It is notable the mention that historically, the cultivation and trade of opium has been around since the creation of the earliest civilizations. The first people to grow and cultivate the opium poppy flower were the Sumerians, followed by the Egyptians, who introduced the effects of opium to the Phoenicians traders, who then transported opium to Europe. This, essentially, marks the first opium trade.
The biggest opium trade began in the late sixteenth century and the beginning of the seventeenth century, when the Indians began to use opium for recreational purposes and the Portuguese merchants decided to transport opium from India to China. In the eighteenth and nineteenth century, the Western countries (predominantly Great Britain) took over the exportation of opium; the United States also joined the opium trade, exporting both Indian and Turkish opium.
After realizing that it might actually be extremely profitable, the East India Company became the most important and most influential distributor of opium to China. However, because the Chinese emperor Yung Cheng banned the smoking and import of opium and made it illegal, the East India Company gave licenses to private country traders (who were mostly Englishmen doing business in India) to take the opium from India and then give it to smugglers, who then smuggled it into China. The opium trade became so well-developed that it actually improved the economic climate of Great Britain and some of the Western countries, as traders essentially used opium to enable the trade of various Chinese goods in Europe such as silk, tea, and porcelain, which were previously exchanged mainly for gold and silver.
Desperate to put a stop to the opium trade, in 1799, the Chinese emperor Kia Qing extended the ban on opium and criminalized its use, both medical and recreational, and its trade. The First Opium War, fought between Great Britain and the Qing dinasty of China, actually resulted from the highly-developed opium trade. The war ended in favor of Great Britain, mainly due to their technologically more advanced weapons, and China finally opened trade with the Western countries. The instability of the trade system, however, led to the Second Opium War (1856-1860), fought between the British and the French Empire (later aided by the United States) and the Qing dinasty, which resulted in another defeat of China.
By the early 1900s, the British and the French empires controlled most of the opium trade and the production of opium; however, with the rapid growth of heroin use, both the British Empire and China agreed to ban the opium trade, and, in 1909, USA criminalized the recreational use and importation of opium. After years of fighting and negotiating, in 1910, all of the Western countries and China finally agreed to put a stop to the opium trade.