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TWENTY-SIX Drug-Abuse Control, 1965 PDF Print E-mail
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Books - The Drug Hang-Up
Written by A Fraser   

COMMISSIONER LARRICK did not give up, however. Periodically the Food and Drug Administration put out alarming new estimates, such as 819,000 pounds of barbiturates, worth $40 million, produced in 1959; more deaths from barbiturates than from any other poison, and a 670 per cent increase in such deaths in Los Angeles; 8 billion amphetamine tablets a year, with at least 50 per cent going into the illicit market . . . etc. ( Statements about production in this period were easy to puff because the two largest U.S. manufacturers of barbiturates and amphetamines refused to release any figures; and there is no doubt that a substantial flow of both these drugs was finding its way into uncontrolled channels via such perfectly legal devices as export to Canada or Mexico, purchase in those countries, and reimportation into the United States.)

Accidents—an airplane crash in which it was learned that the pilot had been taking tranquilizers, two trailer trucks in a multiple-vehicle melée on the New Jersey Turnpike where fourteen benzedrine tablets were found in one of the truck cabs—were widely publicized, and an "expert" estimate was launched by planting in the United Nations Bulletin on Narcotics a story to the effect that more than 5 million Americans were abusing barbiturates and other sedatives, stimulants, and tranquilizers. In 1960, domestic barbiturate production was officially reported as 852,000 pounds, which was translated into an estimate of 6 billion one-grain capsules, or thirty-three for every man, woman, and child in the country. In 1961 the story was that Americans had ingested 1.4 million pounds of tranquilizers, and it was claimed that tranquilizers were beginning to rival the barbiturates as suicide drugs.

The FDA early found an ally in Senator Thomas Dodd, whose Juvenile Delinquency Subcommittee commenced, in 1958, exploring all forces tending to undermine American youth—pornography, the unregulated sales of guns and other weapons, child abuse, and of course drugs. Dodd soon emerged as an outspoken expert, hammering at the idea that so-called dangerous drugs, unlike opiates and marijuana, were not confined to slum use but were affecting young people in high schools, on college campuses, and in wealthy suburban neighborhoods. He linked barbiturates and amphetamines as "hidden accomplices" with crimes of violence, accidents, and suicides, asserting that they contributed to bizarre sexual behavior among young people. He collected his own horrible cases: two teenagers burned to death in a brush fire that overtook their automobile after they had passed out from an overdose of barbiturates taken as part of a suicide pact; an eighteen-year-old boy who killed a friend at a "goof ball" party while they were joking with one another; three teenage lads who robbed and killed an elderly gentleman in Chicago while they were under the influence of barbiturates —allegedly because he was deaf and did not understand immediately that he was being held up. Apparently in the same case, or at least in the case of a similar old gentleman, a sixteen-year-old fired eleven shots into the body, and when asked why was reported to have answered, "The pills made us do it." A seventeen-year-old, his personality totally changed, according to the Dodd Subcommittee, by the use of Seconal, savagely slashed a cab driver to death in Los Angeles. And a young girl, allegedly under the influence of drugs, ran over her mother and dragged the body more than a mile under the car.

In 1961, Senator Dodd sponsored a series of bills to bring barbiturates and amphetamines under strict federal control, and in 1962 his Subcommittee held hearings in California and New York—which incidentally gave Governor Brown and Attorney General Mosk ( and Senator Keating, who was on the Subcommittee) an additional platform from which to urge the White House Conference.

But now momentarily the action shifts to another quarter: Senator Kefauver's Antitrust and Monopoly Subcommittee, battling the drug industry over prices and marketing practices, found not only that it was being out-maneuvered and outmuscled by drug-lobbying forces on Capitol Hill, but also that the FDA itself—and Commissioner Larrick—appeared to be aligned with the very interests they were supposed to be policing. In 1960-61 Larrick had named a Drug Subcommittee of his FDA Citizens Advisory Committee to counsel with him on drug matters, and had loaded it with drug-industry apologists. In the summer of 1962 this Committee issued a report, in its quasi-official status as a policy advisor, urging even more leniency toward the drug industry, to allow the drug interests, in effect, to police and regulate themselves.

