Drugs, Society and Behavior 87/88

When I was writing The Cartoon Guide to Recreational Drugs I scoured the local libraries and bookstores looking for useful and interesting historical works. Drugs, Society and Behavior 87/88 is one of my sources.

The parts I generally took notes from were either about the drugs themselves or the prohibition of drugs. You’ll find the information garnered from these books throughout the Prohibition Politics section of this site. It will also have informed some of my own postings stored in the older Prohibition Politics archive.

If you find this information useful, you will want to search out the books themselves to read the text in context. All of the books here are at least moderately interesting.


William B. Rucker and Marian E. Rucker have collected a range of articles, essays, and even a satire or two, that shed light on our society’s multiple-personality-like treatment of various drugs.

One of the best is probably As reporters grow dependent on their regular drug-crisis fix, neatly encapsulating our society’s behavior when it comes to talking about drug use. If Freud could put our entire culture on the couch, our drug policies would be on the top of the agenda.

Drugs in Perspective

From “What It Was Like to be Sick in 1884” to journalists jonesing for a drug-crisis fix, these articles try to put illegal drug effects in perspective compared to legal drug effects and other legal things that we do, such as drive cars.

The War Against Demon Rum

Robert Maddox, of Pennsylvania State Unversity, writes this article about the rise of a more forceful persuasion when it became obvious that man could not be persuaded to avoid drink. Temperance became a code-word for prohibition. This article may have previously appeared in American History Illustrated.

Maddox suggests The Origins of Prohibition and Ardent Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition for more about temperance and the history of prohibition.

P. 16

“How much effect, if any, Rush’s pamphlet had on the consumption of alcohol at the time is uncertain. But it did inspire a number of reformers who took up the temperance cause in the years following. Perhaps the most important, and colorful, of these was the Reverend Lyman Beecher of East Hampton, Long Island. Father of thirteen children (including the famous Henry Ward Beecher and the even more famous Harriet Beecher Stowe), Beecher had been appalled by the drinking habits of his fellow students while at Yale and little he saw thereafter reassured him.”

P. 17

“The temperance movement evolved one step more during the pre-Civil War years. It was becoming painfully evident to some that, despite the thousands of pamphlets issued, meetings held, and speeches delivered, the drinking habits of most Americans had not changed.… The usual evidence of success consisted of the number of signed pledges individuals or societies collected from “redeemed” individuals, who promised either moderation or total abstinence.… even in the most rewarding years no more than a tiny percentage of the adult population signed such promises.… Second, how valid were they? To be sure, an effective speaker such as Hawkins or Gough could cause people to struggle in the aisles to sign up. But when emotions cooled, it was obvious, many resumed their old habits. Indeed, as one anti-temperance joke had it, some individuals became so elated by taking the pledge that they could scarcely wait to celebrate by having a few drinks. Increasinly, therefore, temperance advocates sought to strengthen moral persuasion with legal enforcement.”

Neal Dow, “practiced the teachings of his temperance minded parents with a vengeance. At the age of 18 he joined the volunteer fire department of Portland and before very long somehow convinced the group to stop serving alcohol at its social get-togethers. Later, as captain, he enraged many drinkers by allowing a liquor store to burn to the ground without turning a hose on it. Called before the city’s board of alderman to account for his behavior, Dow claimed he had acted as he did to “save” adjacent buildings. On another occasion, when the casks of a wholesale dealer were erupting into fireballs, Dow remarked to an aide that it was a “magnificent sight.””

“Dubbed “The Napoleon of Temperance,” Dow became a hero to drys everywhere as the following song attests:”

Come all ye friends of temperance, and listen to my strain,
I’ll tell you how Old Alchy fares down in the State of Maine.
There’s one Neal Dow, a Portland man, with great and noble soul,
He framed a law, without a flaw, to banish alcohol.

P. 18

“During those years of temperance victories, the per capita consumption of wine, whiskey, and beer rose from slightly over four gallons to almost six and one-half.”

In the 1870s, the temperance movement began stirring again.

“Less important than Willard, though far more colorful, was Carry A. Nation (“carry a nation for temperance,” she liked to say). A member of the WCTU, Nation circled in her own orbit and in fact was an embarrassment to some of the memberse. Having grown up in a family where eccentricity was the norm, Carry at age 19 married a man who drank himself to death very quickly. When the daughter of that union developed chronic illnesses of the cruelest sort, Carry concluded they were the results of her husband’s addiction to alcohol and tobacco. These two substances became her lifelong enemies. Though she became involved in temperance work earlier, Carry made the full commitment after claiming to have received a direct communication from God during the summer of 1900.”

“Nation’s methods were similar to the Women Crusaders—with a difference. She too prayed and sang that saloon keepers and their customers would repent. But in addition to her words she hurled bricks and bottles. Her favorite weapon came to be a hatchet which she wielded with remarkable verve for a middle-aged woman. “Smash! Smash! For Jesus’ sake, Smash!” was her battle cry as she broke up saloons from Kansas to New York.… in later years she became a curiosity, touring county fairs and carnivals. At age 64 she collapsed after a lecture and died a few months later in the summer of 1911.”

