A history of drugs and alcohol in the united states

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The purpose of this chapter was to review the history of drug use and its social control in the United States so that students could gain an improved and thorough understanding of today’s problems and policies. The pages above have reviewed major patterns of drug and alcohol use on the United States and the government’s efforts to control them. From this review, we have learned that no one factor can explain drug use patterns or the effort to control them. Instead, we now know that drug use and its control result from various cultural, social, public health, economic, and political influences. The fashion in which alcohol and drug problems are socially constructed also impacts social control efforts. This information is critically important for future policy-makers and educators in order to effectively address problems that arise in the future.

For example, Whyte (1979) published an important article on the points that consistently characterized the U.S. response to drug and alcohol problems. Reviewing them is a useful way to summarize the information presented above. Whyte calls them the “prohibitionist themes,” meaning they are tactics used to achieve total abstinence of substances deemed harmful and undesirable for the American public.

The first includes the association of a drug with a hated subgroup of the society or a foreign enemy. Table 2 indicates that this theme played a direct role in at least four of the six major pieces of drug control legislation, while the text above cited it as a factor in many other anti-drug campaigns. Since today’s student is tomorrow’s leader, he/she should remain conscious of the role prejudice and racism play in drug control and should work to prevent them from shaping our future.

The social construction of substance abuse in the U.S. contains two other powerful themes, including drugs being held primarily responsible for many problems in the culture ( i.e., crime, violence, and insanity) and the survival of the culture being dependent on the prohibition of the drug (Whyte 1979). The above text has conveyed that moral entrepreneurs often warned the American public that substance use would immobilize youth (the future of our society), stymy industry and free-market capitalism, and devastate important social institutions (e.g., religion and the family) that comprised the very fabric of our society. After reading this chapter, students should understand that social phenomena are inter-related in such a fundamental fashion that no single one of them can bare full responsibility for any social malady. The relationship of alcohol use to other problems arising from the Great Depression and widespread drug experimentation related to the civil rights and cultural revolution of the 1960s are two examples where blaming substance use for social problems would be highly inaccurate and irresponsible.

The next three chapters in this book explore further the multiple factors that influence drug use and abuse in our society. Later policy chapters further elaborate on current efforts at control, both from a domestic and international perspective. Therefore, the book will continue to demonstrate the utility of the sociological approach in informing us about the social roots of drug-related behaviors and there related social policy initiatives. Consequently, students must be able to critically evaluate the current situation– from all angles– and use the past to help promote a better future.

Website Recommendations
http://historyofalcoholanddrugs.typepad.com/alcohol_and_drugs_history/ -- official site for the Alcohol and Drugs History Society, which publishes the journal called The Social History of Alcohol and Drugs.

www.druglibrary.org online library with classic and modern texts on drug history in the U.S. and abroad.

www.erowid.org - clearing house with tons of biochemical, historical, legal, cultural, and social information for many types of drugs- licit and illicit.

www.dea.gov – the drug enforcement agency- responsibility of enforcing federal drug laws.

www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov – official executive office of drug policy for the United States.

www.drugsense.org - website with current facts and information about drug policy and its enforcement.

www.dpa.org – official site of the Drug Policy Alliance, the leading drug policy reform agency in the U.S. Go here for history and background information for more current drug policies.
Documentary (VHS/DVD) Recommendations
Hooked: Illegal Drugs and How they Got That Way. History Channel.

The Drug Years. Sundance Channel.

Frontline: Drug Wars. PBS.


Brecher, Edward M. 1972. The Consumers Union Report on Licit and Illicit Drugs.

