The Narcotic Problem
[Part of the text - Radio Speech given on Feb. 19, 1934]
Mrs. Isabelle Ahearn O’Neill -- United States Bureau of Narcotics
Professor Williams, Mr. Chairmen, and Members of the Six County Police School;
If all present could be transported from this room to an Asiatic country, any for instance, India, China, Turkey or Persia, we might drive out into the countryside and step to gaze in crazed admiration at the rows and rows of white poppies growing. Beautiful to look at in their outward show, those poppies contain the dual potentialities to heal and destroy. As the red poppy, made famous in John McCrae’s poem “Flanders Field”, symbolizes the valiant courageous dead, so does the white poppy typify the living dead, those who succumb to the narcotics extracted from those plants. By the continued illicit use of those drugs moral scruples are annulled and physical and mental degradation follows.
About the first authentic knowledge we have of narcotics is over 500 years ago when Dutch sailors brought the plant from the island of Java to the mainland. The medical use of narcotic drugs had not arise to any degree, in this country until about the time of the Civil War. An Austrian chemist about the year 1800 discovered how to extract discovered how to extract morphine from crude opium and some 50 years later a French chemist produced heroin from morphine. Heroin is five times as powerful and lethal in its effect as morphine. Congress in 1924 banned its use for any purpose whatsoever.
These opium derivatives were used in the war hospitals near the battle fields about 1860. When some of the wounded soldiers to whom drugs had been administered, to relieve poignant pain, returned to their homes they continued the use of the drug, which at that time was legally unrestricted, when there was no therapeutic need for it.
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In some of the states which I visited during the past two years [for] the purpose of securing the adoption of the Uniform Narcotic Drug [law]. I observed that the law still functions under the old ‘Poison [Controls’]. One of the forward steps for Federal narcotic legislation was [the] inclusion of a prevision in the Pure Food and Drug Act, adopted [in] 1906, which required all preparations containing narcotics to be [ ] only labeled on the outside showing the narcotic content in the preparation. By 1912 almost all the large cities throughout the country had adopted ordinances for the control and regulation of narcotics. The year 1914 marked a milestone in Federal legislation [ ] the Harrison, or Federal Act was adopted. It became operative [in] 1915. This law is the basic Act for Federal narcotic regulation prosecution. The Federal Act includes opium and its derivatives, Morphine, heroin and cocaine, their salts and derivatives, as narcotic habit forming drugs. Marihuana is not included as a narcotic in [ ] Harrison or Federal Act. Public Act 672, sometimes called the Narcotic Farms Act included this drug as habit forming.
The legal uses for narcotics, as defined in the Federal Act, are for medical and scientific purposes only. There are two exemptions under Article 85, one for the licit use for incurable disease and the other for prolonged addiction, coupled with old age and infirmity.
When a transient individual asks a doctor to administer narcotics because of a severe pain, for which the doctor cannot diagnose a use, and the patient does not manifest any apparent suffering, it is legal for the physician to prescribe drugs unless he is justifiably certain that the patient has a bonafide illness and is not fabricating [a] reason to obtain a sufficient dosage of narcotics to relieve drug living.
I will read the text of Article 85, defining the term ‘Prescrip-
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addicts fraternize among their own, but are anti-social to others. The exceptions are the heroin habitué, who goes out of his way to recruit victims to his habit, and the marihuana cigarette smoker.
Opium smoking produces a sleepy and lethargic sensation. The heroin addict is frequently belligerent when under the influence of the narcotic and does not seem to feel extreme pain. The cocaine addict shows flighty symptoms and indulges in ramblings conversation. He might, while under the influence of the drug believe, for instance, that he owned one of the largest bridges in New York City, and offer to sell it to you. If reference was made to this offer after the exaltation from the drug had worn out, the habitué probably would not know what your were discussing and if pressed for an answer, would den all knowledge of the incident. This instance is, of course, hypothetical and is presented to illustrate the delusions of grandeur which are symptomatic of this type of addict. The marihuana cigarette habitué, during his delirium, has sometimes committed violent crimes.
