SOME INFO ABOUT THE 1950S DRUG SCENE. Does it matter today?
(researched because I have written a stage play about drug addiction in the 50s)
In 1952, a Special Committee on Narcotics of the Community Chest and Council of Greater Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, recommended after thorough study: "The Federal [Canadian] Government should be urged to modify the Opium and Narcotic Drug Act to permit the provinces to establish narcotic clinics where registered narcotic users could receive their minimum required dosages of drug." - Such dispensing clinics, the committee predicted, would "protect the life of the addict and support him as a useful member of society." It would also "within a reasonable time eliminate the illegal drug trade. . . . The operation of such clinics would not entail any reduction in the vigilance of law enforcement agencies," which would continue to be responsible for keeping narcotics out of reach of non-addicts.
An addict who shifts from black-market heroin to morphine by prescription moves into another world. Suppose, for example, that be has been paying $20 a day for 40 milligrams of heroin mixed with 360 milligrams of hazardous adulterants and contaminants. Armed with a prescription, he can walk into almost any neighborhood pharmacy and secure pure morphine, U.S.P., safely diluted in an appropriate vehicle, and sterilely packaged, at the full retail price of $5 per dram or less. He thus pays about five cents for 40 milligrams of morphine. If heroin were stocked in pharmacies, he could buy 40 milligrams of it, too, on prescription, for about a nickel - as British addicts do.
The question is obvious: Why shouldn't the addict be encouraged to secure his opiates legally, on prescription, in pure form, for a nickel a day, rather than be forced by federal and state laws to spend $20 per day in the heroin black market?
(NOTE* These figures are pre 1960s, it's more like $300. per day now. And the addicts get it by breaking into YOUR car, your house or your life)
In 1954, a California citizens' advisory committee to the Attorney General on crime prevention proposed that an addict certified as incurable by a disposition board should legally receive specified doses of narcotics and thereby remove said addict as a potential market for criminally or illegally secured narcotics.
Also in 1954, Dr. Edward E. Eggston, for the New York state delegation, brought to the annual convention of the American Medical Association a proposal that the AMA go on record as favoring "the establishment of narcotics clinics under the aegis of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics." The resolution did not pass.
In 1955, the Medical Society of Richmond County (Staten Island), New York, recommended the "establishment of narcotic clinics in large centers where the problem is acute." It suggested, "Suitable private physicians can care for the occasional addict in isolated areas .... The addict will receive his narcotics only at the clinic, hospital, or doctor's office so that he cannot resell them elsewhere."
Also in 1955, the New York Academy of Medicine proposed "taking the profit out of the illicit trade by furnishing drugs to addicts at low cost under federal control."
The academy recommended that "clinics be attached to general hospitals, whether federal, municipal, or voluntary, dispensing narcotics to addicts, open 24 hours daily, 7 days a week."
In 1956 the Council on Mental Health of the American Medical Association, while opposing the immediate establishment of substantial numbers of drug-dispensing clinics as urged the previous year by the New York Academy of Medicine, did suggest "the possibility of devising a limited experiment which would test directly the hypothesis that clinics would eliminate the illicit traffic and reduce addiction."
Also in 1956, the American Bar Association and the American Medical Association established a joint Committee on Narcotic Drugs, which recommended in its 1958 Interim Report:
(1) An Outpatient Experimental Clinic for the Treatment of Drug Addicts Although it is clear ... that the so-called clinic approach to drug addiction is the subject of much controversy, the joint Committee feels that the possibilities of trying some such outpatient facility, on a controlled experimental basis, should be explored, since it can make an invaluable contribution to our knowledge of how to deal with drug addicts in a community, rather than on an institutional basis. It has been suggested that the District of Columbia, being an exclusively federal jurisdiction and immediately accessible to both law enforcement and public health agencies, might be an advantageous locus for this experiment.
Have we progressed at all in the so-called War on Drugs?