This substantial article examines Central Eurasia’s drug question since the nineteenth century. It establishes a relationship between China’s market system of smokeable opium paste, and the spread of that system into Qing Central Asian territories via the dynasty’s structures of local control. So doing, the author manages to reorient research on drug imperialism in Asia, based until a recent date on the politically correct postulate of a primacy and decisive effect of the British smuggling traffic on the Chinese coast in the first half of the nineteenth century. The article focuses on three aspects: (1) the role of the imperial system of territorial incorporation in the expansion of the opium market system westward to Xinjiang; (2) the role played by the Chinese military system, maintaining a Lhasa garrison whose opium smoking spread the market system to Tibet; (3) the failure of interstate diplomacy with the Russian Empire and with the Khanate of Kokand for controlling trafficking through Central Asia. The author shows how the crises endured by the Qing dynasty after its defeat in the first Opium War (1839-42) removed all state limitations on the opium traffic, permitting a rapid expansion of the market system toward regions known today as the Golden Crescent and the Golden Triangle.