The Regulation of Opiates Under the Classic British System, c.1920–c.1945

  • Christopher Hallam


This chapter traces the early history of the Home Office Drugs Branch, and the network of regulatory agencies that cooperated to try to curtail the activities of those groups and individuals using opiates and cocaine for ‘nontherapeutic’ purposes. These agencies included the Metropolitan Police, the Chemist Inspection Officers and the specialist drugs officers who were the predecessors of the drug squad formed after the Second World War and, finally, the Regional Medical Officers who cooperated with the Home Office Drugs Branch to investigate cases of heavy or extended prescribing identified by the Chemist Inspection Officers. A complex and dense network of forces sought to regulate both drug consumers and the doctors whose prescribing formed their major source of supply, though there were channels of illicit supply that brought opiates to consumers in London, especially from Paris. Other forces also contributed to the suppression of drug use: various members of the public such as cab drivers, messenger boys, hotel managers and so on—the ‘lay culture of surveillance’.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christopher Hallam
    • 1
  1. 1.Global Drug Policy ObservatorySwansea UniversitySwanseaUK

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