20190926_04083966.pdf - squarely on physicians As Musto...

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squarely on physicians. As Musto notes in his classic The American Disease: “eventually the medical consensus was that morphine had been overused by the physician, addiction was a 29 substantial possibility, and addition of narcotics to patent medicines should be minimized or stopped” (5). Courtwright maintains that: The major reason for the rise, as well as the fall, in the rate of opiate addiction was the prevailing medical practice of the day. Prior to 1900 most addiction resulted from the activity of physicians; it was, to use a shorthand term, iatrogenic. Doctors liberally dispensed opium and morphine to their patients, many of whom were female and many of whom subsequently became addicted (loc. 85). The effects were striking: By 1900, America had developed a comparatively large addict population, perhaps 250,000, along with a fear of addiction and addicting drugs. This fear had certain elements which have been powerful enough to permit the most profoundly punitive methods to be employed in the fight against addicts and suppliers. For at least seventy years purveyors of these drugs for nonmedical uses have been branded “worse than murderers,” in that destroying the personality is worse than simply killing the body (Musto 5). th An article in the New York Times dated February 8 , 1914 shouts, in all caps: “NEGRO COCAINE "FIENDS" ARE A NEW SOUTHERN MENACE.” According to America’s newspaper of record, the by-line reports “Murder and Insanity Among Lower Class Blacks Because They Have Taken to “Sniffing” Since Deprived of Whisky by Prohibition.” The article even suggests that under the influence of this cocaine, “negro fiends” are made better marksmen and even rendered invulnerable to fatal wounds that would otherwise dispatch a non-fiend (Williams). 30 The Harrison Act of 1914 criminalized recreational use of opiates and left the discretion for its distribution to the physicians. Musto writes: “we thus oscillate from periods of drug tolerance to drug intolerance. Equilibrium is a state in which drugs, including alcohol, have rarely been found in the United States”. Further, he contends that “a strongly held tenet of critics of the Harrison Act [was] that the law simply turned respectable drug users into criminals” (x).
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  • Fall '19
  • Harry J. Anslinger

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