The Facts About Drug Abuse

When I was writing The Cartoon Guide to Recreational Drugs I scoured the local libraries and bookstores looking for useful and interesting historical works. The Facts About Drug Abuse 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.


From the Drug Abuse Council in 1980, this collection of reports attempts a “credible, coherent, and verifiable” entry into the debate about prohibition.

p. 17

“By adhering to an unrealistic goal of total abstinence from the use of illicit drugs, opportunities to encourage responsible drug-using behavior are missed.”

p. 18

“In order to be helpful in minimizing the harm of drug misuse, information must be credible, coherent, and verifiable… It strikes us as inconsistent to issue calls for total abstinence from some drugs while “happy hours” with two drinks for the price of one are promoted for another.”

The Federal Government’s Response to Illicit Drugs, 1969-1978

Peter Goldberg summarizes some of the history of federal laws creating illegal drugs; among the federal actions is the Prettyman Commission, yet another commissioned study that discovered, surprise!, illegal drugs aren’t worth the pain and depredation that the laws against them cause. As usual, its recommendations were ignored.

p. 21

1906: District of Columbia Pharmacy Act; applied only to DC, but set precedent for congress to deal with drug issues. Narcotics could be prescribed to addicts only when “necessary for the cure” of addiction.

1914: Harrison Narcotic Act: official entry of feds into narcotics control. Simplified record keeping on the dispensation of certain narcotic drugs; required standard forms be filed/maintained for 2 years, to be inspected at will by revenue agents. Patent medicines (alcohol, morphine, cocaine, opium, heroin) still sold in stores.

1929: Porter Act: called for building 2 narcotics “farms” to “treat” those convicted of the “crime” of drug addiction. Treatment was simply enforced abstinence; most addicts returned to addiction after discharge. Centers were Lexington, KY (1935) and Fort Worth, TX (1938). The Lexington facility retained bars until the late sixties.

p. 24

1963: President Kennedy appointed the “Prettyman Commission” (Advisory Commission on Narcotic and Drug Abuse). Their recommendations:

  • decreased use of minimum mandatory sentences
  • increase in appropriations for research
  • transfer FBN to DHEW
  • final judgement of ‘legitimate medical use’ be given back to the medical profession

Few were implemented; none of those. One that was:

1966: Narcotic Addict Rehabilitation Act of 1966 (NARA). But yet again, “Although NARA ostensibly considered drug addiction a ‘medical problem,’ addicts committed under NARA programs were basically perceived as prisoners.”

p. 25

Feb 1968, President Johnson established the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (BNDD) within the Justice Department. This replaced the previous fragmented federal enforcement agences (FBN—Treasury; BDAC [Drug Abuse Control]—DHEW). And the emphasis was again on law enforcement and drug use as a crime.

President Nixon: the federal budget for drug control went from 81.4 million (Jan 1969) to 760 million five years later.

p. 26

“The public’s fear of heroin was intensified by reports of increased use of narcotics among American soldiers stationed in Vietnam. The thought of “soldier-junkies,” trained in guerilla warfare, returning to the streets of urban America heightened public concern and led to further demands for government action.”

p. 27

Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention And Control Act shifted federal power over traffic and possession from its taxing power to its power over “interstate commerce”; these powers had greatly expanded since the “New Deal” legislation of the 30s and 40s, and the civil rights cases of the sixties.

p. 28

In January 1969, 80% of heroin used in the United States thought to be of Turkish origin, processed from opium into heroin in France (Marseilles).

In 1971, after 5 years of negotiation, Turkey agreed to ban cultivation in return for American aid for crop substitution programs and income compensation for Turkish farmers. (35.7 million in aid over 5 years—p. 37)

p. 29

In 1969, three agencies involved in drug field: NIMH in the DHEW; BNDD in Justice; Customs in Treasury. The Emergence of the BNDD created intense rivalry; in 1969, this was ‘solved’ by authorizing the BNDD to do overseas operations, limiting Customs to border searches.

p. 30

FY 1971: Nixon doubled the federal drug budget to $212.5 million. The major increases were for treatment and rehabilitation; alw enforcement budget rose ‘only’ 50%.