So Kefauver turned his guns on the FDA and quickly found a vulnerable target. Dr. Henry Welsh, director of the agency's Division of Antibiotics, was discovered to have been paid nearly $300,000 as "honoraria" for various articles and reports, all from drug companies who were directly affected by decisions which Dr. Welsh controlled in his official capacity. When this broke, in 1962, FDA was badly hurt. Simultaneously, Senator Humphrey's Subcommittee on Reorganization and International Organizations attacked FDA's drug-testing practices, Larrick clumsily offended the Senator, and in the summer of 1962 Secretary Celebrezze began murmuring about pressures on him to accept Larrick's retirement. Then right in the midst of these difficulties the story of Dr. Frances Kelsey and thalidomide broke.

One result of the thalidomide scandal was, probably, to save Larrick's neck, for public shock at revelations about deformed babies threatened not only the Food and Drug Administration but the image of the New Frontier itself, so the White House stepped in and helped turn Dr. Kelsey into a national heroine to divert attention from the inexcusable derelictions of her division. Another result was passage of the Kefauver-Harris drug amendments of 1962, which substantially strengthened the hand of FDA in controlling drugs in terms of their safety and efficacy. And these interacting forces, plus the tragic death of movie idol Marilyn Monroe from an overdose of barbiturates, gave strong new impetus to FDA's drive to repress abuse of the so-called dangerous drugs. Larrick might come out looking like a public savior after all.

If I seem to be stressing too much the emphasis continually placed on the theme that misuse of amphetamines was causing large numbers of accidents on the highways, and particularly among truckers, bear with me; I am doing so because that theme has a final note which is remarkably revealing. In his message to Congress on consumer protection in 1962 President Kennedy said:

One problem meriting special attention deals with the growing abuse of non-narcotic drugs, including barbiturates and amphetamines. Society's gains will be illusory if we reduce the incidence of one kind of drug dependence, only to have new kinds of drugs substituted. The use of these drugs is increasing problems of abnormal and social behavior, highway accidents, juvenile delinquency, and broken homes. [Italics added.]

This set the tone of the White House Conference ( and if the wording seems vaguely familiar, look back to page 235 where I quoted the President's opening statement to that gathering). The conference, as we have already seen, gave much play to dangerous drugs, and resulted in the report by the President's Advisory Commission ( November 1963) calling for new repressive legislation.

Meanwhile, Larrick kept publicizing the heroic efforts of his inspectors against allegedly organized gangs of criminals who specialized in distributing amphetamine tablets to truckers through sinister networks of roadside stops along the nation's highways. The entertainment media commenced featuring episodes portraying a lunch-wagon cook rolling pills across a counter to some burly driver, whereupon the scene fades to a spectacular highway accident, the smoking wreckage of at least one monster truck, ambulances, flares, crowds, police, and trumpet flourishes.

By 1964, the gangbuster aspects of controlling these new categories had received so much emphasis that Senator Dodd revised and reintroduced his bill with new provisions authorizing FDA inspectors to carry guns, make arrests, and seize contraband drugs forthwith. The measure, ambitiously titled Psycho-toxic Drug Control Act of 1964, recited as congressional findings that illicit traffic was resulting in extensive sales of drugs to juveniles, who were thereupon led into delinquency and crime, and "to experiment with narcotic drugs, which experimentation may result in narcotic addiction," and further that the use of such drugs "often endangers safety on the highway." The Dodd bill was a hybrid, in that it imposed a pattern of controls similar to that of the Harrison Act, but did so under the federal interstate commerce powers and left administration and enforcement to the Food and Drug Administration. The Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare was authorized to add new drug categories on a finding that they had potential for abuse.