P. 19

“Just as “temperance” really meant abstinence [in the WCTU], the Anti-Saloon League was dedicated to banning all alcohol rather than just that dispensed by saloons. It was an effective ploy because the term “saloon” conjured up all sorts of negative images…

“The organization was pragmatic to say the least, and subordinated everything to its goal. “Ethics be hanged,” as one of the leaders put it, and they very often were. The League regularly supported politicians who were known drinkers, for instance, provided they could be depended upon to vote dry. In the South, League speakers and pamphlets often played upon racial prejudices by describing in lurid terms how alcohol heightened the lust black males had for white women.”

“American participation in the war gave the drys two additional weapons which they employed with deadly effect. The first stemmed from the simple fact that various grains and sugar are the main ingredients of beer and liquor. At a time when Americans were being called upon to conserve food for the war effort, how could one defend the diversion of these materials into alcohol? Few politicians were prepared to defend themselves against charges that they were willing to see drunks get their liquor while boys in the trenches went hungry. That most breweries and many distilleries bore Germanic names provided a second boon to the drys. They were able to concoct all sorts of horror stories about German plots to undermine the war effort by encouraging soldiers and civilians to drink their vile products. Such allegations may seem absurd today, but they carried weight during a period when sauerkraut was renamed “victory cabbage.””

America’s Crusade

Subtitled “What is behind the latest war on drugs”, from Time, September 15, 1986, pp. 60-66, 86. The insane rhetoric of the war on drugs ranges from fears of bullet-proof blacks among turn-of-the-century Southern sheriffs to a comparison with foreign invasion by Charles Rangel, still a member of the House as I write this in 2006.

P. 25

“Drugs kill, but not nearly so often as the family car. Coke and heroin cause much less overall harm, in statistical terms, than alcohol or tobacco.”

P. 26

“If our country was invaded by a foreign force, the Administration would not be raising the question of Gramm-Rudman,” says Democratic Congressman Charles Rangel of Harlem.… Mayor Edward Koch… has called on the Army, Navy and Air Force to join the war.”

P. 27

Crack was first imported “from the Bahamas around 1983”?!!

“George Washington, historians believe, probably used hemp (marijuana) to ease his dental pains.” [Remember that the rest of this article’s facts are pretty spotty.]

p. 28

“ 1910 federal survey reported that “cocaine is often the direct incentive to the crime of rape by the Negroes in the South and other sections of the country.” Southern sheriffs believed cocaine even rendered blacks impervious to .32-cal. Bullets (as a result many police departments switched to .38-cal.). Chinese immigrants were blamed for importing the opium-smoking habit to the U.S. “If the Chinaman cannot get along without his dope,” concluded the Committee on the Acquirement of the Drug Habit, in 1903, “we can get along without him.””

Crack: A cheap and deadly cocaine is a spreading menace

Time, June 2, 1986, pp. 16-18. I’d consider the possibility that the addictiveness of crack vs. cocaine may be more related to the economic woes of those who use it than to any pharmacological difference between the two.

p. 30

“NIDA estimates that an addiction to regular coke develops after three to four years, while crack abusers are usually hooked after only six to ten weeks.”

“But crackdowns have not slowed the spread of the drug. In Los Angeles, raids by narcotics squads helped reduce the number of “rock houses” from 1,000 in 1984 to about 400 today. The business has merely moved to the streets.”

As reporters grow dependent on their regular drug-crisis fix

Adam Paul Weisman writes about the “journalistic dream-world” where he “can write almost anything” and “nobody is going to call him on it”. From the Minneapolis Star and Tribune, September 26, 1986, p 21A.


For a reporter at a national news organization in 1986, the drug crisis is more than a story: It’s a dangerous addiction. Some of us feel fuilty for having tried to convince readers that practically everyone they know is addicted to crack, and that they too are likely to be addicted soon. We know the rush that comes from supporting these claims with questionable figures, graphs and charts, and often we enjoy it. Blatant sensationalism is a high.

I’ll never forget my first hit of irresponsible journalism. My editor suggested that I use G. Gordon Liddy in a feature I was writing. I knew Liddy didn’t deserve to be in a feature, but the temptation was too great. I hesitate to admit it, but the experience was fantastic.

I came down fast after the Liddy piece, and I hit hard. I became depressed. My productivity declined. Then my editor offered me a story on drug abuse. Again, I tried to resist. This wasn’t back-of-the-book recreational sensationalism. This was the hard stuff: a cover story.

I’d seen what irresponsible drug stories had done to other magazines, reducing them to four-color zombies, begging readers from the tabloids and drooping off the racks without a shred of integrity. Then I thought: Hey, maybe it can be done responsibly. Nancy Reagan talks about drugs and stands tall. I made the classic mistake. I thought: It won’t happen to me.

I called the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) for statistics, made calls to well-known doctors and ordered library clips. Everything I read and everybody I talked to made drugs sound really bad, and I began to become intoxicated by the overwhelmingly negative reputation they have.

