Drugs, consumption and supply in Asia: the case of cocaine in colonial India

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This article examines the market for cocaine in India during the early twentieth century and the efforts of the colonial state to control it. The British authorities issued regulations to prohibit the drug's use as early as 1900, and yet by the start of World War I, cocaine's appeal had become socially diverse and geographically wide. This account of a significant market for a powerful new drug suggests that Indian society was able to rapidly develop a demand for such products even when the colonial state had no part in their introduction. Indians used these new products in complex ways-as medicines, as tonics, and as intoxicants, albeit through the localized medium of the everyday paan leaf. The study points to a reconsideration of a number of debates about the history of drugs and modern medicines in Asia.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)345-62
Number of pages283
JournalJournal of Asian Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2007


  • drugs
  • consumption
  • drugs supply
  • asia
  • cocaine
  • colonial india

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