President Johnson, however, displayed little enthusiasm for thus creating a new federal enforcement domain in the province of "dangerous drugs" ( where the crime-busting responsibilities of Attorney General Kennedy might be extended and enlarged). So he executed a maneuver often resorted to when the chief executive wants to take a play away from Congress and dampen a legislative proposal: in July 1964, with appropriate fanfare, he called upon all existing agencies in the executive branch to work harder at remedying the situation:

Narcotic and other drug abuse is inflicting upon parts of the country enormous damage in human suffering, crime, and economic loss through thievery. The Federal Government, being responsible for the regulation of foreign and interstate commerce, bears a major responsibility in respect to the illegal traffic in drugs and the consequences of that traffic. That responsibility is shared by several departments of the Government and by a number of divisions, bureaus, etc., within them. I now direct those units to examine into their present procedures, to bring those procedures into maximum activity, and wherever necessary to put into effect additional programs of action aimed at major corrections in the conditions caused by drug abuse. I desire the full power of the Federal Government to be brought to bear upon three objectives: (1) The destruction of the illegal traffic in drugs, (2) the prevention of drug abuse, and (3) the cure and rehabilitation of victims of this traffic.

When such a move is made from the White House, spokesmen for the administration thereupon go to Capitol Hill and urge Congress to hold off with legislation on the ground that the matter is being studied and that better coordination of executive efforts may make additional legislation unnecessary. Accordingly, although every concerned agency in the executive branch had already expressed approval of the Dodd bill, official support from that quarter now slackened. The Senate passed the bill anyway, whereupon it was stopped in the House by a lobbying campaign on behalf of the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association and the American Medical Association, which was such a show of strength that the measure—now also lacking administration support—would probably have been abandoned altogether without an unexpected miracle.

But the miracle was forthcoming ( surrounded by a slight mystery, enduring to this day, as to whether Larrick or someone else in Washington originally promoted it). A CBS newsman named McMullen set up a mail-drop office in New York, printed some letterheads identifying himself as "McMullen Services," and succeeded in buying, from a dozen drug manufacturers, over a million barbiturate and amphetamine tablets, valued in retail drug prices at $50,000 and of an estimated worth on the black market of as much as $500,000—at a cost to McMullen Services of $628. When CBS broke this, against the background of juvenile victims and highway crashes, public excitement seethed and members of Congress crowded forward once again to call for tighter controls and a tough new federal law.

However, when the 89th Congress convened in January 1965, there had been another change, as has been remarked: former Attorney General Kennedy was now sitting in the upper house as Senator Kennedy, and this accounted for a shift in strategy by all concerned. One of President Johnson's first messages ( January 7, 1965) exhorted the lawmakers to rush through "legislation to bring the production and distribution of barbiturates, amphetamines, and other psychotoxic drugs under more effective control" and at the same time to give federal law-enforcement agencies "authority to seize counterfeit drugs at their source." A bill for this purpose—including the counterfeit provisions—had already been introduced, as H.R. 2, on January 4, the first day of the session, by Chairman Oren Harris of the House Interstate and Foreign Commerce Committee. Senator Dodd put in his bill again on the Senate side, with eight co-sponsors, including Senator Kennedy, but from the outset the action centered around H.R. 2 and was dominated and controlled by the House proceedings.

H.R. 2 was entitled Drug Abuse Control Amendments of 1965, and differed from the prior Dodd versions in a number of significant respects. It covered all "depressant and stimulant" drugs plus any other substance that the HEW Secretary found to have "a potential for abuse" on account of its depressant, stimulant, or hallucinogenic effects, thus giving the Secretary broadened authority. It commenced with a sweeping declaration of policy, including, of course, a reference to our old friends, the truck drivers:

Congress hereby finds and declares that there is a widespread illicit traffic in depressant and stimulant drugs moving in or otherwise affecting interstate commerce; that the use of such drugs when not under the supervision of a licensed practitioner, often endangers safety on the highways (without distinction of interstate and intrastate traffic thereon) and otherwise has become a threat to the public health and safety.

Although departing from the Harrison Act pattern by relying on Congress' powers over interstate commerce instead of the constitutional power to tax, H.R. 2 imposed a registration, inspection, and record-keeping pattern, covering everyone concerned with the controlled traffic, which closely paralleled the Harrison requirements. Penalties were lighter than for opium, cocaine, and marijuana offenses, and no mandatory minimums were provided, but mere possession without a license or prescription was made a federal crime, and medical practitioners were exempted in the same tricky phrasing that had given so much trouble in all the prior decades, i.e., "while acting in the course of their professional practice."