I didn’t realize that I was losing track of the facts and slipping into a journalistic dream world where the writer can write almost anything he chooses because nobody is going to call him on it. Nobody was going to defend drug abuse. In a way, it was the perfect story: sensational, gruesome, alarmist, with a veneer of social responsibility. It just wasn’t true.


Just about every expert I interviewed agrees that the No. 1 drug threat in America is alcohol. But that’s boring, so let’s move on to something sexier.

The percentage of high-school seniors who have used heroin at least once has been the same since 1967? 1969? (sorry, my notes were unclear): 1 percent. But deaths from heroin overdoses are increasing, according to the Drug Abuse Warning Network. If the number of overdoses increases 35 percent this year, the 1986 total will be the same as 1975. Still heroin is only No. 2 in terms of overdose deaths. Alcohol in combination with other drugs is still No. 1 (1,131 deaths in 1984) and alcohol alone contributed to as many as 100,000 deaths annually. But let’s overlook that, because it makes alcohol sound worse than heroin.

Now, cocaine is bad stuff. It contributed to 613 overdose fatalities last year. Newsweek says there are 5 million “regular” coke users, attributing the fiture to NIDA. The only source I can find is a NIDA report that reads “between 3 and 5 million used cocaine during the last month.”

OK, the media took the high end of the estimate. But NIDA uses four categories to establish the pervasiveness of drug abuse: “ever used,” “used in the last year,” “used in past month” and “daily users.”

Lots of people experiment with lots of things at least once. People who used cocaine in the past month are not necessarily regular users. People who use cocaine daily are regular users. NIDA does not offer an updated figure for daily use, so the media had to fudge numbers. When in doubt, scare the reader.

The struggle to educate young people about drugs isn’t much helped by the media hype. Six months ago, crack was a street-corner drug in a handful of cities. Thanks to the media, everyone everywhere knows about it—and wants to try it.


I’m not an expert on drug abuse. Thanks to the assignment thrust on me, I just know a good deal more about the subject than most people and a lot more than I care to. I’m clean now but I’ve seen the depths of drug-journalism depravity. A little education has helped me kick the habit that once threatened to ruin my career. Now I hope that I can help others avoid making the same mistake I did.

So if someone offers you drugs or the opportunity to write a cover story about them, take a tip from Nancy Reagan: Just say no.

And One More for the Road (A new perspective on drinking and driving)

John Tomerlin writes about the effectiveness, or lack thereof, of harsh DWI laws. From Road and Track Magazine, February 1983, pp. 108-115.

p. 37

DWI laws have their roots in Scandinavian laws: “A Swedish law of 1916 specified that licenses for professional drivers could be issued only to those with “reputations for sobriety,” and this requirement was extended to all drivers in 1920.… Sweden and Norway passed the world’s first per se laws declaring certain levels of blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) to be unarguable proof of impairment. After World War II, Scandinavian-type legislation was adopted by other western nations.”

“Professor H. Laurence Ross, in his study of drinking-driving legislation in Sweden and Norway, quotes a Norwegian official as saying, “The defenders of the law… may talk in terms of safety, but in their souls it is a matter of temperance.” [“The Scandinavian Myth: The Effectiveness of Drinking-and-Driving Legislation In Sweden And Norway,” H. Laurence Ross, University of Chicago, Journal of Legal Studies, 1975.

P. 38

“While it is true that there were 26,000 alcohol related deaths on U.S. highways in 1981, this represents only one fatality for every 50 million vehicle miles—or, about one chance in 50 that the average driver will experience such an accident during a “lifetime” (one million miles) of driving.”

“Between 1971 and 1976, the federal government spent $88 million on ASAP (Alcohol Safety Action Programs), testing various preventive techniques including an enforcement blitz in Virginia that increased yearly arrests in one area from 171 to 3000, referrals to treatment in another area for some 250,000 drivers with drinking problems, educational programs aimed at social drinkers, streamlined courtroom procedures, “improved” legislation and much more.

‘When the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety investigated these programs in 1974, it found, “no reductions in drunk driving fatalities unique to the ASAP areas.” “It is only possible to conclude scientifically,” the report observed, “that ASAPs as large-scale programs have been ineffective.”[Status Report, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, July 8, 1974]

Local governments also tried: “One of the best known attempts was the great Chicago crackdown from late December 1970, through June 1971. Declaring that Chicago is concerned that the social drinker is being overlooked,” Traffic Court Judge Raymond K. Berg announced that persons convicted of DWI during the crackdown would be sentenced to a minimum of seven days in jail and to “unequivocal” suspension of the driving license for one year. Publicity for the program was begun December 15th, arrests started on the 18th, and one month later, Judge Berg issued his widely publicized claim that “Holiday deaths were reduced by more than 60 percent and injuries by more than one half” during the campaign.