“Federal budget makers were clearly more receptive to agency requests for new drug programs” by 1971 15 agencies were involved, from Office of Education, VA, and Dept. Of Transportation.

p. 31

FY 1972: budget rose $50 million to $265 million [later, a supplemental request of $155 million brought it to $418 million]. In early 1971, National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse began; but restructuring came before they completed their two one-ear studies.

p. 34

White House felt NIMH was “foot-draggin” on methadone maintenance. NIMH officials leary of government “sanctioning one addiction [to methadone] in order to reduce the burden on society of heroin addiction.”

Nixon proposed creation of a temporary 3.5 year Special Action Office for Drug Abuse Prevention (SAODAP); to tie together all the federal drug programs and be accountable to the President. Dr. Jerome Jaffe, chosen to head it, was also a supporter of methadone maintenance. Eighteen months after he assumed leadership, [methadone maintenance] drug treatment programs rose from 135 to 394. (Cities from 54 to 214; 20,000 addicts to 60,000 and continued to rise.) The President thought the War on Drugs could be won, and wanted to take credit.

p. 36

Methadone maintenance drew objections from FDA about insufficient research, and minority communities about using one addictive drug to treat another.

p. 38

Abroad: Whereas Turkey had been offered the “carrot”, other countries offered the “stick”—termination of economic and military assistance.

p. 39

In return for supporting amendments to the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotics Drugs, in 1971, the Psychotropic Convention was prepared for hallucinogens, amphetamines, barbiturates, tranquilizers. Not passed even now, by congress, because it would even further remove scientific and medical professions from decision-making in U.S. domestic drug policy.

Until 1970, BNDD (and predecessor FBN) accused of concentrating on users and street dealers to inflate the number of arrests. In 1970, BNDD claimed to have reversed this policy to get higher levels. In 1971 administration pressured BNDD to go back to street-level; BNDD claimed this was for state and local agencies to deal with.

So the White House created a new agency, in January 1972, the Office of Drug Abuse Law Enforcement (ODALE), in Justice.

p. 40

Instructed to “make arrests by any lawful means possible, even if it meant bypassing normal channels.”

p. 41

SAODAP set to sunset to NIDA, in DHEW, on June 30, 1975. It was expected to attain its goal in a short period of time.

p. 42

When SADDAP began in March ‘72, policy had already been made. Recommendations such as those of the Nat’l Commission on Marihuana & Drug Abuse in ‘72 and ‘73 were rejected. SADDAP had the power (never used) to assume the drug abuse prevention functions of an uncooperative agency.

The purpose was streamlining federal response, but also muted opposition. Nixon: “heads will roll” if agency directors don’t cooperate (with Dr. Jaffe and SADDAP).

Sept ‘73: Nixon: “We have turned the corner on drug addiction in the United States.”

p. 43

Nixon’s statement based on more than statistics:

  • The 1972 election was gone.
  • “armies of addicted Vietnam soldiers never materialized.” Soldiers who had used opium or heroin in Vietnam were neither dysfunctional nor addicted on returning to States.
  • Public interest waned.
  • The response failed to live up to expectations.

ODALE was not well received by local law enforcement. April 1973, ODALE staged 2 ‘no-knock’ raids in Collinsville, Illinois, which precipitated a review and eventual (June 30, 1973) abolishment of ODALE. Congress also subsequently repealed authority for ‘no-knock’ and preventive detention.

The Turkish ban was only temporary. Other areas took up the slack. Budget dropped 33 million in FY 75 (proposed Jan 74). After Nixon, “victories” and “solutions” became “goals” and “objectives”. Budget cutback halted for FY 76.

p. 53

Carter, like Nixon and Ford, stressed international cooperation against cultivating and trafficking, and urged ratification of Psychotropic Convention. But he also supported “decriminalization” of small amounts of marijuana (personal use): “penalties against possession of a drug should not be more damaging than the drug itself.” He also included licit drugs (alcohol, tobacco) in the concept of “drug abuse.”

Drug-Law Enforcement Efforts

John R. Pekkanen summarizes enforcement efforts—and their general failure—up to New York in 1970-73.

p. 63

First law prohibiting narcotics in U.S.: San Francisco, 1875, banned smoking opium in “opium dens.”

p. 65

“Generally, the demand for tough drug control has been most vociferous during periods of economic or political turmoil in the United States.”

