Re: The War on Drugs

Michel J Martin (
Fri, 19 Jan 1996 14:45:10 -0500

To drieux's question about the claim in the 60s that marijuana use led to
heroin addiction, there were a number of physicians and researchers who
made the claim, but there were also a number of scholars and journalists
who pointed out the flawed statistical deduction required to come to such
a conclusion.

Hugh Downs of the NBC "Today" Show was the first, so far as I can tell
(anyone know otherwise?), to add to the figures on marijuana use among
heroin addicts that almost 100% started on milk. His statement from
November 1968 is as follows:

Most of the evidence unfolded on my television programs appears
to point to one immense danger: since young people are particularly
sensitive to truth and since for over 30 years patently exaggerated myths
about marijuana have been circulated by an establishment toward which
many of the young already feel rebellious, great harm has been done
through the destruction of credibility ... I did comment, on marijuana
being the first step to heroin addiction, `In one clinic 70 percent of
the heroin addicts had started on marijuana, 90 percent started on
alcohol and close to 100 percent on milk. You can always find something
a group of people have in common.'"

The clinic which he referred to may have been the federal government
funded Addiction Research Center Health Service hospital in Lexington,
Kentucky where, according to Gene Haislip of the Bureau of Narcotics: "Of
2,213 narcotic addicts examined at the hospital, 70.4 percent had used
marijuana prior to their addiction. It is tru that not all persons who
ever smoked a marijuana cigarette have gone on to use of heroin, but a
large majority of addicts began their drug taking with marijuana."

For further information about the hippie view of such reports, see
Timothy Miller THE HIPPIES AND AMERICAN VALUES (Knoxville: University of
Tennessee Press, 1991).


Michel J. Martin
Temple University, History