‘Unfortunately, as later studies would reveal, there was little or no decline in Chicago’s death rate during the 1970 Christmas season. In “Jail Sentences For Driving While Intoxicated In Chicago: A Judicial Action That Failed,”[Robertson, Rich and Ross, Law and Society Review, 1972] statisticians from the University of Chicago, the University of Denver, and the IIHS determined that, although there had been some decrease in total fatalities during the holiday period, this was only a chance variation from the preceding five years. They went on to note that, in Milwaukee, there was “a much sharper drop in the rate of fatalities after November, 1970, than in Chicago,” in spite of the fact that there was no crackdown in Milwaukee. In June 1971, the program was quietly dropped.

P. 39

“The legal limit in most states is an alcohol-to-blood ratio of one-tenth of one percent to one—usually expressed as BAC .10—whereas light to moderate drinkers seldom exceed BAC .05 or .06. These lower levels are not entirely without risk (the chances of having an accident are at least twice as high at BAC .06 as with no alcohol for example) but the overwhelming majority (more than 80 percent) of fatal crashes happen at BAC .10 or greater.

‘Incredibly, the average BAC in fatal accidents is higher than .20 (with coma occurring usually at .40, and death around .50). It would be more accurate to say that DWI highway deaths are caused by alcohol abusers, not simply by alcohol users.”

A California study of drivers caught driving without valid licenses: “In the extreme case, 34 out of a group of 36 drivers with exceptionally bad driving histories were found to have criminal records as well. Their offenses included burglary, assault and battery, forgery, grand theft, kidnapping and rape. Not surprisingly, this “clientele” proved immune to the threat of jail sentences that would be considered harsh if applied to the general public.”[source not quoted]

Long description of why the Scandinavian countries did not see a reduction in drunk driving due to their incredibly harsh laws. From the Laurence study quoted above.

Drug Action on the Nervous System

From rational perspective to menace: tabloid science in Discover and Science magazines.

Designer Drugs

Jack Shafer writes about the rise of “designer drugs”, the drug scourge of the eighties. From Science 85, March 1985, pp. 60-67.

p. 66

“The legality of the designer drugs is only one of many powerful economic incentives working to make them the future drugs of abuse. These drugs are extraordinarily cheap to synthesize. Less than $500 worth of chemicals and equipment can produce a cup of China White worth $2 million on the black market. And it takes only a modicum of laboratory experience to make the stuff from recipe. Theoretically, a single chemist could produce the equivalent of the entire world’s supply of heroin without growing or harvesting a single opium poppy.”

P. 69

“Since the passage of the Harrison Narcotic Act of 1914, America’s policy of drug control has been predicated on interdicting organic drugs from abroad. By blocking Asian heroin, South American cocaine, and Mexican marijuana at the border, the government has sought to cut the supply of drugs and drive up the price, hoping that this would reduce drug use. This policy has met some success, but it has also established an environment in which designer drugs can flourish.”

Drugs and Behavior

From animals to humans, everyone in nature seems to want to do drugs, and left alone they seem to do it in moderation. Only humans create laws encouraging more dangerous and more concentrated drugs.

Jungle Revelers

When beasts take drugs to race or relax, things get zooey. Ronald L. Siegel writes about the drug habits of animals in Omni, March 1986, pp. 70-72, 74, 100.

p. 82

“In his mind Larry Lancaster was flying over a duck farm. He walked like a duck, quacked like a duck, and told visitors that he was Donald Duck. Then he savagely stabbed a man to death. The Los Angeles Police Department reported that Larry had become an animal after taking a mind-altering drug.”

“In 1950, for instance, Donald Duck was shown hallucinating from a broken bottle of ether and crashing his car into a fire hydrant. After another cartoon car crash in 1951, a medicine man gave Donald peyote tea that put him in a coma for six weeks. The alcohol that spilled into Dumbo’s water got him so drunk he saw pink elephants. Wile E. Coyote overdosed on a high-speed tonic while trying to catch the elusive Road Runner. Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, Wood Woodpecker, Fritz the Cat, and other characters have had animated highs with everything from marijuana to psychedelics.”

“Ducks forage a wide variety of narcotic plants. Elephants get playfully drunk on fermented fruit. Pigs are fond of marijuana and other psychoactive weeds. And birds consume the stupefying nectars of flowers. When given a choice of literally thousands of plant drugs in nature, animals select the same types of substances regularly consumed by humans.”

P. 83

“In the mountains of Sikkim in northeastern India, for instance, weary horses eagerly consume bitter tea leaves. And when our pack donkeys in Mexico seemed particularly overworked, they deliberately grazed on wild tobacco.”

“Another example of drug use in the animal kingdom comes from ethologist Eugene Marais, who lived among the African baboons. Marais found that while free-ranging baboons suck the flowers of wild tobacco, they avoid the leaves that contain most of the nicotine. Captive baboons, on the other hand, “beg for tobacco and eat or chew it with all the zest of a long-established habit.””

“The animal drunk that most intrigued our group, though, was the African elephant, a mammal strongly attracted to the odor of ripening mgongo, doum, and marula fruit. We found that when elephants arrived late for the feast, the fruit had usually fermented to a 7 percent alcohol solution.”