  • anti-opium: 1870s depression
  • anti-cocaine: racial turmoil in South
  • Federal sanctions toughened considerably in 1915 and 1920, during first “Red Scare.” Alcohol as well.
  • anti-marihuana: 1930s depression; entry of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans in Southwest labor market.

FBN created in 1930; established pre-eminence of law enforcement in drug field.

Boggs Act: 1951; after apparent increase in illicit drug use among blacks and Puerto Ricans between 1947 and 1950.

p. 66

“Users of opiate drugs, instead of being viewed merely as criminals, were now charitably viewed as ‘sick’ criminals.” in modern times—seventies.

p. 67

In 1976, NIDA estimated heroin addict population at 500,000; other studies indicate all types of heroin users at 2-4 million. “Allowing for population increases, there are more heroin users today (1980) than there were a half century ago.”

p. 73

Collinsville, Illinois: April 23: ODALE broke into house of Mr. and Mrs. Herbert J. Giglotto, routed them out of bed, roughed them up, accused them of drug dealing. But it was the wrong house. They made a second mistaken raid that same night. The agents involved were brought up on criminal charges, but acquitted.

p. 75

estimated that 12-20,000 pounds of high-purity heroin smuggled into U.S. every year. FY 74: 115 pounds seized coming in, for a total of 670 pounds confiscated. By FY 1976, after “intensive effort” domestic seizures increased to 1,124 pounds. The publicity surrounding seizures conveys and impression of success. “Street value” used to embellish seizures: “it often reflects the most optimistic price a dealer might possibly ask for his drugs. This is analogous to estimating the value of rustled cattle by the price they would bring as steaks at the best restaurants.”

“When seizures drop, enforcement agencies frequently also use the decline to indicate the success of their efforts.”

p. 76

Jurisdictional disputes cause problems, with Customs arguing that information should be used to intercept at the border, and FBN/BNDD/DEA arguing that if it is let in, they can catch the higher-ups—actually, each wants to make the arrest. So agencies began circumventing each other, not giving information, making premature arrests to botch another operation.

p. 77

Operation Intercept, September 1969, Nixon. 2,000 Customs and Border Patrol agents searched all cars and persons coming from Mexico. Delays reached hours. Suspicious or argumentative individuals “were often stripped and bodily searched.” Virtually no heroin or any other illicit drugs confiscated.

p. 78

“It is estimated that only sixty to one hundred tons of raw opium are required each year to supply the entire illicit U.S. market with heroin, an amount which could be produced from only ten square miles of opium poppies.” [Halper, Sibyl Cline, The Heroin Trade: From Poppies to Peoria (Washington, DC; Drug Abuse Council, 1977), p. 2]

“Although the United States has encouraged worldwide prohibition of illicit opium cultivation through bilateral and multilateral agreements for more than sixty years, these efforts have largely failed. One of the reasons for this is that our prohibition of heroin has inflated the price of the drug, making it even more profitable to cultivate opium poppies illegally.”

p. 83

“the evidence to date shows that alcohol and secobarbital—both legally produced—are the drugs most likely to be involved with subsequent assaultive behavior. There is no substantial evidence to link the use of any other drugs, licit or illicit, with assaultive crime.” [Jared Tinklenberg, “Drugs and Crime,” appendix, vol I, Drug Use in America: Problem in Perspective (Wash., DC: US Gov’t Printing Office, 1973), p. 242]

p. 85

“A study of heroin prices in Detroit indicates that as heroin prices rise because of diminished supply there is a consequent increase in property crime.” [Urban Crime and the Price of Heroin, Journal of Urban Economics, vol. 4 (1977), p. 101; Heroin Supply and Urban Crime (Wash. DC: Drug Abuse Council, 1976)]

p. 86

Vietnam: After the Army clamped down on marijuana; soldiers turned to more easily concealable heroin. [Licit & Illicit Drugs]

p. 89-91

Get tough laws in New York failed to decrease heroin use in 1970-1973. Decriminalization of marijuana (making it a non-imprisonable misdemeanor) in Oregon and other states did not increase use of marijuana.