An effort was made to soften the impact of possession offenses somewhat by placing a special burden on the government to prove that the possession in question was not merely for personal use of the possessor or some other member of his household. The penalty for possession was a maximum of $1,000 or one year's imprisonment, unless the offense was committed "with intent to defraud or mislead" or unless the offender had been convicted previously, in which event the maximums jumped to $10,000 and three years.

The powers of FDA inspectors were increased substantially more under H.R. 2 than in the Dodd version. Besides being authorized to carry firearms, serve warrants, seize contraband drugs and everything related to their production forthwith, and in certain circumstances to arrest without warrants, they were to be brought under the special protections extended by the Federal Criminal Code to U.S. marshals, FBI agents, and other federal officers primarily engaged in criminal-law enforcement activities.

But the most important innovation was the quite new—and more than slightly irrelevant—section inserted into H.R. 2 to deal with counterfeit drugs. One reason this section turned up in the bill is obvious: the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association, backed by the AMA, had shown enough power in the House of Representatives the year before to kill Senator Dodd's bill with ease, and it was plain that legislation like H.R. 2 would have little chance of passing if it were not somehow given the blessing of these powerful drug and medical lobbies. The counterfeit provision (first publicly referred to in President Johnson's message of January 7, 1965) was the price of this blessing. But it was also slightly more, which leads us into a diversionary story going all the way back to 1962 and the ill-fated Bay of Pigs expedition.

First, let there be no doubt about how much this provision really gave the drug industry. Marketing proprietary drugs and compounds which sometimes cost only pennies to produce and yet are priced in dollars, the drug houses were (and are) uniquely vulnerable to competitors who produce perfectly pure and wholesome equivalents but usurp their brand names or otherwise break into their monopolies. The drug lobby had fought with desperate energy—and total success—to avoid any semblance of a requirement that manufacturers disclose production costs or pricing practices in connection with the Kef auverHarris Amendments, but they were still concerned about the competitive challenge of counterfeiters, especially because ordinary trade-infringement litigation would require exposure of their mark-up practices. Obviously if they could make drug counterfeiting a criminal offense and turn policing over to the FDA or the Department of Justice, they would have a more satisfying solution to this problem than anything that had ever been accorded to anyone else in the whole history of private enterprise in America.

And that, as it turned out, is what they got. Even luck was on their side: it is unlikely that if the two arch-enemies of the drug monopolists had remained in their Senate seats the counterfeit provision of H.R. 2 would have escaped bitter attack, and it is quite possible that the provision might have been lost; but Senator Humphrey had been moved out of the action by his election as Vice President, and Senator Kefauver had died suddenly in the summer of 1963.

Even then it is not likely that other critics of the drug industry could have been so meekly silenced if the concession had been no more than a sop for passage of the bill. But the pharmaceutical houses had another claim for this great favor from their government as well, and that is where the Bay of Pigs comes into the narrative.

Early in the spring of 1961, 1,200 members of the U.S.-backed assault force that came to such grief in the attempted landing in Cuba were made prisoners by Fidel Castro. The then-brandnew Kennedy administration was of course painfully embarrassed. And when Castro opened negotiations for their release on payment .of a suitable ransom, the administration and Congress were caught together in a position which was politically vulnerable from both sides: they could not heartlessly leave the victims of the action rotting in Cuban prisons if there was any way to secure their release, yet they could not appear to be "soft" with Castro, or to waste taxpayers' money in paying any such humiliating tribute to him. But after delicate and protracted negotiations the problem was solved by a remarkable compromise in which Castro agreed to accept as ransom some $50 million worth of drugs and medical supplies, which were to be donated gratis by U.S. drug manufacturers.

It has been speculated that because part of the deal was allowing the manufacturers to take credit for the donations as tax-deductible gifts ( at wholesale prices, without disclosure of their costs), they may well have made awesome profits out of their patriotism and philanthropy. But be that as it may, by thus getting everyone off the spot they put themselves in a position to ask for a whopping return favor from leaders in both branches of government whose faces they had so neatly saved.