“Recent experiments in a spacious California game park have verified this stress factor. The studies found that elephants seemed to enjoy drinking small amounts of a 7 percent alcohol solution that caused mild changes in mood. Alcohol intake increased, however, when the elephants were crammed into a smaller preserve with other savanna animals.…

‘When the preserve was enlarged to its normal size and bothersome gazelles and rhinos were evicted, alcohol drinking returned to normal levels. Several months later, with the preserve rattled by construction crews, elephants congregated in the area where alcohol had once been available.”

“Catnip appeals to cats because it contains the hallucinogen nepetalactone, which mimics a natural sex pheromone. Both catnip and its Japanese cousin, matatabi, are used repeatedly by leopards and other large cats despite increasing tolerance and brain damage. In fact, biologists have recently discovered that a dominant gene automatically guides cats to catnip if the plant can be found.”

“Even when drug plants don’t ease an animal’s pain or stoke its libido, the sensation may be worth seeking out. Indeed, our research indicates that a wide range of animals munch on hallucinogenic mushrooms, bark, and roots just for the fun of it. In the emerald forests of Colombia, jaguars gnaw the nauseating psychedelic bark of yaje, a habit the Indians believe sends the cats on flights to other worlds. Boars dig for the hallucinogenic roots of iboga, a West African shrub with showy flowers that send the animals into wild frenzy. Ethologist Jane Goodall once observed a jackal spinning like a top after eating a mysterious mushroom. And members of my group have confirmed the use of “magic” psilocybin mushroom sby dogs and cattle in Hawaii.”

“Reindeer on the Asian tundra ignore their normal diet of lichens whenever they smell the red-capped Amanita muscaria mushroom, a psychedelic used by Siberian shamans.… Reindeer also become intoxicated on human urine containing the active metabolites of previously eaten mushrooms; the craving is so intense that travelers are warned not to relieve themselves in the open when reindeer are around.”

“But unlike animals in [controlled studies], animals in nature tend to regulate drug use, thereby avoiding large-scale problems. Their strategy is to ingest the minimum effective amounts of the drug plants, thus lowing the risks of poisoning while maximizing recreation and relief. This balancing act is helped by the relatively low concentrations of alkaloids and alcohols in plants as compared with purified, man-made preparations. For example, coca contains less than 1 percent cocaine, together with proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals, providing a nutritious and stimulating boost for animals and Indians; neither have ever died from ingesting coca.”

Don’t Get Jittery Over Caffeine

Despite what you’ve read, coffee probably isn’t harmful in moderation. In fact, caffeine may be a useful drug. Denise Grady writes about the health statistics of caffeine and coffee consumption in Discover, July 1986, pp. 73-79.

P. 85

“At a meeting of the American Heart Association in Washington last November, a respected cardiologist named Thomas Pearson presented evidence from a long-term study of more than a thousand men suggesting that people who drink five or more cups of coffee a day are almost three times as likely to develop heart disease as those who drink no coffee at all.

‘Pearson didn’t know it but the New York-based National Coffee Association had sent a representative to his lecture—not just to hear what he had to say but also to note the reporters in the audience so that the trade group could call them up and try to get its side of the story into print. Often enough such missions pay off, says Bill Brooks, the association’s director of public relations.…

‘This was just the latest skirmish in what might be called the coffee wars, which started over ten years ago, when more and more studies began suggesting that coffee, and in particular its best known ingredient—caffeine—might cause or aggravate a variety of ailments, including heart disease, birth defects, painful (though benign) breast lumps, and cancer.”

P. 86

“Coffee consumption in the U.S. has been dropping for more than twenty years, from 3.12 cups a day per person in 1962 to a record low of 1.83 in 1985. Last year, for the first time, soft drinks displaced coffee as the nation’s favorite drink. Not only do fewer people drink coffee—75 per cent of the populationb in 1962, only 55 per cent last year—but those who do have been cutting down. And while only four per cent of Americans drank decaffeinated coffee in 1962, by 1985 the proportion had increased to more than 17 per cent.”

How Long Caffeine Stays In Your Bloodstream

(Half-life in hours)

Child (6-10 years)2-3
Infant, Premature and newborn98
Infant, 7-9 months4
Pregnant Woman, 1 to 3 months6
Pregnant Woman, 4-9 months10-18
Pregnant Woman, One week after birth6
Oral contraceptive user12

“Caffeine belongs to a class of stimulants called methylxanthines, which are natural ingredients of coffee, tea, cocoa, and kola nuts. Tea also contains theophylline, and chocolate contains theobromine, two related stimulants. When you drink coffee, or tea, or cola, your body absorbs nearly all the caffeine, which reaches its highest levels in the blood between 15 and 45 minutes later.… Concentrations in breast milk often rise above those in the mother’s blood, and may make a nursing infant wakeful and cranky.”

“Caffeine also causes marked increases in the levels of fatty acids in the blood stream, even in long-time coffee drinkers. These substances can be converted to energy, increasing endurance. The effect is so pronounced that caffeine is restricted at the Olympics: athletes can drink coffee before competing, but may be disqualified if urine tests reveal levels higher than what four strong cups would produce.” [Discover alert…]

“It can rouse the sleepy, speed reaction time, increase alertness, and improve concentration. It even enables typists to type faster, with fewer mistakes.”