Influence of Public Understanding

Peter Goldberg and Erik J. Meyers go over some of the crazy public response to drug war mania. Of course, some of this is probably parents lying to surveyors, especially if by “national survey” they mean one performed by the federal government.

p. 126

“One national survey taken in 1969 revealed that 42 percent of American parents would report their own children to the police if discovered using prohibited drugs.” [Norman E. Zinberg and John A. Robertson, Drugs and the Public, pp. 29-30]

Marijuana and Cocaine: The Process of Change in Drug Policy

Robert R. Carr and Erik J. Meyers survey many of the studies—many of them government-commissioned—that have shown the relative harmlessness of prohibited drugs and the dangers of prohibition. The one drug that may live up to its hyped dangers is alcohol, but we already know that, as dangerous as alcohol is, it becomes far more dangerous when illegal.

p. 152

“Despite the remarkable consistency of official reports on marijuana—from the 1894 Report of the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission to the 1972 report of the National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse, Marihuana: A Signal of Misunderstanding, and the 1977 HEW report to Congress, Marijuana and Health—in addressing [erroneous] beliefs that marijuana is addictive, leads to violent crime, and that its use results in the use of other drugs, a national debate has continued nearly unabated.”

p. 163

NORML organized in 1971.

p. 166

“Separate research projects in Jamaica, Costa Rica, and Greece did not find any evidence of brain damage or impaired mental or physical functioning due to even heavy, chronic cannabis use.”

  • Jamaica: Vera Rubin and Lambros Comitas, Ganja in Jamaica: A Medical Anthropological Study of Chronic Marijuana Use (The Hague and Paris: Mouton, 1975).
  • Costa Rica: P. Satz, et. al., “Neuropsychologic, Intellectual and Personality Correlates of Chronic Marijuana Use in Native Costa Ricans,” in Chronic Cannabis Use, Annals of the NY Acad. of Sciences vol 282, 1976, pp. 266-306, Dornbush, Freedman, and Fink eds.
  • Greece: Rhea L. Dornbush & Anna Kokkevi, “Acute Effects of Cannabis on Cognitive, Perceptual and Motor Performance in Chronic Hashish Users,” in ibid, pp. 313-322.

p. 167

“One such study subjected rhesus monkeys to the equivalent of over one hundred marijuana cigarettes a day for a six-month period. Not surprisingly, considering the very high dosage of smoked material, two of the monkeys died of lung complications from the smoke forced into them, and a few of the survivors were observed to have behavioral changes described as persistent. However, ‘permanent brain changes’ were neither observed nor claimed by the researchers. [Robert G. Heath: Marihuana… Neuropharmacology (1973), pp. 1-14]

p. 168

NIDA, 1976 report, Marijuana and Health, there is virtually “no evidence of impaired neuropsychologic test performance in humans at dose levels studied so far.” [Secretary of HEW, Marijuana and Health: Sixth Annual Report to Congress]

[Gabriel G. Nahas, et. al., “Inhibition of Cellular Mediated Immunity in Marihuana Smokers,” Science, vol. 183 (February 1974), pp. 419-420] from Columbia University, based on in vitro findings (i.e., test tube only) noted a reduction in immune response due to marijuana. Subsequent studies at the VA Hospital in D.C., and at UCLA failed to corroborate. There has been no increase in infections in marijuana users. The HEW (in sixth annual report) said, there is “no evidence that users of marijuana are more susceptible to such diseases as viral infections and cancer which are known to be associated with lowered production of T-Cells.”

  • VA Hospital: Stephen G. White, et. al., “Nitrogen-induced Blastogenic Responses of Lymphocytes from Marihuana Smokers,” Science, vol. 188 (1975), pp. 71-72.
  • UCLA: Melvin J. Silverstein and Phyllis J. Lessin, “Normal Skin Test Responses in Chronic Marijuana Users,” Science, vol. 186 (1974), pp. 740-741

p. 171

The Jamaican study showed “evidence of a reduction in lung capacity and other pulmonary deficiencies, but those studied were also heavy tobacco users.”

p. 173

Both Le Dain Commission, Nat’l Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse, examined evidence of the “causal relationship between marijuana and loss of traditional motivation. Both found proof lacking.”