Their price was the counterfeit drug ban.

When H.R. 2 was introduced it contained the following recital:

The Congress finds and declares that there is a substantial traffic in counterfeit drugs simulating the brand or other identifying mark or device of the manufacturer of the genuine article; that such traffic poses a serious hazard to the health of innocent consumers of such drugs because of the lack of proper qualifications, facilities, and manufacturing controls on the part of the counterfeiter, whose operations are clandestine; that . . . the controls for the suppression of the traffic in such drugs are inadequate . . . and that these factors require enactment of additional controls with respect to such drugs without regard to their interstate or intrastate origins.

And the controls it imposed were controls indeed! Nowhere else had criminal sanctions ever been attached directly to mere trade infringements. If, for example, some ambitious manufacturer of film should start putting out his product in a familiar-looking yellow box with a famous word like K-d-k on it, the Eastman Company would have to hire lawyers, commence a civil proceeding, and be content—at most—with an injunction plus whatever damages could be shown to have been caused directly by the infringement of its rights ( at the end of which proceedings the infringer might risk wrist-tap punishment if he defied the injunction).

But if the same eager manufacturer decided instead to put out some perfectly pure and efficacious aspirin with a word like B-y-r impressed on the tablets, by the terms of H.R. 2 as it became law he has committed a federal crime for which he can be fined ( if he intended to defraud or mislead) $10,000 and imprisoned three years; the gun-toting drug inspectors will go out and seize all his product wherever they can find it; and even the plant and equipment he has used for the manufacture of the aspirin may be condemned and forfeited to the United States. Small wonder, then, that the drug lobbyists turned up this time working right along with the proponents of H.R. 2—though even so, an unsuccessful attempt was made to tie the Secretary's hands by an amendment which would have required him to rely on an industry advisory committee, endowed with real powers and following elaborate procedures to facilitate foot-dragging, in the classification of new drugs before they could be added to the dangerous category.

H.R. 2 was rushed to hearings in record time. Supporting testimony reached crescendos of alarm about the new dangers to American youth and the sinister nature of the newly discovered illicit traffic. But I forgo further repetitions of these themes, since they sound strikingly like identical outcries heard at intervals ever since 1918, and also since this is the long-awaited point where the death-on-the-highway catechism had, momentarily at least, its tragi-comic comeuppance.

When the hearings were well along, a spokesman for the American Trucking Association asked to testify, and after carefully disclaiming that his industry had any intention of questioning the bill as such, he explained somewhat diffidently: "We have a problem . . . the use of amphetamines by truck drivers. In our experience we have found it to be a health problem far more than a safety problem." Then he gave the Committee some interesting "hard" data:

The Chairman. You say you do have a problem. From your reports of industry, are you in a position to indicate whether the reports that we get that the truckdrivers use, to a very large extent, these stimulant drugs is correct?

Mr. Fort. We have made very serious attempts to find out, Mr. Chairman. Specifically, we wrote in a formal inquiry to the Interstate Commerce Commission last year in preparation for our Senate testimony on a similar bill then, and asked the ICC whether they could specify how many amphetamine-connected truck accidents had occurred in the past 10 years.

The Commission Chairman replied that they had seven years' records and that of the 7 years' records, with approximately 25,000 truck accident reports being filed every year, they felt that they had 13 provable accidents involving amphetamines, and 40 in which amphetamines were indicated to be involved.

So it was, in effect, 13 out of 25,000 a year over a 7-year period. They had 13 in which they felt there were provable connections between amphetamines and the accident. This is the only statistic we have been able to arrive at.

Moreover, when pressed on the point, this witness put into the record summaries of the reports on each of the thirteen alleged drug cases ( actually fourteen), and it turned out that in nine the record only showed some kind of pill to have been found in the possession of a driver involved in an accident. So the net number in which actual drug intoxication was so much as observed faded away to five in that seven-year period ( and among official reports of 175,000 accidents).