The stimulant effect was first explained by Solomon Snyder at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Caffeine blocks the action of adenosine. “By locking on to special receptor molecules on brain cells, adenosine reduces the cells’ activity. Snyder’s group showed that caffeine, which has a molecular structure similar to adenosine’s, acts as a stimulant by attaching itself to the receptors—thereby preventing adenosine from doing so—and allowing the cells to keep firing.”

“Snyder’s colleagues Fred Bruns and John Daly of the National Institutes of Health have synthesized caffeine derivatives that are 100,000 times as potent as caffeine itself at blocking adenosine receptors in the brain.”

Headaches when giving up caffeine abruptly: “Richard Wurtman of MIT suggested [on the basis of animal studies] that regular caffeine consumption causes the body to make extra adenosine receptors in blood vessels in an effort to let adenosine do its normal job. When the caffeine is withdrawn suddenly, adenosine latches on to these extra receptors, causing an abrupt dilation of blood vessels in the head. Nerve endings in the vessel walls fire in response to the distention, producing a headache.”

P. 87

“Between five and ten grams of caffeine can kill an adult, and caffeine poisoning is surely a wretched way to die: agitation, vomiting, convulsions, a racing heart, and coma, ending in heart and lung failure. But to get that much caffeine from the usual sources, you’d have to drink so much, so fast—75 cups of coffee, 125 cups of tea, or 200 cans of cola in a day—that you’d probably become violently ill before you could ingest the lethal dose.

‘Until 1980 deaths from caffeine poisoning were very rare. So rare, in fact, that when coroners first encountered them they didn’t realize what they were seeing. It turned out that some fly-by-night mail-order companies had packed hefty doses of caffeine—anywhere from 100 to 500 milligrams—[note Discover fudge factor!]along with two other legal over-the-counter stimulants, into pills and capsules.… In 1980 and 1981 these little caffeine bombs were implicated in more than a dozen deaths; one survivor was a 21-year-old rock guitarist who had a severe stroke within minutes of taking three look-alike pills.”

“In all the furor over the possibility that coffee and caffeine cause cancer, few people have heard that caffeine, and drugs related to it, are being tested as a means of treating cancer. The research is based on something that scientists have known for almost forty years: chemicals that break chromosomes do far more damage if they’re given along with caffeine. Because many cancer drugs work by breaking the chromosomes of tumor cells, it stands to reason that caffeine might make them work better.”

How Much Caffeine?

(In milligrams)

Coffee* (5 oz)
Brewed, drip method60-180
Brewed, percolator40-170
Decaffeinated, brewed2-5
Decaffeinated, instant1-5
Tea* (5 oz)
Brewed, major U.S. Brands20-90
Brewed, imported brands25-110
Cocoa (5 oz)2-20
Chocolate Milk (8 oz.)2-7
Milk Chocolate (1 oz.)1-15
Semi-sweet chocolate (1 oz.)5-35
Choc. Flavored syrup (1 oz.)4
Soft Drinks** (12 oz.)
Sugar-Free Mr. PiBB58.0
Mountain Dew54.0
Mellow Yello52.0
Coca-Cola (old and new)46.0
Diet Coke46.0
Shasta Cola44.0
Shasta Cherry Cola44.0
Shasta Diet Cola44.0
Mr. PiBB40.8
Dr. Pepper40.8
Diet Dr. Pepper40.8
Big Red38.0
Diet Pepsi36.0
Pepsi Light36.0
RC Cola36.0
Cherry RC36.0
Canada Dry Jamaica Cola30.0
Canada Dry Diet Cola1.5
Drugs*** (Prescription)
Cafergot (for migraine headache)100
Florinal (for tension headache)40
Darvon compound (for pain relief)32.4
Drugs*** (Non-prescription)
Alertness Tablets
No Doz100
Aqua-Ban Plus200
Pain relievers
Cold & allergy remedies
Coryban-D capsules30
Triaminicin tablets30

*Source: FDA, Food Additive Chemistry Evaluation Branch

**Source: Soft Drink Companies

***Source: Physicians Desk Reference and Pharmaceutical Companies

“Since 1980 the FDA has been advising pregnant women to give up caffeine entirely, or at least keep consumption to a minimum. The warning came in response to a study in pregnant rats, which showed that high doses of caffeine pumped into the mothers’ stomachs through tubes caused offspring to be born with toes missing, and that doses equivalent to about two cups of coffee a day temporarily delayed skeletal development in the young. In another rat study, in which the animals drank water laced with caffeine, the substance caused no birth defects, but did delay skeletal development, though less severely than in the first study. The agency has stuck to its warning, even though it isn’t certain that rat studies have any bearing on human beings, and despite two subsequent surveys involving thousands of pregnant women that failed to find any connection between coffee drinking and birth defects. Caffeine is a drug, says FDA spokesman Jim Green, and pregnant women should avoid drugs whenever possible.