California Campaign for New Drug Policies. 2002. “A Snapshot of the Nation’s Drug War Since 1989),” Santa Monica, CA: www.drugreform.org
Chadwick @ www.womenshistory.com
Chepesiuk, Ron. 1999. Hard Target: The United States War Against International Drug Trafficking. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland and Company.
Cherrington, E.H. 1920. The Evolution of Prohibition In The United States of America, Westerville, Ohio: American Issue Press.
Clark, M.1966. “LSD and the Drugs of the Mind.” Newsweek 9 May: 59-64.
Common Sense for Drug Policy – CSDP. 2002. Nixon Tapes Show Roots of Marijuana Prohibition: Misinformation, Culture Wars, and Prejudice. Washington, DC: Common Sense for Drug Policy.
Courtwright, David. 2001a. Dark Paradise: A History of Opiate Addiction in America. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Courtwright, David. 2001b. Forces of Nature: Drugs and the Making of the Modern World. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
http://www.samsha.govhttp://www.dawninfo.samsha.govDobyns, F. 1940. The Amazing Story of Repeal, Chicago: Willett, Clark & Co.
Fay, P.W. 1975. The Opium War, 1840–1842. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press.
Furnas, J. C. 1965. The Life and Times of the Late Demon Rum, New York City: Putnam.
Gitlin, Todd.1987. The Sixties. New York: Bantam Books.
Goff and Anderson 1994.
Grinspoon, Lester. 1997. Marijuana, the Forbidden Medicine. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Gusfield, J. R. 1963. The Symbolic Crusade, Urbana: University of Illinois Press.
Hendrix, Jimi. 1987. “If 6 Was 9.” Axis: Bold As Love. MCA Records.
Hu, T. 1950. The Liquor Tax in the U.S.: 1791-1947, New York City: Columbia University Press.
Internal Revenue Service 1921; 1966; 1970. Alcohol and Tobacco Summary Statistics, Washington, DC: Department of Treasury.

E, J. Kahn's book, The Big Drink: the Story of Coca-Cola (New York: Random House, 1960).

Johnston, L. D., O'Malley, P. M., & Bachman, J. G. (2003a). Monitoring the Future national survey results on drug use, 1975-2002. Volume I: Secondary school students (NIH Publication No. 03-5375). Bethesda, MD: National Institute on Drug Abuse, 520 pp.
Johnston, L. D., O'Malley, P. M., & Bachman, J. G. (2003b). Monitoring the Future national survey results on drug use, 1975-2002. Volume II: College students and adults ages 19-40 (NIH Publication No. 03-5376). Bethesda, MD: National Institute on Drug Abuse, 253 pp.
Lee, H. 1963. How Dry We Were: Prohibition Revisited, EngleWood Cliffs: Prentice Hall.
Ludlow FH. 1856. "The Apocalypse Of Hasheesh." Putnam's Monthly. Dec: 8(48).
Marx, Karl. 1992. The Communist Manifest. Oxford, NY: Oxford University Press.
Massing, Michael. 1998. The Fix. New York: Simon and Shuster.
Morgan, Patricia. 1978. “The Legislation of Drug Laws: Economic Crisis and Social Control,” Journal of Drug Issues, 8(1): 53-62.
Musto, David. 1999. The American Disease: Origins of Narcotic Control. 3rd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Odegard, P. H. 1928. Pressure Politics-The Story of The AntiSaloon League, New York City: Columbia University Press.

ONDCP. 2003. National Drug Control Strategy 2003. Washington, DC: The White House.
Oval Office Tapes. 1971. Meetings with Nixon, Haldeman, and Ehrlichman. Oval Office Conversations No. 500-17 (May 18) and 498-5 (May 13).
Rubin, Jerry. 1971. We Are Everywhere. New York: Harper and Row.
Siegal, H. and Inciardi. J. 1995. “A Brief History of Alcohol.” pp. 40-45 in J. Inciardi and K. McElrath (Eds.) The American Drug Scene. Los Angeles: Roxbury Publishing.
Sinclair, A. 1962. The Era of Excess, Boston: Little, Brown.
Sloman, L. 1979. Reefer Madness. New York: St. Martin’s Press.
Steinbeck, John IV. 1971. Marihuana Reconsidered. Cambridge: Harvard.

Terry, C. and Pellens. M. 1928. The Opium Problem.

Tillitt, M. H. 1932. The Price of Prohibition, New York City: Harcourt, Brace & Co.

Waley, A. 1958. The Opium War through Chinese Eyes, London: Allen and Unwin.

