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Addiction and Opiates

Addiction and Opiates

CHAPTER 12 NEEDED

CHAPTER 12 NEEDED REFORMS dispensation-at cost of habit-forming drugs. With the profit motive gone, no effort would be made to encourage its use by private dispensers of narcotics, and the drug peddler would disappear. New addicts would be speedily discovered and through early treatment, some of these unfortunate victims might be saved from becoming hopelessly incurable. Drug addiction, like prostitution and like liquor, is not a police problem; it never has been and never can be solved by policemen. It is first and last a medical problem, and if there is a solution it will be discovered not by policemen, but by scientific and competently trained medical experts whose sole objective will be the reduction and possible eradication of this devastating appetite. There should be intelligent treatment of the incurables in outpatient clinics, hospitalization of those not too far gone to respond to therapeutic measures, and application of the prophylactic principles which medicine applies to all scourges of mankind.(1) Vollmer's proposal goes further than the plan proposed here, since he proposed federal dispensation at cost, probably under the auspices of the Public Health Service. It is possible that this sort of a plan would be necessary at first, but it is believed that in the long run most of the cases could and should be handled by private practitioners. If every addict in the United States became a doctor's patient the average case load would be increased by less than one per doctor. However, since addicts are at present concentrated in large cities, temporary clinics might have to be set up there to handle the immediate problem. As the addicts secured employment and bettered their economic and social status, these clinics would become less and less necessary, for the drug user would certainly prefer to patronize a private practitioner rather than to attend a public clinic. The net long-run effect would be, we believe, to reduce the visibility of the problem and to bring it under public control through the agency of the Public Health Service and of the medical profession Under this plan the drug addict would, in effect, be given the same status as the person who drinks alcohol. If the latter does not steal, destroy property, create public disturbances, assault someone, or otherwise violate the laws, be is left to his own private devices. Drinking is regarded as a question of private morality, in spite of the fact that drunken persons are in most respects more dangerous and are much more numerous than drug addicts. The proposal presented here is simply that addiction to drugs should be regarded like addiction to alcohol-as a private vice. If a drug addict steals, kills, or otherwise violates laws be should be arrested and punished, but be should not be punished simply because be uses drugs. Another advantage of the proposed change would be that the present brutal and unnecessarily cruel methods of handling addicts, to which Vollmer refers, would be eliminated. The addict would be handled by medical men as a patient; not by policemen as a pervert and a criminal. It would no longer be possible or necessary to use drug addicts as informers in order to enforce the law. In taking these steps the United States would not be venturing into an unknown field of dangerous experimentation, for the drug addict in virtually all European countries has been regarded and treated as a patient for many generations. The United States would by these measures conform to generally accepted standards of humanity and decency. There has been considerable publicity given to the federal hospitals which have been established in the United States by the Public Health Service to handle and study addicts.(2) It is true that they represent a step in advance for this country, but Europeans have Dever attempted to utilize the prison as a means of controlling addiction and have always placed their opiate addicts in the hands of doctors and nurses. The inmates of these hospitals are still prisoners "doing time." In this sense we are still behind European practice. Under the proposed plan the facilities of the Public Health Service and the Narcotics Bureau would continue to be useful. The narcotics farms could be used as hospitals for addicts or to administer cures to those seeking to free themselves from the habit The Narcotics Bureau could devote itself more fully to checking on the flow Of narcotics through the bands of registered dealers under the Harrison Act. There would also probably be a residual problem involving addicts who were professional criminals who would Dot conform to the new situation. There would also be the cocaine and marihuana problems to which narcotics agents could devote their energies. One of the effects of the proposed plan which would, in the long run, be of the greatest importance is that as the illegal traffic dwindled and as more and more addicts came to private physicians reliable information would become available concerning the numbers of addicts in each community. New cases would be detected quickly, and measures could be file:///I|/drugtext/local/library/books/adopiates/chapter12.htm[24-8-2010 14:23:33]

CHAPTER 12 NEEDED REFORMS taken to eliminate foci of infection. Under the present system very little reliable information of a statistical character is available and no one knows bow many addicts there are, where they are, or where the new cases come from. Arthur Woods, formerly New York Police Commissioner and international authority on the opium traffic, appraising the situation in the United States, states: Since the passing of the Federal Narcotic Act in 1914, actually thousands of addicts and small peddlers have gone into the Federal prisons, while with but few exceptions the "high financiers" of dope smuggling remain at large. In practice this state of affairs amounts to little more than prosecuting the victims of the traffic and permitting those who reap the large monetary benefits to go untouched.(3) Simple justice requires that this situation be corrected. The American people have had an experience with prohibition and from it they have learned that matters of private morality cannot be settled by legislation. The effects of prohibition on drug addiction are substantially the same as they were upon alcohol addiction. As in the case of the bootleg traffic in alcohol, the high financiers of the dope racket can be eliminated only by doing away with prohibition. It should, of course, not be assumed that any change in the method of handling the narcotics problem will at once or even ultimately eliminate all problems connected with addiction. Many difficult problems would remain, although the situation as a whole might be greatly improved. For example, if the changes recommended here were made, it is probable that some traffic in drugs would continue in the American underworld and that attempts ,would be made to sell these illicit drugs to addicts to supplement the supplies they were obtaining from medical sources or to enable persons not using the drug to start its use or resume its use. It would, of course, be impossible for illegal dealers to obtain the prices which they now can, and much of the financial incentive would be gone. Nevertheless, there would probably be a problem here and a task for the Narcotics Bureau. Other problems that would remain would be that of attempting to cure as many addicts as possible, and that of guarding against any spread of I the habit. 1. August Vollmer, The Police and Modern Society (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1936), pp. 117-1& 2. Howard Wbitman, "One UP on Narcotics," Colliers (Dec. 15, 1945), 1 16: 82, 86, 88--go. 3. Arthur Woods, Dangerous Drugs: The World Fight against illicit Traffic in Narcotics (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1931), p. 62. file:///I|/drugtext/local/library/books/adopiates/chapter12.htm[24-8-2010 14:23:33]

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