Growing up watching war movies I always viewed war as a glorified struggle of justice filled with absolutely baffling circumstances, each unique for a specific situation and specific war. My father would always tell me these wars aren’t what they seem: the closer in date each U.S. war involvement got to our current year the less justified the war was, but I didn’t understand what he meant until I started reading about it. I was allowed a brief glimpse into the chaos of Vietnam through the film Platoon, which unexpectedly portrayed a very accurate depiction of a specific common problem that occurred in many platoons in Vietnam: drug use. Drug use, in combination with conflicting ethics and interests of the individual soldier, often created issues in the cohesive function of each platoon or unit. These two situations marched hand in hand with the experience of young GIs in the heat of the horror in Vietnam. During this time, the military was not only turning a blind eye to recreational drug use (heroin, opium, amphetamines, cocaine, psychedelics, barbiturates), but they were also encouraging and rationing pharmaceutical drugs to improve soldier performance as well as pacify negative psychological effects of combat. GI issued amphetamine use increased soldier alertness and aggression, contributing to increased performance but also civilian casualties and friendly fire, while heroin was used to temporarily pacify the deep psychological trauma that later revealed itself to soldiers returning home as chronic stress or PTSD.
Amphetamines had a direct impact on soldier performance in combat in Vietnam. Unlike the amphetamines used in WW2 (Benzedrine), Soldiers in Vietnam were issued Dexedrine (Dextroamphetamine) which is a derivative of Benzedrine that is double the potency. These were issued at 20 milligrams each, which is roughly equivalent to 40-50 milligrams of instant release Adderall1. Platoons doing reconnaissance were commonly issued the most Dexedrine due to the long hours they had to be awake and tuned into their environment. A member of a reconnaissance platoon, Elton Manzione recalls a navy commando saying, “When I was a SEAL team member in Vietnam, the drugs were routinely consumed. They gave you a sense of bravado as well as keeping you awake. Every sight and sound was heightened. You were wired into it all and at times you felt really invulnerable.”1 A study determined 3.2 percent of arriving soldiers in Vietnam heavily used amphetamines, and after a single year of deployment that rate rose to 5.2 percent1. This rise in the heavy use of amphetamines was directly influenced by the US military rationing amphetamines to soldiers.
Amphetamines not only increased alertness, but aggressiveness as well. This aggressiveness contributed to incidents of friendly fire and the killing of many innocent civilians. Due to the high potency of Dexedrine issued, amphetamine comedowns left soldiers extremely irritated, some remarking that they felt like “shooting children in the streets.” 1 One soldier in the Green Beres was heavily addicted to amphetamines, taking roughly 100 milligrams per day (equivalent to more than 200 milligrams of Adderall). Comrades account he “was so jumpy after twenty-six sleepless, drugged hours on duty that, when startled by a noise, he machine-gunned an accompanying boat, ,” one comrade remembered, “ killing and maiming a number of his colleagues.” 1 When I recall scenes from Platoon, I now understand that the extremely aggressive behavior elicited in the scene where they burn the village could have been a reflection of how amphetamines amplified their aggression. The words “let’s do the whole village” are an accurate replication of first-hand accounts of overly aggressive reactions to amphetamine comedowns in combination to the situation and pressure they faced in Vietnam.
Regardless of the enhanced performance and increased aggression elicited from soldiers on amphetamines, they still had to deal with the consequences and psychological repercussions of guerrilla warfare. Most soldiers had conflicted feelings towards their objectives given by military commanders especially because there seemed to be a lack of direction in a strategic objective1. They were sent on “search and destroy missions” which was truly to push for maximum kill ratios, and firefight success was determined by body count. Add civilian casualties to the mix and this easily increased soldier’s feelings of resentment for the Vietnam mission. To make matters worse, commanders applied a depraved incentive to increase kill ratios: acquire a trophy from the body of the Vietcong (penis, ear, finger, etc.) and soldiers would receive extra beer rations1. The more trophies, the more rations. This crippled morality and lead to an increase in self-medication in Vietnam.
Due to the reduction of marijuana, heroin use gained immense popularity among GI’s. A whopping 79 percent of all soldiers who used drugs tried heroin1. Once the military caught on to the use of heroin, marijuana, although it was the drug of choice, was not the issue1. During 1970, drug trafficking routes from the Golden Triangle through Cambodia opened up allowing for extremely pure forms of heroin (94-98 percent) to be introduced to U.S. soldiers1. Labs were also opened up in Vietnam to meet the “rising demands of American troops” 1. An important aspect about this heroin was that it didn’t need to be injected intravenously. The purity of this heroin enabled it to be smoked or even snorted like cocaine1. This allowed it to be much more attractive to new users who didn’t like the idea of using needles to shoot up heroin. Only nine percent of drug users in Vietnam used drugs intravenously1. Although the new means of using heroin were more attractive to users, the increased purity was dangerous to users. Heroin accounted for over half GI overdoses1.
Although soldiers were under pressure to
be discrete about marijuana, heroin was odorless and hard to detect, allowing
for less stress to the user1.
Regardless of the regulations, users were fairly overt about their use:
engraving messages on their helmets and lighters about being high1. My personal favorite:
Or always stoned
I made it a year
I’m going home1.