Wallbank et al 1992.
Whyte, William. 1979. “Themes in Chemical Prohibition.” Pp. Xx in Drugs in Perspective, Rockville, MD: National Institute on Drug Abuse.

President and Term

Point Person on Drugs/Alcohol Policy

Major Policy or Legislation


1901-1909 Theodore Roosevelt

Reverend Charles Henry Brent and Hamilton Wright

1. Shanghai Opium Commission of 1909

2. Smoking Opium Exclusion Act of 1909

1. An international fact-finding body (of 13 nations) on the properties and dangers of opiates that made policy recommendations.

2. Prohibition of the importation of smoking opium

1909-1913 William Taft

Reverend Charles Henry Brent and Hamilton Wright

1. International Conference on Opium of 1911

2. Webb-Kenyon Act of 1913

1. Continued international opiate control efforts with commitment by U.S. to adopt policies at home.

2. Bans on alcohol at state level, creating States with legal alcohol sales (wet) and those where sales were forbidden (dry).

1913-1921 Woodrow Wilson

Hamilton Wright

1. Harrison Narcotics Act of 1914

2. Volstead Act 1920 (Prohibition)

3. Narcotics Drugs Import and Export Act 1922

1. Taxation on opiates and cocaine distribution and manufacture which effectively made them illegal.

2. Ban of alcohol sale, distribution, and consumption from 1920-1933.

3. Controls on import and exports of narcotics to other nations, limited exports of opiates to nations with a proven shortage.

1921-1923 Warren Harding

Levi Nutt

Federal Narcotics Control Board of Prohibition Unit established in 1922

Housed at the Treasury Department as part of the Prohibition Unit, it was concerned with narcotics use and addicts. It defined regulations outlining the treatment of addiction permitted under the Harrison Act.

1923-1929 Calvin Coolidge

Levi Nutt

Porter Narcotic Farm Act 1929

Established two narcotics hospitals for addicts in Federal prisons (Fort Worth, Texas and Lexington, Kentucky) in response to addicts crowding local prisons.

1929-1933 Herbert Hoover

Harry J. Anslinger

1. Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN) in 1930

2. Uniform State Narcotics Act of 1932

1. Became an independent Federal agency, under jurisdiction of Justice Department, to enforce Harrison Act domestically and internationally.

2. Mandates States to adopt Federal narcotics laws and promotes collaboration between Feds and States in achieving narcotics control.

1933-1945 Franklin Roosevelt

Harry J. Anslinger

1. Marijuana Tax Act of 1937

2. FDA gets control over drug safety in 1938

3. Opium Poppy Control Act of 1942

1. Taxation on cannabis manufacture and distribution which effectively makes it illegal.

2. Redefined drugs by their effects on the body, establishes prescription drug classes

3. Prohibits growing or possessing poppy plants without a license.

1945-1953 Harry Truman

Harry J. Anslinger

1. Boggs Act of 1951

2. Created the Interdepartmental Committee on Narcotics in 1951

3. Durham-Humphrey Amendment 1951

1. Established first mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses.

2. A clearinghouse for information regarding narcotic traffic control and addiction treatment.

3. Established more specific guidelines for prescription drugs.

1953-1961 Dwight Eisenhower

Harry J. Anslinger

Narcotic Control Act of 1956 (Boggs-Daniels Act)

Increased penalties for the sale and possession or marijuana and heroin, including the death penalty for the sale of opium by someone over 18 years of age to someone under 18 years of age, also specified Federal role to be suppression of drug trafficking only.

1961-1963 John F. Kennedy

Harry J. Anslinger

President’s Advisory Commission on Narcotics and Drug Abuse (the Prettyman Commission of 1962).

Recommended dismantling the FBN, returning power to medical community to define medical use of a drug, treating addict,s and controlling the diversion of dangerous drugs from legal channels.

