Britain’s WWI cabinet dictatorship targeted treasonous activities, socialized British industry and introduced conscription. A lesser known fact is that, under the Defence of the Realm Act (DORA), hard drug use was first prohibited in the UK.
Before 1916 opium, cocaine or mind-bending drugs could be legally purchased. If a pharmacist provided the drugs, some details had to be recorded. Drugs were even supplied to some colonial units during the war.
During the war, drug use increased. Men were wont to escape.
Concerns were raised about morale, particularly with regard to Canadian troops. These reports seem to have been exaggerated.
In May 1916, regulation 40B was passed which limited the supply of certain drugs to both military and non-military personnel. Curiously cannabis or morphine did not fall under the decree.
DORA 40B is most notorious for regulating cocaine to actresses. Perhaps the most effective propaganda was that concerning women – innocent girls were being drugged and converted into prostitutes or lured into ‘bachelor girlhood,’ a euphemism for lesbianism, propagandists claimed.
Billie Carleton, a British actress who died in 1918; her death from drug use after the end of WWI seemed to confirm the wisdom of DORA 40B
Drug use is a thorny issue because of its invasion into liberties, e.g. the inviolability of domicile and right to private property. It took an emergency for Britain’s wartime dictatorship to move against drugs.