Schaffer Library of Drug Policy

A slightly hopeful postscript

Consumers Union Report on Licit and Illicit Drugs - Table of Contents
Nineteenth-century America a dope fiend's paradise
Opiates for pain relief - for tranquilization - and for pleasure
What kinds of people used opiates?
Effects of opium - morphine - and heroin on addicts
Some eminent narcotics addicts
Opium Smoking Is Outlawed
The Pure Food and Drugs Act
The Harrison Narcotic Act (1914)
Tightening up the Harrison Act
Why our narcotics laws have failed: (1) Heroin is an addicting drug
Why our narcotics laws have failed: (2) The economics of the black market
The heroin overdose mystery and other occupational hazards of heroin addiction
Supplying heroin legally to addicts
Enter methadone maintenance
How well does methadone maintenance work?
Methadone side effects
Why methadone maintenance works
Methadone maintenance spreads
The future of methadone maintenance
Heroin on the youth drug scene - and in Vietnam
Caffeine - Early History
Caffeine - Recent Findings
The case of Dr. Sigmund Freud
Nicotine as an addicting drug
Cigarettes - and the 1964 report of the Surgeon General's Advisory Committee
A program for the future
The barbiturates for sleep and for sedation
Alcohol and barbiturates: two ways of getting drunk
Popularizing the barbiturates as thrill pills
The nonbarbiturate sedatives and the minor tranquilizers
Should alcohol be prohibited?
Why alcohol should not be prohibited
Coca leaves
The amphetamines
Enter the speed freak
How speed was popularized
The Swedish Experience
Should the Amphetamines Be Prohibited?
Back to cocaine again
A slightly hopeful postscript
The historical antecedents of glue-sniffing
How To Launch a Nationwide Drug Menace
Early use of LSD-like drugs
LSD is discovered
LSD and psychotherapy
Hazards of LSD pyschotherapy
Early nontherapeutic use of LSD
How LSD was popularized - 1962-1969
How the hazards of LSD were augmented - 1962-1969
LSD today: The search for a rational perspective
Marijuana in the Old World
Marijuana in the New World
Marijuana and Alcohol Prohibition
Marijuana is outlawed
America Discovers Marijuana
Can marijuana replace alcohol?
The 1969 marijuana shortage and Operation Intercept
The Le Dain Commission Report
Scope of drug use
Prescription - over-the-counter - and black-market drugs
The Haight-Ashbury - its predecessors and its satellites
Why a youth drug scene?
First steps toward a solution: innovative approaches by indigenous institutions
Alternatives to the drug experience
Emergence from the drug scene
Learning from past mistakes: six caveats
Policy issues and recommendations
A Last Word
Permission to quote
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Consumers Union Report on Licit and Illicit Drugs

The Consumers Union Report on Licit and Illicit Drugs

by Edward M. Brecher and the Editors of Consumer Reports Magazine, 1972

Chapter 42. A slightly hopeful postscript

While law enforcement serves mainly to raise prices and thus attract additional black-market entrepreneurs rather than to curb consumption, and while antidrug propaganda campaigns have helped to popularize drugs like the amphetamines more than to discourage their use, the current outlook is not altogether hopeless. Progress is actually being made against the "speed freak" phenomenon in its original home and major citadel, California–– and no doubt elsewhere as well.

California observers of the "youth drug scene" (see Part IX) report that  fewer young people are being attracted to speed. There is nothing mysterious about this. New arrivals on the youth drug scene look at the speed freaks, the acid (LSD) droppers, the grass (marijuana) smokers, and decide to stick with acid and grass. They don't want to become like the speed freaks. The speed-freak phenomenon is in this respect self-limiting.

Young drug users need not rely solely on their own observations, moreover, for throughout the youth drug scene today there are "indigenous institutions," such as free clinics and "hot lines," devoted to helping them. These institutions, which will be discussed at length in Part IX, are not trying to stamp out illicit drug use. Instead, most of them are trying to  minimize the damage done by drugs, both licit and illicit. Thus, instead of railing against marijuana, they are pointing out to drug novices just what happens to the speed freak.

Unlike other warnings against drugs, the comments of these indigenous institutions ring true to young people. One reason is that they are true; youthful recruits to the drug scene can confirm what they are told merely by looking around them at the drug scene's speed freaks. Another reason is that the indigenous institutions do not destroy their own credibility with dire warnings against marijuana–– warnings that arc not confirmed when young people look around them. Finally, the indigenous institutions are dedicated, and are seen to be dedicated, to helping young drug users rather than to repressing them. What they say need not be discounted by the young. As a result of the efforts of these indigenous institutions, and of young drug users' own observations, the number of new users recruited to speed–– the mainlining of amphetamines in large dosesappears to be dropping. The drug scene itself, in short, is beginning to curb speed mainlining after the United States Bureau of Customs, the United States Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, the Food and Drug Administration, and nationwide propaganda efforts have failed.

A second factor in curbing the "speed freak" phenomenon is reminiscent of Dr. W. S. Halsted, who cured himself of his cocaine addiction–– a close parallel of speed addiction–– by going on morphine and thus salvaging his surgical career (see Chapter 5). California speed freaks in large number are similarly deserting speed for heroin. This reduction in the number of speed freaks spreading the speed gospel also tends to curb the recruitment of new speed freaks. If these trends continue, the speed freak may in the not too distant future be merely a historical oddity–– unless, of course, a new wave of antispeed propaganda alerts a new generation of young people who have never seen a speed freak, and a new wave of speed mainlining is triggered.

The future of the ex-speed freaks who convert to heroin depends on the future of heroin addicts generally. If we leave them at the mercy of the American black market, the high prices and adulterants will ruin and perhaps kill them. But this, as we saw in Part I, is an avoidable outcome if society decides to avoid it.

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