. Teachers even pass them out in school to keep the children calm and compliant. (Snyder was a teacher, and the school system drugging unruly students is Older Than They Think). Raamo's eight-year-old sister is "wasting" to death due to her addiction to the Berries. Widespread addiction in the population is also cited as one of the symptoms of the society itself being ill. To a lesser extent, birth control wafers are passed out among Kindar from the ages of 13-25 so that the youth can obstensibly concentrate on their apprenticeships. Ol-Zhaan, however, are forbidden families of their own.
  • This Perfect Day — Mandatory treatments keep everyone peaceful, helpful, and kind...and suppress the sex drive and other emotions, as well as preventing unapproved pregnancies.
  • The Illuminatus! Trilogy:
    • The Disciples Of The Black God traffic heroin to keep the ghettos from becoming riot hotspots. What motive they, as a black militant, Afro-centric, anti-goverment group, have in this, isn't exactly explained.
    • Also inverted: at one point it's explained that the Illuminati has an experimental program going on to keep main population dull and bored - the manager in charge of the project F.D. Roosevelt! explains how they remain immune because they're allowed access to Weishaupt's wonder herb, namely cannabis.
  • The Awakening Water, in which the water supply is spiked with an unspecified drug to keep people (or at least workers) docile and stupid.
  • "Welcome to the Monkey House" a short story by Kurt Vonnegut had everyone taking something that numbed the groin area and prevented having sex for pleasure in order to keep the population down. The title came from the fact it was invented by a zoo veterinarian who was also a devout Christian upset by the monkeys having sex unabashedly in full view of everyone, so it was first used to cut that nonsense out.
  • In Piers Anthony's Bio of a Space Tyrant: Executive, the eponymous Space Tyrant puts birth control in the drinking water, and demands any country that receives foreign aid do the same. He also allows euthanasia pills to the suicidal.
  • The science fiction story "Toe to Tip, Tip to Toe, Pip-Pop as You Go" by William F Nolan. The government keeps everyone in perpetual drugged states and the "deviants" are straight.
  • Jonathan Lethem's Gun, with Occasional Music, a futuristic Film Noir-style story, tells us about a world where the population takes a variety of state-supplied drugs like Forgetol, Acceptol and Regretol (collectively called "Make") to get them through the day. Originally, there were many different varieties of drugs that produced pleasurable effects; which individuals could blend as they wanted. Their use was optional, not mandatory. After six years in cryogenic sleep, the protagonist wakes up to a world in which the government mandated the use of a single drug, which dulled the mind and disrupted memory.
  • Homeworld by Harry Harrison. The upper-class protagonist is initially surprised at the idea that the proles might be rebellious, as the government lets them have all the drugs and booze they want.
  • Larry Niven's Known Space in the early period, where birth control was mandatory, anti-paranoid drugs were mandatory for those diagnosed with it, and by the time of the 1st Man-Kzin War thinking of a violent act was a psychological disorder (treated by drugs). In later works (Beowulf Schaefer/Louis Wu era), the cops were taking drugs to CAUSE paranoia!
  • The Reveal of The Futurological Congress is that a conspiracy of scientists is pumping colossal amounts of hallucinogens into the atmosphere so that humanity doesn't realize how utterly, utterly awful reality is... Then another Reveal is that even that was a hallucination.
  • In the short story "The Cull" by Robert Reed, humanity has been driven into overcrowded, deteriorating habitats where the population has to be kept artificially happy via implants so they won't notice how bad their conditions are. The implants don't work on some people, so the android doctor expels (culls) anyone who is too disruptive. One delinquent teenager prepares for his cull by stealing items he can use to survive outside. Instead once they're outside the android kills the teenager — it needs the implants inside his head as there's no more being manufactured.
  • In Matched by Ally Condie, every person carries around a case with 3 pills in it. The green pill is like a mild antidepressant, and the red pill wipes your memory of the past two days.
  • In Across the Universe, the leader of the Generation Ship Godspeed has drugs put into the water supply to keep the crew happy and docile. There are also drugs pumped into the water supply at scheduled intervals to make the people on Godspeed feel the intense desire to have sex. These intervals are called "Seasons", and used as a method of keeping the population in neat generations.