  • Le Dain Commission: “The role of cannabis in this alleged syndrome is not clear, nor is the research adequate or conclusive.”
  • Nat’l Commission: “The clinician sees only the troubled population of any group. In evaluating a public health concern, the essential element is the proportion of affected persons in the general group.

Two longitudinal West Coast studies found no evidence of amotivational syndrome.

  • Joel S. Hochman and Norman Q. Brill, “Chronic Marijuana Use and Psychosocial Adaptations,” The American Journal of Psychiatry, vol. 130 (1973), pp. 132-140.
  • Norman Q. Brill and Richard L. Christie, “Marihuana Use and Psychosocial Adaptation,” Archives of General Psychiatry, vol. 31 (1974), pp. 713-719
  • G.D. Mellinger et. al., “The Amotivational Syndrome and the College Student,” in Dornbush, Freedman, & Frink, Chronic Cannabis Use, pp. 37-55

p. 175

A study of violent crime (particularly sexual assault) and the use of psychoactive substances (including both marijuana and alcohol) found alcohol the drug most likely to be “associated with” serious assaultive and sexual offenses. Alcohol was chosen by offenders as the “drug most likely to increase aggression. In contrast, marijuana was generally believed by offenders to decrease aggressive tendencies.” [Jared R. Tinklenberg and Kenneth M. Woodrow, “Drug Use Among Youthful Assaultive and Sexual Offenders,” Aggression, vol. 52 (1974), p. 221]

p. 176

Alaskan Supreme Court overturned criminal penalties for personal possession or use of marijuana in the home, as a violation of right to privacy—explicit in Alaskan constitution, implicit in Federal constitution.

p. 183

Cocaine most often cut with “relatively harmless substances such as lactose, glucose, and mannitol (crystalline alcohol); occasionally with synthetic local anesthetics such as lidocaine or procaine, which have their own toxic effects; or at times with other stimulants such as caffeine or amphetamines.” (Note: no references provided for this that I could see.)

p. 184

NIDA compiled information about cocaine in Cocaine: 1977, Robert C. Peterson and Richard C. Stillman, Eds. Also called NIDA Research Monograph No. 13.

Overdose: “The Scientific literature reveals at most a few hundred deaths directly attributable to cocaine throughout the history of its use in all parts of the world.”

Cocaine: 1977 examined the 111 cocaine deaths reported to DAWN between 1971 and 1976; 86 were said to be caused by cocaine, but morphine was detected in 1/3 of them, and other drugs in a smaller percentage. The route of administration was undetermined in 60 cases; intravenous in 35, nasal in 8, oral in 7, and rectal in 1.

  • Addiction/Tolerance: None: Dan Waldorf, et. al., Doing Coke: An Ethnography of Cocaine Users, Drug Abuse Council, 1977.
  • Andrew T. Weil, “Coca Leaf as a Therapeutic Agent,” American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, vol. 5, no. 1 (1978), pp. 75-86
  • Robert Byck and Craig Van Dyke, “What are the Effects of Cocaine in Man?” in Peterson and Stillman, eds, Cocaine: 1977, pp. 97-118
  • Donald R. Wesson and David E. Smith, “Cocaine: Its Use for Central Nervous Systems Stimulation, Including Recreational and Medical Uses,” in Cocaine: 1977, pp. 137-152
  • Rich and Ashley, Cocaine: Its History, Uses and Effects
  • James Wood, “Behavioral Effects of Cocaine in Animals”, Cocaine: 1977, pp. 63-95

p. 186

“A recent comprehensive review of cocaine’s evolution as a popular illicit drug and of the attendant social issues concludes that it is less likely than amphetamines, barbiturates, or alcohol to lead to violent behaviour.”

  • Ronald K. Siegel, “Cocaine Recreational Use and Intoxication” in Cocaine: 1977, pp. 129-133
  • Dan Waldorf: Doing Coke (see previous)

p. 187

Nasal Damage: “While there seems to be little doubt that permanent lesions and perforations can occur from extended cocaine use, their reported occurrence in the United States is extremely rare. Experienced users try to avoid problems by rinsing with water or nasal sprays and by thoroughly pulverizing the cocaine to be inhaled so that it will be quickly absorbed by the mucous membranes.”—John A. O’Donnell, et. al., Young Men and Drugs—A Nationwide Survey.