‘A recent study of 3,135 pregnant women has strengthened the agency’s position by suggesting a connection between caffeine and miscarriages. In the January issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, two Yale medical school researchers report that women who consumed more than 150 milligrams of caffeine a day during pregnancy—the amount in a cup or two of coffee—were 1.7 times as likely as those who took in less or none at all to have a miscarraige between the third and seventh months.”

Big Business vs. Public Health: The Cigarette Dilemma

Elizabeth M. Whelan writes about the dangers of tobacco compared to milder drugs such as heroin in USA Today, May 1984, pp. 61-66.

p. 93

“Repeated studies indicate that tobacco is more addictive than heroin, producing very strong physical dependence.”

Sneak addictions to over-the-counter drugs

Such innocents as aspirin, laxatives and nose drops can hook you—how to taper off if they have. Robin Reif writes about dependence on the most common over-the-counter medicines in Self, August 1986, pp. 116-119. And is there any euphemism cooler than “evacuate”?

p. 116

Too much reliance on laxatives can cause the colon to “forget how to evacuate on its own”.

P. 117

Nasal decongestants can have a “rebound”. “When people use these drugs too often or for too long, as the medication wears off, nasal stuffiness bounces back—sometimes worse than it originally was, creating the need for even more medicine. If taken again, the new dose sparks more rebound stuffiness and a continuous cycle can start, explains Bruce Kimelblatt, Pharm.D., assistant director of the pharmacy at The Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City.”

“Headaches are another annoyance which, due to overmedication, can bounce back worse than they began. Some experts think this occurs only with drugs containing caffeine (it’s added to some aspirins and menstrual-cramp products). Caffeine keeps blood vessels in a constant state of constriction. After several weeks of high doses, stopping can produce caffeine-withdrawal headaches as vessels painfully expand, says Seymour Diamond, M.D., director of the Diamond Headache Clinic in Chicago.”

Who Uses Psychotropic Drugs?

What kind of person uses the various kinds of mind-altering drugs?

The Trouble with Ecstasy

From Life, August 1985, pp. 88-90, 92, 94. According to the article, alcohol prohibition at a Dallas university contributed to the rise of ecstasy as a party drug.

P. 136

MDMA is a “synthetic, nonhallucinogenic compound made in the laboratory and modeled on a substance found naturally in the oils of nutmeg and sassafars”.

“It was the marketing of Ecstasy as a party drug, particularly in Dallas, that alerted the DEA.… Dealers explain that the drug became especially popular in Dallas because SMU [Southern Methodist University] banned liquor from campus, inadvertently making MDMA the only legal intoxicant students could possess.”

Ronald Siegel testified for the DEA on the MDMA question.

New Insights into Alcoholism

From somewhere in Time Magazine in 1983, perhaps? But I couldn’t find a more specific attribute.

“The alcoholic personality is the result of alcoholism, not the cause. This is the most startling and original conclusion of a new landmark study, The Natural History of Alcoholism: Causes, Patterns, and Paths to Recovery.” By Dr. George Vaillant.

Nasty Habits

Why Are Some Drugs, Such as Nicotine, So Addicting, While Other So-Called Hard Drugs Are Easier to Stop? John Pekkanen, The Washingtonian, August 1984, pp. 59-60. “It’s not just a habit, I’ve seen it happen. My own kids, whenever I start talking to them, they just light up a joint and pretend I’m not there.”

p. 178

Dr. Robert DuPont, former director of NIDA: “People who use marijuana for a long time can get addicted to it. It’s not just a habit—I’ve seen it happen.”

The Effects of Alcohol on the Fetus

Eileen M. Fury writes that the fetus may stay drunk longer than the mother. Originally from Exceptional Children, Volume 49, 1982, pages 30-34.

P. 150

“It has been shown that ethanol (alcohol) rapidly crosses the placental barrier of the fetus (Corrigan, 1976 [“The fetal alcohol syndrome”, Texas Medicine, 1976, 72,. 72-74]) and reaches at least the same level of concentration in the fetus as that found in the mother (Jones et al., 1973[Pattern of malformation in offspring of chronic alcoholic mothers. Lancet, 1973, 1, 1267-1271.]). Mann, Bhakthavathsalan, Liu, and Makowski (1975[“Placental transport of alcohol and its effects on maternal and fetal acid-base balance.” American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, 1976, 125, 937-941]), on the other hand, have reported that their studies with sheep suggest that the ethanol concentration in the fetus may actually surpass that of the mother and persist for several hours after the infusion of the ethanol.”

Models of Dependency

Are alcoholism and other addictions and dependencies genetically based? If cocaine transforms itself yet again into a drug used mainly by minorities, does that mean we must once again consider it an evil? This section appears to be as much a rewriting of what it means to be addicted or dependent as a reassessment of addition and dependency itself.

Genes, Personality and Alcoholism

Some people may inherit a vulnerability to a severe form of alcoholism. Constance Holden, Psychology Today, January 1985, pp. 38-44.

p. 164

“Antisocial personalities (previously known as sociopaths) tend to be charming, manipulative, attention-seeking, rebellious, impulsive, egocentric and ready abusers of drugs, other people and themselves. Antisocial personalities make up perhaps 25 percent of the total alcoholic population, an extraordinary ratio considering that the prevalance of ASP in the general population is only about 3 percent.”