This glimpse of reality had little effect, however. Chairman Harris and his Committee challenged the witness before he left the stand:

The Chairman. You may file your statement, Mr. Fort, with the Committee. The Committee will be glad to consider it. However, from your brief presentation today, I understand that you are generally in accord with the proposed bill that is before you?

Mr. Fort. That is correct sir. . . .

Mr. Younger. That is a statement that is hard to understand, Mr. Fort, because if it is a health problem and involves the health of the driver, certainly it would have something to do with the accidents. If he is a sick man, he probably cannot ma& as sharply as a well man.

Mr. Fort. The use of amphetamines as I understand them, sir, doesn't make a person sick in the accepted sense of the word, in that it dulls his reactions or facilities. In fact, their intended use, as I understand them medically, is just the opposite. They are designed to sharpen a person's reaction for a period.

Mr. Younger. Then why do you say it is a health problem?

Mr. Fort. Continued use of them is very bad for the health, I am told.

Mr. Pickle. My comment, more than a question, is that it is surprising to me that, if this is a health problem, that you would say that the statistics are exaggerated or that your industry as such has not done something concretely to find out the source of these pills.

On the same day that this testimony was given, the Interstate Commerce Commission performed an agile kowtow by getting out an open letter to the Harris Committee ( holding the H.R. 2 hearings, but which happened also to have primary Congressional jurisdiction over the ICC):

Dear Chairman Harris:

In response to your request . . . I am authorized to submit the following comments with respect to H.R. 2 on behalf of the Commission's Committee on Legislation. . . .

In the discharge of [its] duty the Commission has investigated many serious accidents involving motor carriers and also has inspected numerous motor carriers while enroute. These investigations and inspections reveal that on numerous occasions amphetamine drugs have been found in the possession of truck drivers. I know you are aware how difficult it is to establish conclusive proof that drugs have been used by commercial drivers involved in accidents. Rarely is it possible for the Commission to be at the scene of an accident or to initiate an investigation until sometime after an accident has occurred. We necessarily depend heavily on the investigation made at the scene by State and local officers, many of whom may not be aware of the significance of the problem. Despite these limitations, our experience convinces us that the use of such drugs by drivers of motor carriers is extensive and is frequently the cause of accidents which result in serious injury or death.

The Commission is convinced that the use of stimulant and depressant drugs by drivers of motor carriers is increasing, and that misuse of these drugs creates a grave threat to highway safety. We believe that there is an urgent need for more effective control over the manufacture and distribution of such drugs.

And the stream of testimony by members anxious to have their full share of headline credit continued:

Almost daily, Mr. Chairman, and in almost any newspaper we can read about the devastating effects of the easy availability of barbiturates, amphetamines, and other dangerous drugs—crimes of violence and depravity, widespread delinquency among the young, increased traffic accidents, the graduation into addiction to the hard narcotics, the ruined lives of countless individuals, the misery and heartbreak and dislocation of innocent and helpless families. The evidence is overwhelming. Local law enforcement agencies in my own State and in other highly populated areas of the country report an alarming spread in the abuse of the stimulant and depressant drugs, especially among teenagers and in middle and upper-middle-class neighborhoods where drug addiction previously has not been a major problem. . . .

I can testify from firsthand knowledge of the alarming extent of the use of these dangerous drugs by young people in my own area of northern New Jersey. There have been a number of tragic cases which substantiate the findings of Senator Dodd's subcommittee that the use of these drugs is more and more prevalent among the so-called white-collar youths who have never had prior delinquency or criminal records. The traffic in these drugs is heavier than ever, and vigorous action must be taken to prevent the further toll in ruined lives and serious crime. . . .

I greatly appreciate your giving me this opportunity because I am interested in this type of legislation, and I consider it of vital importance—vital in the literal sense that our lives are in danger from the continued widespread illicit traffic in barbiturates, amphetamines, and the related central nervous system depressant or stimulant drugs. We know that many of the head-on crashes on our super-highways, where a car or truck will suddenly careen across the median strip and plow into a car going in the other direction, wiping out entire families, can be attributed to more than just fatigue on the part of one of the drivers. As the work of the Food and Drug Administration has demonstrated, illicit sales of the so-called pep pills at highway stops are so common that the use of such drugs constitutes a real and present danger to everyone who ventures out on a highway. . . .