1963-1969 Lyndon B. Johnson

1. Community Mental Health Centers Act of 1963

2. Drug Abuse Control Amendments of 1965

3. Narcotic Addict Rehabilitation Act of 1966

1. Placed addiction under the rubric of mental illness

2. Established strict controls over amphetamines, barbiturates, LSD and other drugs

3. Allowed treatment as an alternative to prison for drug convictions

1969-1974 Richard Nixon

Jerome Jaffee

1. Comprehensive Substance Abuse Act of 1970

2. Drug Abuse Office and Treatment Act of 1972

3. Methadone Control Act of 1973

4. Heroin Trafficking Act of 1973

1. This piece of legislation replaced all previous existing federal drug laws, established the current scheduling of controlled substances, and created the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

2. Set up Federally funded programs for prevention and treatment

3. Established licensing regulations for those wishing to dispense methadone for opiate addiction.

4. Increased penalties for distribution of opiates.

1974-1977 Gerald Ford

Drug Abuse Treatment and Control Amendments of 1974, 1978.

Extensions of the 1972 act passed by Nixon, including creation of drug education programs at the Department of Education.

1977-1981 Jimmy Carter

Peter Bourne

1978 Alcohol and Drug Abuse Education Amendments

Extensions of the 1972 act passed by Nixon, including creation of drug education programs at the Department of Education.

1981-1989 Ronald Reagan

Carlton Turner

1. Drug Offenders Act of 1984

2. Analogue (Designer drug) Act of 1984

3. Crime Control Act of 1984

4. Anti Drug Abuse Act of 1986

5. Established national minimum drinking age of 21

6. Placed warning labels on all alcoholic containers by 1989

1. Sets up special programs for offenders and organizes Federal treatment effort

2. Enacted to deal with "designer" drugs, allowing immediate classification of a substance as a controlled substance.

3. increased dramatically Federal mandatory minimums for drug-related crime

4. a response to crack, massive new allocation of funds to fight the drug war– mos went to interdiction thus defining America’s current war on drugs strategy.

1989-1993 George H. Bush

William Bennett

Robert Martinez

1. Omnibus Drug Abuse Act of 1988

2. NIDA, NIMH and NIAAA become part of NIH and ADAMHA programs become part of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

1. Third law to expand mandatory minimums for drug offenses, including establishing sentencing differential for powder and crack cocaine. Creation of a drug-free America as a policy goal and establishment of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP and the Drug Czar) to set priorities, implement a national strategy, and certify federal drug-control budgets.

1993-2001 Bill Clinton

Lee Brown

General Barry McCaffrey

1. Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994

2. Comprehensive Methamphetamine Control Act of 1996

3. The Drug-Free Communities Act of 1997

4. The Media Campaign Act of 1998

5. Office of National Drug Control Policy Reauthorization Act of 1998

6. Personal Responsibility and Word Re-authorization Act of 1996.

1. Extended ONDCP's mission to assessing budgets and resources related to the National Drug Control Strategy, established specific reporting requirements for drug use, availability, consequences, and treatment

2. Restrictions on materials and equipment used to manufacture methamphetamine, increased penalties for methamphetamine manufacture and/or sale

3. Awards Federal grants to community coalitions reduce substance abuse among adolescents and strengthen collaboration among organizations and agencies for increased citizen participation in strategic planning to reduce substance use.

4. a national media campaign for the purpose of reducing and preventing drug abuse among young people.

5. Expanded ONDCP's mandate and authority and elevated it to Cabinet Status

6. Landmark welfare reform policy with two drug provisions: elimination of disability for addiction and possibility of denial of welfare for drug offenders.

2001-2004 George W. Bush

John P. Walters

1. Ecstacy Anti-Proliferation Act of 2000.

2. Vulnerability to Ecstacy Act of 2002 or more commonly referred to as the Rave Act.

3. Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act was enacted in 2003

1. Scheduled club drugs with the controlled substances act- by DEA, increased penalties for sale and use of club drugs.

2. Makes it a felony to provide a space for the purpose of illegal drug use, intended to cover the promoters of raves and other dance events. Rave act merely adjusts wording of so-called crack house law to cover temporary locations instead of fixed locations.

3. a new law in the fight against ecstasy and predatory drugs, including amphetamines.

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