History

16 times drug use played a part in military conflicts

Sure, you've heard of the War on Drugs but what about drug use during military conflict, drugs in the Army, and even wars where people were high? Throughout history, drugs and wars have gone hand in hand. Needless to say, a military conflict is a stressful environment and the stress of the battlefield can be traumatizing to troops — drug use and war are no strangers to one another.


1. Amphetamines Keep Syrian Forces Fighting

Speed seems to be the drug of choice for military conflicts; amphetamine has that dangerous combination of keeping soldiers fighting for days on end and keeping them from getting any sleep. In the Middle East, Syrian-made Captagon is the speed of choice, being employed by ISIS fighters so they can stay alert during battle.

One minor setback: The drug, which was created in the '60s to treat hyperactivity and narcolepsy, is highly addictive — so addictive that it was banned in the '8os (that's how you know it's bad). It's also very cheap to make, yet has a street value of around $20 a tablet. The effects of Captagon keep the soldiers euphoric, sleepless, and energetic. The profits from Captagon sales are believed to be used by the Islamic State in Syria to buy weapons.

2. The First Opium War Was Non-Ironically Fought Over Opium

Take a wild guess as to the prominent drug of the First Opium War. If you said "opium," then you are unsurprisingly correct. How it worked: Britain violated China's ban on the importation of opium, seeking to right an imbalance in the flow of trade between the two countries. The Chinese people quickly became addicted to the drug, including those in the army.

It is estimated that 90% of the Emperor's Army was addicted to opium. Put that head-to-head with a superior British military and, well, you can predict the outcome.

3. The American Civil War Created "Soldier's Disease" and Morphine Addicts

During the Civil War, morphine was considered a "wonder drug" for the wounded. It was also used as an anesthetic and pain killer during field amputations. The problem was, after the war, many wounded soldiers carried on with their morphine use.

It was estimated that 400,000 soldiers returned from the war as addicts. The term "soldier's disease" was even coined to describe the addiction. By the end of the 19th century, there were one million Americans who had "soldier's disease."

Also read: This psychedelic drug could be approved to treat PTSD

4. Zulu Warriors Fought While Tripping on Mushrooms

In the 1870s the British Empire wanted to conquer the Zulu Kingdom. To help combat their foes, the Zulus would use magic mushrooms and THC, packed in a snuff form. When the British came attacking, they just popped magic mushrooms and felt invincible.

5. World War I Soldiers Smoked 'Em Up

Morphine fell out of favor after the "soldier's disease" epidemic of the Civil War, and by the time World War One rolled around it was no longer in use. So, the doughboys in the trenches turned on to tobacco to calm their nerves and cigarettes were even distributed as part of military rations. Some 14 million were given out daily.

6. Hitler Fueled His Third Reich with Speed

Have you seen the documentary High Hitler? The whole Nazi regime was fueled on speed and meth to keep them marching. Along with that, the Americans, British, and Japanese troops popped amphetamines to stay awake. Some 200 million pills were distributed to soldiers by the American military. Soldiers and speed was thought of as the ultimate fighting combination.

7. The Vietnam War Was All Pot and Heroin

The '60s was the time of cultural revolution. While the kids were getting high at Woodstock, so were the soldiers in Vietnam. Marijuana was the preferred drug of the troops – which they referred to as "the sh*t." Things shifted in 1968 and society began to crackdown on weed. As a result, soldiers switched to heroin, which they mixed with tobacco and smoked in the field.

By the summer of 1971, 20 percent of American troops in Vietnam were heroin addicts.

8. Sierra Leone Civil War Numbed Boy Soldiers with Brown-Brown and Speed

You'd be hard-pressed to find a sadder chapter in history than that of Sierre Leone and the war fought with boy soldiers. To get children to kill, the drug lords used a combination of speed, cocaine, and "brown-brown": a snorted mixture of cocaine and gunpowder.

The drugs would make the boy soldiers numb to everything around. To charge them up at night, the child troops would be made to watch Rambo movies.

9. Pill-Popping Energized the Iraq War

Much like how prescription drugs were abused by the rest of society in the 2000s, the pills were also abused by the American military. Prescription drug abuse tripled among soldiers during the Iraq War.

Artane, normally used for Parkinson's disease, became the drug of choice, providing energy and courage when it came time to break down doors and enter houses in the middle of the night.

10. Heroin Money Funds Terrorists in Afghanistan

Afghanistan has always been known for opium and its poppy fields. In fact, the country produces 90% of the world's supply. A 2009 United Nations study estimated that $160 million of drug money in Afghanistan goes to fund terrorist activities each year.

Heroin serves two distinct military tactics in this case: The Taliban was using the drug money to fight Americans, and also using the heroin to get Americans addicted.

Related: Afghanistan's opium production is out of control

11. The Napoleonic Wars Were a Booze-Fest

Drunken British soldiers gulped alcohol to boost morale and give them the courage to kick Napoleon's ass. Some Brit soldiers would spend a month's wages on a single drinking session, which higher-ranking officers were told to strictly avoid.

12. The Speedball Was Invented During the Korean War

Most of what the average person knows about the Korean War is from watching reruns of the TV show M.A.S.H. But what type of drug abuse were these soldiers into during the military conflict?

The Korean War saw American servicemen stationed in Korea and Japan concocting the speedball: an injectable mixture of amphetamine and heroin.

13. Boko Haram Uses Sex-Enhancing Drugs

In the conflict between the Nigerian Army and Boko Haram militants, drugs have played a different role in the conflict than as in other wars and military encounters. Members of the Nigerian Army have noted that Boko Haram has turned their camps into sex enclaves.

Milice_d'autodéfense_Nigeria_2015

When the troops captured their bases, they found a littering of condoms and sex-enhancing drugs. Surprisingly, the troops didn't find Qur'an or other Islamic book.

14. The Gaza Strip Is a Drug Trafficking Epicenter

The war between Israel and the Palestinians indirectly caused a flurry of drug trafficking activity. Over 1,200 tunnels have been constructed on the Gaza/Egyptian border to smuggle food, weapons, goods, and drugs into Gaza.

A bulk of the drugs being smuggled through the tunnels are pills. Although the Egyptian army has taken measures to shut down the tunnels, smuggling goods into Gaza has become a way of life.

15. Cocaine Backed the Contras

The Contras were the US-backed and funded terrorist rebel groups that took on the left-wing, socialist Sandinista Junta of National Reconstruction government in Nicaragua.

In 1986, the Reagan Administration acknowledged that funds from cocaine smuggling helped fund the Contra, which included payments to known drug traffickers by the US State Department. So basically, the CIA worked with drug smugglers to fund an overthrow of the Nicaraguan government.

16. Hemp Played a Major Role in the Revolutionary War

As is widely known, America's Founding Fathers were well into the hemp and cannabis. Both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew hemp. Needless to say, the Declaration of Independence was signed on hemp paper.