  • Short story "Who's Gonna Rock Us Home" by Nancy Springer has mandatory drug Cope, which induces memory loss to prevent the mind-numbing drudgery of daily life from depressing people.
  • In Poul Anderson's After Doomsday, one captain does a down-played, and reasonable, version of this: when her ship returns to the Solar System to find the Earth destroyed, she orders that everyone on board take a tranquilizer.
  • In Poul Anderson's "A World Called Maanerek", the Hegemony uses this freely on "units".
  • In John C. Wright's Count to the Eschaton, the Nymphs used vast amounts of drugs to erase unpleasant memories and otherwise ensure that life ran smoothly in a culture of Extreme Omnisexuals and hedonists. While it was enforced by the Nymph Queens — those who resisted were sent into cryogenic sleep to await an age more palatable to them, or if necessary, killed — it was also accepted by the Nymphs. Soldiers would drink it to prevent the memory of battles disturbing their peace.
  • A fantastic variant with the Soothing stations of Mistborn: The Original Trilogy. These are secret government bases scattered throughout the slums, each containing two or three Ministry Mistings whose only duty is to emit a 24/7 magical field that dampens the emotions of everyone nearby. These are a major element of the system that keeps the skaa from ever revolting.

    Live Action TV 
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer — The Initiative, an undercover demon hunting operation bent on creating Mix-and-Match Critters of demon/human/cybernetic parts, secretly feeds its very human agents with performance enhancing drugs. Expect usual withdrawal symptoms.
  • Babylon 5 — The government and Psi Corps required that any telepath who refused to join the Corps and accept Corps discipline must take drugs to suppress their telepathic abilities. Unsurprisingly, this is worse than it sounds. The drugs also make you suicidally depressed, which is what happened to Ivanova's mother.
  • Blakes Seven:
    • In the pilot, the Federation's food and water supplies are laced with "emotional suppressants." The rebel approaching Blake insists he eat or drink nothing for three days to get them out of his system.
    • The cult on Cygnus Alpha used a fake medicine against a supposed horrific plague (actually a minor environmental poison that cleared itself within days) in place of communion wafers, to keep the cultists in line.
  • Sliders "Just Say Yes" — On one of the Planet of Hats alternate worlds they visit, the U.S. government mandates drug use, and the alternate Quinn Mallory is a leader of the anti-drug resistance. The reason for this was Sigmund Freud accidentally discovering the pharmaceutical properties of lithium, which he so enjoyed that he became a biochemist instead of a psychologist. All people (in US, at least) have implants in their arms that allow for direct intravenous injections without risk of infection. Using syringes is seen as barbaric. The police make sure everyone stays tranquil and happy. If someone acts out, they shoot them... with a narcotic dart.
  • Star Trek — Done several times over the series and movies, both in the Federation and on various Planet of Hats worlds.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
    • In the pilot episode, Q mentions that, during the late-21st century wars of WW3 and its aftermath, human supersoldiers were constantly hopped up on narcotics to give them endurance, strength, and artificial courage bordering on insanity.
    • The episode "Symbiosis", where Planet A helps Planet B overcome a plague by selling them medicine...medicine which is also a highly addictive drug. When the plague is long gone, Planet A doesn't tell Planet B, so they will keep buying and using the drug, even though it's bankrupting their society.
  • In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the Jem'Hadar are kept under control by the Founders with their genetic addiction to Ketracel White, sort of a combination narcotic and nutrient supplement.
  • Several episodes of The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits (1963). In the TZ episode "Number Twelve Looks Just Like You" this is combined with not-officially-compulsory-but-strongly-encouraged plastic surgery.
  • At any given moment in the Village, the water, the food, and even the air may be spiked to make you more comfortable. Constant drugging is all part of being in The Prisoner.
  • Stargate SG-1 has a few examples and variants:
    • The Jaffa are kept dependent on the Goa'uld, because they need a larval symbiote to survive past adolescence. Having a symbiote doesn't exactly keep them docile, but it does cause serious logistics problems for rebel Jaffa.
    • The government of Pangar doesn't force its citizens to take tretonin, but once someone's taken this cure-all wonder drug, they have to keep taking it every day. And the government is far from happy about being told to stop making and distributing it.
    • The Aschen Confederacy sneaks birth control (at a minimum) into the vaccines it provides to newly-joined worlds.