Irrepressible Chairman Harris had the last word: "We had testimony last week from both the Commission and a representative of the American Trucking Association that such occurrénces were rather rampant all over the country."
The House Committee rushed out a favorable report on H.R. 2, the House passed it in record time (402 to 0) with little debate, and the Senate followed precipitously. No further hearings were held in the upper chamber, the reporting committee merely offering generalities about drug abuse and juvenile delinquency, drug abuse and the rising crime rate, and of course drug abuse which "has contributed to the rising accidents on the highways." The Senate acted in June 1965 without dissent, in a final flurry of oratory:

Today, the dangerous drugs are popular among people in all walks of life, ranging from truck drivers to students to suburban housewives. But they have made their greatest impact in the ranks of our teenage population. These white-collar youths have taken to these drugs by the tens of thousands. And the number increases every year. . . .

The dope fiend was a myth in the past, but it is becoming a real threat today in the person of the habitual user of dangerous drugs.

The addicted sex fiend was a myth as related to the sexually passive user of opiates, but this type of deviate is becoming a reality among the young people hooked on the amphetamine and barbiturate drugs. . . .

Thus, we are faced today with a crop of crippled people in the most vital productive segment of our population and they are helping to mutilate and undermine our society and our most basic standards of behavior.

Signing the bill, on July 15, 1965, President Johnson said: "We know all too well that racketeers in this field are making easy victims of many of our finest young people. The Congress hopes, and I hope, that this Act will put a stop to such vicious business."

There were those who thought when this law first took effect that it might be a step in the right direction at least to the extent that nominally the Food and Drug Administration in the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare was a science-oriented agency, not as narrowly devoted to law-enforcement as Anslinger's Narcotics Bureau ( then being run along the same lines by his successor Commissioner Giordano). But it soon became apparent that this was not to be the new direction. Commissioner Larrick began recruiting gun-slinging agents, including a substantial number pirated from Giordano, and tough regulations were promulgated, with emphasis on the new order of things in which everyone who did not carefully toe the line risked prison. FDA district directors went about warning audiences of affected persons:

It is now a criminal offense under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act to fail to prepare or obtain, and maintain, complete and accurate records as required by Section 511(d) and it is also a criminal offense to refuse to permit access to or copying of any records required by that section. In addition, it is interesting to note that any drugs with respect to which adequate records have not been prepared, obtained, or maintained are subject to seizure. Any equipment used in the manufacture, compounding, or processing of such drugs is also subject to seizure if the violation was committed by the manufacturer, compounder, or processor.

Steps were soon taken to add sixteen drugs other than amphetamines and barbiturates to the controlled category, including not only LSD and several chemically produced synthetics, but also mescaline and peyote, "except when used in bona fide religious ceremonies of the Native American Church."

Some of the FDA medical people, directed to beat the drums for the new Act, hedged a little. Consider, for instance, this from an FDA doctor to a group of student personnel administrators:

I would guess that the undergraduate student is likely to use stimulants probably about the time of final examinations. . . .

There is no scientific evidence indicating that this type of usage is seriously harmful to the subject's health or level of performance if it is not carried to an extreme. On the other hand, the use of sedatives or stimulants to augment the pleasure-producing effects of alcohol, such as might occur at an unsupervised social gathering, could lead to automobile accidents, or impulsive sexual assaults. Incidents such as these are not documented in the scientific literature, and one must depend largely upon rumor and lay reporting to gain some insight into this aspect of the drug problem.

But the agency itself was not troubled by faint-heartedness. In a widely circulated 1965 Fact Sheet it trumpeted its claims:

Abuse of drugs has become one of the major health and social problems of our times. The non-medical use of certain drugs is contributing to a rising death toll on the highways, juvenile delinquency, violent and bizarre crimes, suicides and other abnormal and antisocial behavior. . . .

