• U.S.

Medicine: Drug Addicts

3 minute read

Dope fiends are commonly pictured lying stupefied in Chinese doss houses. Few persons know that in 1924 one out of every thousand U. S. citizens was addicted to narcotics, that in 14 years Federal prohibition of narcotics has reduced the figure by an estimated 80%.

The U. S. is the only country in the world which takes public responsibility for its drug addicts. Last fortnight Surgeon General Thomas Parran officially opened the second U. S. narcotic farm, a group of handsome Spanish-mission style buildings erected on 1,400 acres of lonely clay plateau four miles southeast of Fort Worth, Texas. Several days later Dr. Michael James Pescor of the Public Health Service issued a report on the activities of the original farm, which sprawls over 1,050 acres of rolling blue grass country near Lexington, Ky.

The Lexington Hospital, opened in May 1935, is managed by Dr. Walter Lewis Treadway, accommodates 1,000 patients. Most of them are prisoners and parolees who have been sentenced to the farm. But there is a limited number of voluntary patients who are chosen directly by the Surgeon General. Rehabilitation is mainly psychological, based on the principle of “sympathetic treatment,” for practically all elaborate physical “cures” are either useless or positively harmful. Only method which has given good results is a rapid reduction over four to ten days of the amount of narcotics the addict is accustomed to take (known to addicts as the “iron-cure”). Restlessness is overcome by several ten-minute warm baths a day. This treatment reduces the addict’s excruciating withdrawal pains. Patients in Lexington engage in various occupations on the farm, are allowed a considerable amount of freedom around the grounds.

Practically the same type of treatment will be tried in Fort Worth, which will be directed by Dr. William Frederick Ossenfort and accommodate 1,000 men. But in spite of modern treatment and exhaustive psychological analyses, few addicts ever recover. Other interesting facts released by the Public Health Service:

>Most addicts start using drugs in their late twenties, but addiction may occur at any age. Physicians frankly admit they are stumped by the cause of addiction, generally attribute it to a desire for excitement. Relatively few persons have become addicted through use of medicines for relief of pain.

Morphine is the favorite drug of addicts. Next in popularity are opium-smoking (“rolling the log”) and heroin. Cocaine is not so widely used as formerly.

>Drug addiction does not lead to perpetration of violent crimes. Said Dr. Lawrence Kolb, top man in the field: “Both heroin and morphine in large doses change drunken, fighting psychopaths into sober, cowardly, nonaggressive idlers. . . .” High cost of bootleg drugs, however, practically forces addicts of small incomes to resort to sneak thievery (“rooting on the derrick”).

>Although most of them are incurable, less than 20% of addicts admitted to the Lexington Hospital had a really intense craving for narcotics. Reason: bootleg narcotics are not only expensive, but highly adulterated (“cut”).

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