    Music 
  • "Uprising" by Muse:
    They'll try to push drugs that keep us all dumbed down
    And hope that we will never see the truth around.
  • Year Zero by Nine Inch Nails includes lyrics about The Government forcing everyone to take drugs to keep the populace quiet and happy. The very first site released as part of the Year Zero Alternate Reality Game, I Am Trying To Believe, goes into detail about the drug Parecin, claimed to be put into the water supply to combat bioterrorism after an attack on the US, but actually intended to keep the populace complacent. This is at the expense of lower birth rates due to impotence, making laxatives the number one over the counter drug in the country, constant involuntary muscle twitching, and causing complacent deep enough to negatively impact Super Bowl sales. If you email the site owner about it, you'll find that he's been convinced by the government to drink the water again.
  • System of a Down's "Prison System" from Toxicity focuses on how the government turns a blind eye toward drug use (such as with famous people) unless it suits their interests, when they have to make an example for the populace. The implication, of course, is that the government encourages the growth of the prison system by filling it with drug addicts and other people who are denounced by contemporary society.
  • Many political rappers like to repeat the conspiracy theory about CIA and the drug lords (see Real Life section).
  • Dead Kennedy's "Kinky Sex Makes The World Go Round":
    Now don't worry about demonstrations-just pump up your drug supply.
    So many people have hooked themselves on heroin
    and amphetamines since we took over, it's just like Vietnam.
    We had everybody so busy with LSD they never got too strong.
  • BL/ind Thought Adjustment Test: "I'm so happy to be alive. Everything is going to be fine. Have I taken my medication today?"

    Other 
  • The audio skit "Le Trente-Huit Cunegonde" by The Firesign Theatre features an inverted version of 1960's society where the hippies are in charge and instead of being illegal, smoking pot is mandatory.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Despite the WWE's "Wellness Policy", many people believe that Vince McMahon "encourages" his wrestlers to take steroids (and by "encourage" we mean "threaten with being wished well in their future endeavors"). Not helping: The fact that Vince himself has admitted to taking steroids. ...and the whole Chris Benoit thing.

    Tabletop RPG 
  • In Paranoia, the Computer laces the food supply with hormone suppressants to keep the citizens from breeding (it prefers to clone them). In the supplement Acute Paranoia, the Computer requires all citizens to take a bewildering variety of drugs on a regular basis, which helps explain how messed up Alpha Complex is.
  • Many, many Cyberpunk Role-playing settings have governments or corporations using this trope to try and keep the little people in line.
  • A fantasy-world version appears in the early Dungeons & Dragons adventure "B4: The Lost City", in which the corrupt priests of Zargon have gotten most of the population of Cynidecia addicted to an unspecified cocktail of drugs. Presumably this makes it easier to control the masses, and/or to convince them to worship a deity as grotesque as Zargon.
  • In Aberrant, all novas (people with superpowers) who join Project Utopia, the setting's resident official Good-aligned Mutant Draft Board are secretly fed sterility drugs along with the drugs given to help them control their powers, in order to prevent the breeding of a superpowered race that might replace baseline humanity.
  • Happens from time to time in Warhammer 40K. Combat Stimulants range from being allowed to encouraged to mandated by law, depending on your regiment. It's mentioned that several of the less pleasant planets and more brutal regimes tend to (subtly or otherwise) drug their citizens to prevent drastic self-inflicted population reductions. The Space Marines don't even count, since 2/3 of their drug programs exist simply to make sure that their genetically-modified and cybernetically-enhanced bodies don't just go haywire shut down.

    Video Games 
  • Half-Life 2: "Don't drink the water. They put something in it, to make you forget."
  • The player can do this in Sid Meiers Alpha Centauri. It's costly, but a great help in having a content population and a motivated military. Yay!
  • Plot of Haze.
  • With posters directing the populace to drink multiple bottles each day, only the most Genre Blind Player Character wouldn't see this coming: in the Praetoria setting of City of Heroes, "Enriche" subtly makes those that drink it more susceptible to Mind Control. However, it's filled from the same pipes as the city's water supply. Are you drinking enough, Citizen? More importantly, how could you not?
