Opium Series

The drug heroin, the deadly white powder manufactured from the opium poppy, is one of the most effective pain killers known when used under medical supervision. It is also highly addictive and thousands of addicts throughout the world die miserably each year from its effects.

Nearly half of the world's heroin begins in the poppy fields of the Golden Triangle formed by Burma, Thailand and Laos. The Shan State, a province of Burma, is one of the major producers of opium. The "Mr. Big" of opium there, Khun Sa, is in revolt against the Burmese Government and to finance hIs armies, he smuggles the drug to the world market. For him, the Triangle is truly golden.

Adrian Cowell has filmed the mule trains laden with opium on their secret routes through the Burmese jungle and has interviewed the warlords who control them. The resulting film is the subject of The Warlords, the second programme in his OPIUM trilogy.

For Programme One, The White Powder Opera, Cowell went to Hong Kong where he secretly filmed the Triad gangs who process the opium into heroin and push the powder to the addicts on the street. Hong Kong's Narcotics Bureau cooperated fully with him to describe how they fight the unwinnable war against drugs, gangsters and corruption.

In the United States, President Jimmy Carter agreed to be filmed for Programme Three, The Politicians, discussing the Administration's drugs policy with top White House officials.

Cowell also reports on the Administration's reaction to one of the most controversial drug control programmes ever proposed - the plan that America should buy the entire opium output of the Shan State from Khun Sa. Once bought the opium would be destroyed. This would not stop all the heroin on the streets of New York and other major U.S. cities, but it would reduce the supply significantly.

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