Drug Abuse and It's Innocent Origins 

Drug Abuse and It's Innocent Origins 
Posted by FoM on January 12, 2000 at 08:18:31 PT
Comprehensive Volume Examines History of Addiction
Source: APBNews
Throughout history, drug addicts almost always have been demonized, reviled as serious threats to society and branded as criminals for illicit acts committed to maintain their habit. Yet, as Jill Jonnes writes in Hep-Cats, Narcs, and Pipe Dreams: A History of America's Romance With Illegal Drugs (Johns Hopkins University Press, $18.95), at the turn of the century, opiates and cocaine were legal, and our country's earliest drug addicts typically were genteel women hooked on patent medicines. 
During America's brief honeymoon with soon-to-be-controlled substances, it wasn't until alarming numbers of urban young men became addicted to opium, heroin and cocaine did the government step in to create the first anti-drug laws. Began Innocently Enough: This "evil" began innocently enough 150 years ago as something seemingly positive -- pharmacological nostrums initially offered by doctors to patients, or over-the-counter remedies that relieved pain, brought sleep, lifted mood and/or removed stress. "It was the familiar turn-of-the-century patent-medicine penchant for proclaiming this elixir and that a cure-all for what ailed the body and the mind," Jonnes writes in this rich, resonant book. Only with accumulated use, doctors surprisingly discovered, did this terrible thing called addiction occur. With addiction came a myriad of dire social problems that have plagued us, on and off, ever since. America's romance with drugs is, Jonnes contends -- citing Dr. David Musto of Yale -- a cyclical fascination that waxes and wanes with our "learned experience" of drugs' dire consequences; 30-year cycles of "tolerance and intolerance." This is definitely a case of those forgetting the past being condemned to repeat it. Author is Uniquely Qualified: Few authors are so uniquely qualified to discuss their subject. After graduating from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and working as a newspaper reporter, Jonnes secured a Ford Foundation grant to begin a book on the history of drugs in America. Realizing she lacked training as a historian, she enrolled in Johns Hopkins University, writing the dissertation which would eventually become Hep-Cats, Narcs, and Pipe Dreams. Since the original 1996 publication of the hardcover edition, Jonnes has received recognition as a drug expert and served as curator for the new Drug Enforcement Agency Museum and Visitor Center in Arlington, Va., which opened last May. In America, drug epidemics are forgotten and then they recur, Jonnes argues. And while it may seem that the current drug epidemic is the same one we have always suffered, the author says that that is not so. Already, she points out, America has endured four distinct drug epidemics: 1885-1925; 1950-1970; 1960-1975; and 1980-1995. Different Eras Covered: In part one, which focuses on the years 1885-1925 -- what Jonnes labels "America's First Drug Epidemic" -- she examines the opium-China connection. In part two (1959-70), the drug is heroin. Jonnes presents an uptight America reeling from a perpetually stoned counterculture in the third segment of her book, which covers 1960-75. "As illegal drug use became commonplace among middle-class whites," Jonnes writes, "the small deviant drug subculture that had its origins in both the early Chinese opium dens and then the black hipsters of the jazz world had melded and completed its journey into the mainstream white culture." There's also a riveting section exposing the ultimate hypocrisy of the government's anti-drug efforts by detailing widespread CIA research projects using LSD on private-citizen guinea pigs in a top-secret quest for a "truth drug." Crack Cocaine Hits in '80s: After yuppie dabblers lose interest in drugs, crack cocaine enters America's cities and ushers in the final part of Jonnes' book, looking at the years 1980-95. Without moralizing, Jonnes painstakingly traces the ebb and flow of narco-mania in the United States, the broad array of police efforts on the street, the vast resources of federal, local and international laws passed to combat drug commerce, the creation of government anti-drug bureaus and agencies and the cultural forces at work. Ultimately, Jonnes acknowledges the difficulty of making various anti-drug measures permanently effective because of the complex and often covert involvement of outside nations as suppliers, the persistent nature of drugs' hold on the human psyche and the fact that "pleasure," as narrowly defined by certain segments of society -- be they housewives, hipsters, hustlers, or hypocrites -- inevitably includes use or abuse of narcotics. Arguing against legalization of drugs, Jonnes proposes instead prison drug testing, forced treatment, community action, drug courts and relentless enforcement of treaties restraining trafficker nations. "Can we educate the up-and-coming generations to understand and fear the dark side of drugs?" she asks. "Or will our foolish romance continue?" Maralyn Lois Polak, a Philadelphia journalist, editor and spoken-word artist, has reviewed books for The New York Times and is the author of The Writer as Celebrity: Intimate Interviews. By Maralyn Lois Polak Published: January, 11, 2000 ęCopyright 2000 APB Multimedia Inc. 
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Comment #2 posted by Tim Stone on January 12, 2000 at 18:10:31 PT
Ms. Jonnes
Ms. Jonnes buys into every stupid, unfounded myth that supports the drug war:Magical qualities of evil possessed by certain drugs like cannabis and not possessed by certain other drugs like alcohol.The illegal drugs are so seductive and alluring that no one can possibly resist them w/o the force of law to protect us.The illicit drugs are so evil that anyone who even touches them will certainly suffer a horrible fate.The average American in the early part of the 20th century was appalled by the ravages of opiate and cocaine addiction, had much experience with drug addiction horrors among friends and family, and the vox populi called out to the government for drug prohibition. Hence, our present policy of prohibition was the result of a good and wise government responding to public outcry about demonstrable harms ravaging every neighborhood in America.All of the above myths are flat out wrong. All of the above myths Ms. Jonnes accepts as gospel. Ms Jonnes' "research" is ideological from the beginning, is contradicted by the balance of verifiable fact, and isn't worth a pinch of owl dropping. 
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Comment #1 posted by kaptinemo on January 12, 2000 at 17:39:35 PT
A historian suffering from Santayana's Curse
It's so typical.I haven't read more than a few passages of this book at a local bookstore. From what little I read, I would have thought the author had seen through the trap of prohibition and was arguing *against* the very same policies we have followed pointlessly for the last 85 years. It seems I'll have to buy it, after all (sigh).Because if the writer of the above article is actually correct in her summation of Jonnes's tome, then we have yet another 'historian' who is blind to history. And it is exactly this kind of 'academic' that the prohibitionists call upon to provide intellectual justifications for their failed policies.Santayana had said that those who fail to learn from history's mistakes are condemned to repeat them. Evidently, if the article's author is correct, then Jonnes is just another of those who are among the blindest of all, because they absolutely will *not* see.
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