  • Dragon Age: Origins contains an unusual example of church Drug Enforcement. The Chantry deliberately makes Templar recruits addicted to lyrium - partly as a Super Serum, but your Templar party member Alistair suspects it's a means of controlling them (since they need to get their supply from the Chantry).
  • This backfires on the Chantry in Dragon Age: Inquisition, when part of the Templar order goes rogue and takes Red Lyrium out of desperation, making them insane and giving them super-powers.
  • In We Happy Few, the people of Wellington Wells all take a Fantastic Drug called Joy so they can forget about the Very Bad Thing. The sad folks who are immune to Joy, Wastrels, are exiled from the town and forced to fend for themselves in the ruins of the Garden District. As for those who deliberately refuse to take Joy (like the player characters), they're Downers, and the good citizens of Wellington Wells don't like Downers...

    Webcomics 
  • In the "Paradise" storyline of Sluggy Freelance, Riff is sent to 4U City in an Alternate Universe, where everyone is constantly drugged to keep them happy and docile, and hovering robots follow people around and inject them with syringes if they show any signs of unhappiness. This of course turns out to be a last resort method originally employed by that universe' Riff, to keep the city blissfully unaware that they are the only remaining humans on earth, and the entire universe is falling apart due to the damage a recent war has done to the fabric of reality. Crapsack World indeed.

    Western Animation 
  • On The Venture Bros. the compound Dr. Venture Senior built was intended to have some calming drugs filtered into the air, so people didn't freak out about the thermonuclear war going on outside. However, the Master Computer disagreed with this plan and decided on the "giving them too much of a good thing" method of punishment, and flooded the compound with a massive quantity of drugs that caused terrifying hallucinations.
  • In one Futurama episode featuring Blurnsball (a HIGHLY modified game of baseball), Prof. Farnsworth revealed that for the past few centuries professional athletes have been required to take steroids.
  • The "Genetic Enabling Factor" given to the Supertroopers in Galaxy Rangers. The youngest of the 'Troopers (who becomes the show's Lancer) refuses to take his dose. Walsh is about to order Shane to take the stuff, but Nagata proposes using him as a control instead. Shane's refusal to take the drugs may have helped him remain sane when Senator Wheiner doesed the 'troopers with Psycho Serum.

    Real Life 
  • If vitamins and vaccines could be considered drugs, then shortly after their discovery, most developed countries made at least made some efforts to subsidize them and encourage their citizens to take them. This included vitamin-enriched food (Vitamin-D rich milk products and Vitamin B fortified bread for example) to counter some nutritional deficit, and government programs to ensure their citizens (particularly children and international tourists) were vaccinated against polio, chicken pox, etc.
  • Where government-run mental health care is available, the dangerously, clinically, non-functionally insane (true or not) tend to be given drug regimes in the hopes of managing their illness. Since they are insane, their consent (or awareness) about this is moot.
  • The military examples above are Truth in Television up to a point; aircrew are permitted to take dextroamphetamine in order to maintain their alertness if it's necessary to exceed peacetime limitations on how long they can remain at the controls without rest, as well as tranquillizers to help them come down from the high once their mission is complete. This is strictly voluntary except in the very gravest emergency scenarios, however, and many pilots choose to take their chances with the dangers of fatigue.
  • Fluoridation of public water sources, intended to prevent dental cavities in the population. Some people get really twitchy about this one — in particular, the John Birch Society was famously upset by it back in The Sixties, which was parodied with General Jack D. Ripper in Dr. Strangelove.
  • Old laws actually made it illegal for a person to not take drugs if suffering from things like tuberculosis or syphilis (and in the modern age, AIDS). Threat of high death toll from epidemics usually trumped other concerns.
  • Despite the ban on steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs during the Olympics and such, there are occasional (true or false) accusations of drug use. That top level athletes under government sponsorship (and scrutiny) can get drugs lead some to suspect it was the government themselves (or a suitably plausible deniable agent) who give the athletes drugs.
  • The CIA thing mentioned up in the music section is best split into a few parts:
    • The CIA definitely did work with a lot of shady people back in the 'We don't care what you do as long as you aren't Communist' days, including some in Latin America who were into cocaine trafficking, most famously the CONTRAs in Nicaragua and the Noriega regime in Panama but quite a few other groups too. To exactly what extent they were directly complicit in that side of the business is unlikely ever to be clear. On the one hand, we know that the CIA didn't have a major problem with just paradropping guns and cash to people they were supporting, but on the flip side, it's hard to imagine that they were providing intelligence on their new friends to customs or the FBI.