“…the search for genetic indicators of susceptibility to alcoholism has been galvanized by findings from adoption studies conducted in Denmark and Sweden in the early 1970s. These studies showed that when sons of alcohlics are adopted by other families, they are just as likely to become alcoholic as are those reared by their biological families.… A recent adoption study in Iowa confirmed that the greatest single predictor of alcoholism in a son is alcoholism in a father. While 10 percent of the general population is alcoholic, 25 percent of the sons of alcoholic fathers are alcoholic.”

In EEG scans, the ‘P3’ wave is “a well-studied brain wave related to attention and learning. This wave is deficient in most chronic alcoholics, indicating a mild cognitive impairment. Thirty-five percent of [SUNY Downstate Medical Center’s Henry] Begleiter’s high-risk subjects showed a similar P3 deficiency; it exists in very few children in general.”

Cocaine and the Chemical Brain

How the drug may alter the action of delicate neurons? Signe Hammer and Lesley Hazleton, Science Digest, October 1984, pp. 58-61, 100, 103. One of the amazing statements in this article is “that’s a compulsion, the same thing as addiction”. In order to justify most of modern prohibition, addiction must be redefined.

P. 169

The views of cocaine as non-addictive “are being reassessed. Ronald Siegel, a contributor to both the 1977 and the 1984 NIDA monographs, says that patterns of cocaine use have changed so much since 1977 that he has completely reversed his view of the drug. “The social-recreational user is now using more cocaine, we have the free-base smoker, and we’re starting to see the effects of chronic use. All this was unknown to us in 1977. Then, I didn’t think cocaine was physically addicting. Now I do.” [Note, however, that earlier the author selectively quotes Siegel’s animal-cocaine studies.]

“If you’re talking about people who can’t stop using cocaine, that’s a compulsion, the same thing as addiction” said psychiatrist Herbert Kleber.

Cocaine acts on three neurotransmitters: norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine. The one that provides “cocaine’s powerful reward” is dopamine. Dopamine-releasing neurons “seem to be involved in behavioural arousal or motivational states in some fundamental way”.

[Incidentally, this article would be a big NO for subscribing to Science Digest]

Crack Shatters the Cocaine Myth

David Holzmann, Insight Magazine, June 23, 1986, pp. 48-49.

p. 174

“For many years, cocaine was not thought to be very addictive. According to a 1982 article in Scientific American magazine, it was about as habit-forming as peanuts or potato chips.”

Drug Abuse: Prevention and Treatment Issues

Without good science, prevention and treatment become haphazard programs with massive failure rates, partially because there’s no rational basis for even requiring treatment in some cases.

Drug Abuse in Industry

What does it cost and what can be done? Robert E. Hosty and Francis J. Elliott, Security Management, Vol. 29, No. 10, October 1985, pp. 53, 55-58.

p. 198

“More often than not, studies fail to distinguish between illicit drugs and alcohol. Some studies even include tobacco as a drug. Therefore, estimates of the cost cover a wide range—from $16 billion to $100 billion per year. The $100 billion figure was provided to the US Senate in 1982 by former Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare Joseph A. Califano, Jr. However, his figure included the cost of some 50 million regular cigarette smokers.”

[Fun with numbers.]

Brain Scans on the Job?

The problem with drug testing isn’t just invasion of privacy—it’s shoddy use of science. John Herzfeld, American Health magazine, July/August 1986, pp. 72-74, 77-78, 81, 83. It’s hard enough to convince an addict that they’re addicted. Some treatment centers don’t even want to try to convince people who aren’t addicted that they really are. Not when there are people who really do need help who can’t get in.

P. 203

“Even if an employer believes a drug test is clearly positive, the next question is how to use the results. Dismissal is one option. But critics say this unfairly singles out illegal drug use as a problem. It can become more punishable than abuse of alcohol, prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications (though the best programs do deal with these) or other types of lawbreaking. “I’d sooner fire an employee for getting a speeding ticket than for smoking marijuana,” says Arthur J. McBay, Ph.D., chief toxicologist for North Carolina’s medical examiner.”

P. 204

“…some counselors balk at the prospect of admitting patients solely on the basis of a drug test. “Any facility that takes someone with only a ‘hot’ urine in the absence of a well-documented substance abuse problem, in my opinion, is not an ethical institution,” argues Steve Fineman, M.S.W., until recently director of clinical services for Eagleville (PA) Hospital, a major treatment center. “You shouldn’t take up bed space—or take people’s money—unless someone’s really sick. And a casual user is not suffering from an addictive disease.””

The Think-Drink Effect

G. Alan Marlatt and Damaris J. Rohsenow, Psychology Today, December 1981, pp. 60-69, 93.

People will act in stereotyped ways when they think they’re drinking alcohol—even when there’s nothing stronger than tonic water in their glasses. Laboratory studies demonstrate how much drinking behavior is due to high expectations.