What treatment is best for the drug addict? By experience and the opinion of men who should know, who rank high in medical science and who have a scientific interest in the cure of narcotizers,(sic) it is believed that the most effective method for a permanent release from the habit is to take the habitué immediately off the drug. If this seems drastic to you, prove experience demonstrates that it is not, and after the first 36 hours the addict will have ride himself of the accompanying discomfiture of withdrawal pains, and though physically [a weak], will be in a fairly comfortable state. The recovery of his health and mental normality will be regained after his physical system has been built up by deprivation of the drug, proscribed medical treatment and occupational therapy.
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diversified legal status of narcotic violations in the several states request was made for a national conference to discuss a proposed Uniform Drug Law. At the instigation of the State Uniform Law commissioners and with the approval and recommendation of the Commissioners of the Bureau of Narcotics, U.s. Treasury, such a conference was held in 1932 in Washington, D.C. Commissioner H.J. Anslinger, Legal Representatives of the Narcotic Bureau, authorized executives [ ] presenting the American Bar Association, American Medical Association [ ] Pharmaceutical Association, Retail and Wholesale Druggists, Dentists, Veterinarians and others discussed the proposed Act and after the fifth conference a draft was approved and recommended for adoption by all the states.
New York has a splendid record, it was one of the first four to adept this law in 1933. 29 states have approved this important and necessary legislation. One of the excellent provisions of the Uniform Narcotic Drug Law is the inclusion of marihuana (cannabis L.) as a narcotic drug with opium, morphine, heroin, cocaine and their derivatives.
The most popular name for cannabis in this country is marihuana. It is also known as hasheesh, Indian hemp, bhang, ganja, and it is often referred to in the underworld as muggles and reefers. The increasing use of marihuana, particularly among our young citizens, has extended to an alarming degree. Marihuana will grow in all our state it is a cultivated plant and is found growing wild in ditches, along the road-side and in open meadows. The narcotic purveyor removes the dried flowering tops from the marihuana plant, then this harvested crop is run through a coffee grinder or a similar pulverizing machine and the narcotic later stuffed into cigarette paper and purveyor on the streets for .10, .15 and .25 cents, depending upon the locality [ ]
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sales and the source of supplies.
Some of our most dastardly crimes have been committed under the influence of marihuana. Florida had but newly adopted the Uniform Narcotic Drug Act in 1933, when it had reason to invoke it with effective results. A young man who was an addict to marihuana cigarettes suddenly became berserk and killed 5 members of his family, during his trial he was asked the cause the cause of his homicidal urge and relied in effect that he had been smoking marihuana cigarettes for sometime and must have committed the crime during his delirium. There is another case last year that created national interest. The boy was 19 years of age, his father an eminent gentleman and his family of high social standing. This boy killed his dearest friend after an orgy of marihuana cigarette smoking.
These cigarettes are purveyed near race tracks, places of amusement, cheap dance halls, unsupervised billiard and pool parlors.
The narcotic syndicated peddler is rarely and addict. He isolates himself and often the mercenaries who do the street selling for him never have had any personal contact with the ‘so-called’ boss. The large peddler usually has a secret place where the narcotic drugs, morphine or heroin, are ‘cut’ and diluted, either with sugar or milk or some other non-narcotic element. The packages sold on the street are referred to as ‘toys’ and ‘docks’. Opium and cocaine derivatives may sell from $1.00, $2.00 to $3.00 for a few grains. The peddler is [ ] ruthless boss, who enjoys the comforts of life that accrue to him from the misery of the addicts to whom his illegal wares are vended.
How long does it take to make an addict? It depends upon the physical strength of the individual and his tolerance for the drug.
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[Rest of text is missing, but we believe that it can be found at the Anslinger collection at Pen-State University]
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