    • The other half of that story that probably isn't true is that the CIA were not only directly involved in importing cocaine to the US, but that they were also behind the introduction of crack to US cities. This springs from Senate findings in the late '80s that the CIA had knowingly worked with drug traffickers, causing people to draw their own conclusions as crack arrived on US streets. Some versions say that they were doing so to secretly fund the fight against communism, essentially co-opting the South American drug pipeline and redirecting the profits to things they couldn't do on the books. It's a reasonable(ish) theory, given that the CIA were already assassinating people and god knows what else; the mind boggles at what they couldn't get funding to do. Other versions of the story say that introducing crack was an assault on the urban poor and the black population in particular, but nobody seems to agree on exactly why the CIA would be interested in doing that, although social engineering, mind control, and just keeping the black man down have all been suggested. Perhaps the most logical theory goes that, rightly or not, the CIA saw a politically mobilized black community as being, or at least having the potential to become, a homegrown version of the left-wing militants they went to South America to fight in the first place. It wouldn't be the first time anybody's attempted genocide for fear of their country turning into a war zone. The link between the two may well exist (it's been seriously suggested that a sudden influx of CONTRA cocaine was what fueled the crack epidemic as a result of the CIA giving them a hand), but there is no evidence that the CIA actually had a hand in it.
    • From 1953-1973, the CIA were engaged in a program known as MKULTRA in which experimental psychoactive agents (among other forms of psychological manipulation) were secretly tested on unsuspecting citizens in the hopes of creating a truth serum or a mind control weapon. It was a near-total failure, however (at least, as far as we know), its main effect being the popularization of LSD as a recreational drug; towards the end of the program's life, CIA agents were dosing each other and holding private LSD parties, which resulted in the death of one agent.
  • The two Opium Wars (1839-1842, 1856-1860) that the Europeans (led by Britain) and Americans fought with Qing China can be considered as manifestations of this. In the 18th and 19th Century, European and American appetite for Chinese goods grew insatiable, especially for tea, silk, and porcelain, but the Chinese bought almost nothing in return, only taking silver for payment. The constant drain of Western silver into China was seriously affecting European finances, so in the 1770s, the British finally hit upon opium (which grows abundantly in their newly captured territories in Bengal) as a good that can be sold to the Chinese to offset the trade inbalance. The introduction of opium (which made its way into China via a mindbogglingly complex network of middlemen and smugglers as the Imperial government banned recreational opium as soon as they heard about it—they banned tobacco too, but that was a different story) led to a pandemic of addiction in China that threatened to bankrupt the country. When the Qing government tried to crack down opium (most notably when Lin Zexu, the Governor of Canton, confiscated and burned about 1.2 thousand tons of opium on the beaches of Humen in 1839), the British, French, Russians and Americans curb-stomped it in two hilariously lop-sided wars to keep the opium trade open, gaining the concession of Hong Kong and Shanghai as ports for off-loading of opium and forcing the Qing from to adopt a European-style laissez-faire attitude to all drug use (most European countries not banning domestic recreational drug use until the early-to-mid 20th century). China did not completely sober up until the 1950s, five wars and two regime changes later - though the trade had dried up as early as the 1890s as cheap domestic production (chiefly in Sichuan province) made it unprofitable.
  • Amusingly, during the Second Sino-Japanese War three Guomindang-aligned warlord-run regional governments ran official provincial Drug Monopolies and the other five tried to crack down on the trade (or was it the other way around?). This was because the Guomindang had teetered on the edge of total bankruptcy for about two years (1940-42) as the Soviets withdrew their economic and military aid, forcing them to basically give up all the taxation and administration and conscription duties to the provincial warlords in order to cut their spending (this resulting in dramatically increased taxation and corruption). This desperate measure allowed them to survive for a time, but would have resulted in total collapse by the end of 1943 if it weren't for barely-adequate American loans which kept the central government afloat until the war's end.
  • This trope lead to at least two epidemic diseases in human history to go extinct. Small pox used to ravage cities. Now it can only be found in laboratories and in vaccines.