The traffic in heroin and other narcotics is being overshadowed by the peddling of barbiturates, amphetamines, and other depressant and stimulant drugs, such as LSD-25 and some tranquilizers. There is evidence that such traffic has become an even more serious problem than the narcotics evil. . . . Organized rings bootleg barbiturate and amphetamine drugs on a large scale. Some of these rings cover many states and deal in millions of tablets and capsules. . .

Growing abuse of drugs by teen-agers is one of the most tragic and disturbing aspects of the entire drug abuse problem.

FDA speech kits, prepared for use by its inspectors before school and civic groups and anyone else who would listen, spread the alarming word:

Mr.      Mrs.      has told you what I'm going to talk about (today) (tonight). There you see it on the heading of the exhibit—"The Drug Habit: Big Problem."

Perhaps your immediate reaction was "problem? to whom? Oh, maybe in some distant, unhappy places! But not here in our (town) (city) (school)! Certainly not to our children."

Are you sure? Perhaps the parents of two West Virginia boys I want to tell you about felt as you do—safe from the drug abuse problem. Yet in 1964 these boys, 18 and 21 years old, began a crime spree that took them across five states and ended with their being sentenced to die in the electric chair. They had been using amphetamines continuously for three months prior to their crime spree. . . .

In February, 1965, three youths, two aged 16 and one 17, assaulted a 66-year-old man on a Chicago street and fired eleven bullets into his body. The motive was robbery. They found $11.

When apprehended, they admitted being under the influence of barbiturates. They explained that the money was needed to buy more pills.

These are the kind of problems I'm going to talk about (today) ( tonight). Not narcotic addiction. That we hear a great deal about. We hear less about another form of the drug problem—the abuse and misuse of the stimulant and depressant drugs—the amphetamines and the barbiturates. . . . Even though you may have heard less about it, this problem is even more widespread than narcotics addiction and just as tragic in many instances. . . .

Some truck drivers have used them to stay awake on long night hauls, although this is forbidden by commercial trucking firms. . . . Tragic highway accidents have followed their use. . . . The concern of many parents is expressed strongly in a letter written recently by a worried mother who stated, in part: "I am the mother of two little girls and the thought of sending my children to college, after doing my best to raise them decently, only to have them constantly exposed to drugs that undermine logic, morals, intelligence and health, is absolutely terrifying." . . .

[Photo caption] Truck stops and bars are prime sources of the illegal sale of these pills and FDA has had to use undercover agents posing as truck drivers in the detection and prosecution of peddlers. This picture portrays the story of an FDA inspector who is checking on some of the 3,000 Bennies he bought from the pill pusher, e ntly before the arrest was made.

[Photo caption] In this accident, a tractor-trailer had crossed over the double white lines. The trailer slammed into an oncoming post office truck. Drivers of both vehicles were killed instantly. Three workers sorting mail in the postal van were also killed. Total number dead-5. Bennies were found in the stomach contents of the tractor-trailer driver and more tablets were found in the wreckage of his cab.

[Photo caption] After too many Bennies, you begin to see things that aren't there, and often you don't see what really is there; this is a sample of what can happen. This driver, trapped in his cab, ran into a freight car. Two hours after this picture was taken, he died—it took almost two hours to cut him out of the cab. The autopsy showed that he had taken more than a dozen Bennies. . . .

This exhibit does not show all the consequences of drug abuse. Other results are seen in terms of crime, delinquency, school dropouts, disruptive family quarrels, inability to hold a job, broken health, progression to marijuana and hard narcotics, and ultimately perhaps confinement to a hospital or mental institution.

In the bootstrap pattern we saw half a century earlier when the Prohibition Unit launched its war on drug users, Commissioner Larrick soon began claiming that the effectiveness of his agents was raising the black-market prices of dangerous drugs so much that the illicit traffic was obviously attracting more predatory peddlers. Result? Why, FDA would need larger appropriations, more manpower to make more arrests, and tough enforcement policies to deal with "big-time criminals."

But Larrick was personally riding for a fall. His resignation was accepted at the end of 1965, and he passed into retirement just before the new Drug Abuse Amendments took effect.

 

Our valuable member A Fraser has been with us since Tuesday, 21 February 2012.

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