Posted by FoM on October 19, 2000 at 07:23:06 PT
By Maralyn Lois Polak 
Source: WorldNetDaily
You might not be aware of this, but America's earliest "drug addicts" typically were genteel women -- hooked on patent medicines provided by their physicians. So what else is new? This was at the turn of the century, when opiates and cocaine were originally freely and legally available in America during this country's brief honeymoon with soon-to-be-controlled substances. 
But it wasn't until alarming numbers of urban young men -- italics mine -- became addicted to opium, heroin and cocaine did "the government" step in to create the first anti-drug laws. So says "drug expert" Jill Jonnes in her book, "Hep-Cats, Narcs, And Pipe Dreams: A History Of America's Romance With Illegal Drugs" (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999), her 510-page, capacious-but-not-quite-comprehensive chronicle of the cultural history of illegal narcotics use spanning close to two centuries in the United States and abroad. Throughout history, she reminds us, drug addicts have nearly always been demonized, reviled as serious threats to society and branded as criminals for the illicit acts committed to maintain their habit. And yet, making the obstreperous claim that "it generally takes many years to create a serious drunkard, but only weeks or months to create a drug addict," Jill Jonnes sounds straight out of the luridly cautionary 1930s propaganda film, "Reefer Madness," which warns of "the frightful toll ... of the drug menace. ..." Typical. This "evil" began promisingly and innocuously, innocently and naively enough 150 years ago as something seemingly positive -- if you can believe that -- pharmacological nostrums, initially provided by doctors to patients, or over-the-counter remedies, that relieved pain, brought sleep, lifted mood, removed stress, and what was wrong with that? "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. Yes. Our penchant for palliatives. Only with accumulated use, doctors discovered to their surprise, did this terrible thing called addiction occur. With addiction came a panoply of dire social problems that have plagued us, on and off, ever since. America's romance with drugs is, Jonnes maintains, 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 Santanaya's eternal wisdom -- those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. On the surface, it would seem that few authors are so uniquely qualified to discuss their subject. After graduating from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and working as a newspaper reporter, Jill Jonnes secured a Ford Foundation grant for 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," completed after she received her Ph.D. in 1992. Since then, Jonnes' book has brought her recognition as a drug expert. She's even served as curator for the new Drug Enforcement Agency Museum and Visitor Center in Arlington, Va., a worrisome development may compromise her objectivity. Is she shilling for "the gummint"? Hard to say. What she provides us with, however, is worthwhile historical perspective. In America, she argues, drug epidemics are forgotten and then recur. While the current drug epidemic may seem the same one we have always suffered, the author suggests differently. Already, Jonnes contends, America has endured four distinct drug epidemics: 1885-1925; 1950-1970; 1960-1975; and 1980-1995. And so she divides her book into those four epochs. Painstakingly tracing the ebb and flow of narco-mania in this country; she demonstrates the cultural forces at work, the broad array of police efforts on the street; the vast armamentarium of federal, local, and international laws passed to combat drug commerce; the creation of government anti-drug bureaus agencies -- and, I would add, self-perpetuating bureaucracies. In "America's First Drug Epidemic," 1885-1925, she examines the opium-China connection in all its fascinating contradictions, almost an unsuspecting ambush from afar. Even housewives get hooked. During "America's Second Drug Epidemic," 1950-1970, the drug of choice is heroin, "happy dust," and Marseilles is branded by FBN agent Charles Siragusa "the most important narcotics smuggler's haven in all of Europe." In "America's Third Drug Epidemic," 1960-75, Jonnes presents an uptight America reeling from a perpetually stoned Counterculture burning to get so high on pot or psychedelics they believed they could levitate the Pentagon. That warm, fuzzy, feel-good era of drugs as a reaction to '50s conformity progresses from beatnik junkies with beards and berets and bebop odes and bongos, to hippies seeking spiritual paths to higher consciousness, deliberate derangement of the senses and finally to flower-power and acid-heads. "As illegal drug use became commonplace among middle-class whites," she writes, "the small deviant drug subculture with its origins in both the early Chinese opium dens and then the black hipsters of the jazz world, 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." Famous writer Ken Kesey once related to me his own participation in those government-run experiments. After Yuppie dabblers lose interest in drugs, crack cocaine enters America's cities by the side door, ushering in "American's Fourth Drug Epidemic," 1980-1995, where we see what amounts to massive amounts of frenzied propaganda against the so-called international drug menace infiltrating America's borders. Incendiary, and profoundly hypocritical, statements like this one, made in 1989, that "the Colombian drug cartels are far more dangerous than any criminal enterprise in U.S. history" begin to be manufactured wholesale by the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Terrorism, Narcotics, and International Relations. On that theme, one major, really serious, omission in Jonnes' book is reporter Gary Webb's documented revelations of U.S. government involvement in the drug trade here and abroad -- circulating crack cocaine in America's inner cities, targeting the urban poor, laying waste to their families -- an involvement triggering widespread violence and destruction in its wake. Rather than legalization of drugs or even decriminalization, Jonnes proposes instead of 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 wonders, somewhat melodramatically. "Or will our foolish romance continue?" Good question, Jill. Ultimately, she acknowledges the difficulty of various anti-drug measures being permanently effective in the U.S. This is because of complex, often covert involvement of outside nations as suppliers, the persistent nature of drug addiction's 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 -- often includes use or abuse of narcotics. The psychobiology of addiction, however, is another matter entirely, I would submit, as recent studies of the brain have doubtlessly demonstrated, raising the not-so-remote possibility that addicts, though criminalized in our society, are merely medicating themselves to achieve homeostasis. But that would require we switch "models" -- from a massively profitable drug war industry to some less lucrative, less punitive stance. Just say no -- to bureaucrats running an anti-drug war.Source: WorldNetDaily (US Web)Author: Maralyn Lois Polak Published: October 19, 2000Copyright: 2000,, Inc.Contact: letters worldnetdaily.comAddress: PO Box 409, Cave Junction, OR 97523-0409Fax: (541) 597-1700Website: Articles & Web Site:Reefer Madness The Opium Kings - Opium Throughout History
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Comment #2 posted by observer on October 19, 2000 at 14:06:44 PT
Kudos to Maralyn
An excellent piece from Maralyn Polak! Joel Miller and now Maralyn Polak are really helping to refute prohibitionist falsehoods. There are some conservative prohibitionists that contribute to WND too ... it would be great to see them attempt to engage in debate.
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Comment #1 posted by dan on October 19, 2000 at 09:50:11 PT:
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