1971, heroin addiction had soared to an estimated 25000-37000 soldiers (10-15
percent of troops) and in some unites 20 percent were addicted1. 85 percent of all servicemen were offered
heroin, 35 percent of them tried it, and 20 percent were habitual users1. By 1973 on out of every three soldiers
used heroin. A
veteran recounted “Near the end of my tour, when everyone was doing heroin, I
remember there was a pool of vomit outside our hootch that never dried up completely.
Like for days on end. Because heroin makes you vomit” 1.
Surveys were sent to veterans
returning home asking them about their drug habits. It was reported that out of
43 percent that consumed drugs in Vietnam, 10 percent of them used drugs in the
U.S. after returning home.
Although it seems fabricated, the results are accurate according to Kamienski.
It’s speculated that Drug use in Vietnam was contextual and stress induced from
combat1. Although many returning
veterans didn’t continue to use drugs, many who suffered from PTSD did continue
An aspect of drug use in Vietnam that
differs from civilian drug use is that GI’s had no idea if they were going to
die the next day. The uncertainty of death undoubtedly increased the likelihood
of drug use and irrational decisions away from combat, but during that time those
decisions were considered rational. The combination of the U.S. military
issuing pharmaceuticals while being unable to detect heroin, the increasingly
stressful environment of war, and the uncertainty of death on their next patrol
introduced soldiers to a “live fast and die young” philosophy that embraced
drug use. Vietnam proved to be a pharmaceutical lesson in military history that
has changed how soldiers fight and unwind in foreign wars today. When
reflecting on the challenges these soldiers faced day to day I’m impressed that
some were abstinent from drugs at all. When living in a hell like that, how
could you be?
 Kamienski, Łukasz. Shooting up:
a Short History of Drugs and War. New York, NY: Oxford University Press,
1 Kamienski, Łukasz. Shooting up:
a Short History of Drugs and War. New York, NY: Oxford University Press,
 Musto, David F., and Pamela
Korsmeyer. The Quest for Drug Control: Politics and Federal Policy in a
Period of Increasing Substance Abuse, 1963-1981. New Haven: Yale University
1 Kamienski, Łukasz. Shooting up:
a Short History of Drugs and War. New York, NY: Oxford University Press,
 Shuster, Alvin M. “G.I. Heroin Addiction
Epidemic in Vietnam.” May 16, 1971.
1 Kamienski, Łukasz. Shooting up:
a Short History of Drugs and War. New York, NY: Oxford University Press,
 Kuzmarov, Jeremy. The Myth of
the Addicted Army: Vietnam and the Modern War on Drugs. Amherst, Mass:
University of Massachusetts Press, 2009
The babymaker. The little blue pill. Bluey. The erector. A fallen’s angel. The gem of the medicine cabinet, having the appropriate shape of a diamond. Call it what you want, but at the end of the day it is the same cultural phenomenon packed into one little blue pill–Viagra. A few theories exist as to why men suffer from erectile dysfunction, ED for short. For a long period of time, up until the 1960s in fact, frigid women were thought to be the cause of erectile dysfunction–their disinterest in sex was believed to have dampened men’s sexual arousal and, thus, women were the ones to blame for men’s physical problems (Loe). However, the predominant theory among the medical community today is that erectile dysfunction is caused, simply, by physical changes to the male’s body. This theory is sound, but it only reflects the majority of the diagnosed community, while there are plenty of men getting Viagra on the blackmarket or by other means without a prescription that have no problems achieving and maintaining an erection. Viagra is not just a pill, but is made out to be the fountain of youth for a man, the cure for everything, the magical potion to become a sex god, and so on. With a belief that they will perform better by taking Viagra, men lurk on the web scouting it out, pick it up as a party favor, and take some from their friends. Men as young as 22-years-old take Viagra, often to offset side effects from other drugs like alcohol, crystal meth, and ecstasy and to boost more than just their anatomy (The Hays Daily News). The male ego is at the epicenter of Viagra. There are a few reasons as to why Viagra thrives in today’s American society–the prioritization of sex, the growing threats to men’s traditional roles in society, and a fear of growing older are just to name a few. The focus of this paper is to investigate how Viagra reflects the male ego in American society.
The Orgasmic Origins
Though there were products that helped combat erectile dysfunction before the invention of Viagra, they did not take off like Viagra did. Some of these methods included vacuum pumps, rhino horns, penis augmentation, penis rings, and so on (Loe; Castleman). Many felt that these prior methods were too invasive and that Viagra was not, despite the fact that Viagra might be one of the most invasive of all since this is a cultural artifact that is actually being ingested into one’s body and becoming part of that person’s chemistry.
Viagra was originally meant to control blood pressure, but during the trial period, scientists found something even more profitable–the supposed cure for impotence. After its approval in 1998 by the FDA in the wake of the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal (an appropriate time as any to come out with a sex drug–needless to say, President Clinton was a strong advocate of the drug), doctors could not write enough prescriptions for patients. Never before had doctors seen so many alleged cases of erectile dysfunction. Entrepreneurs recognized Viagra for the money-maker it was and wasted no time capitalizing on this. The pill was so desired that a Yugoslavian pizzeria had a $50 pizza and Viagra combo deal before it was legalized in Yugoslavia. Dr. Rafael Wurzel even went so far as to say that it was “the biggest thing since the Beatles” in 1998 (The Kerrville Times).
America in One Pill
It was the new blockbuster lifestyle drug, becoming as big of a name as Prozac in the world of miracle drugs (Latson). Viagra can act as an example of the trend of commercialization of medication after World War II that David Herzberg delves into in his book Happy Pills in America (Herzberg). The commercialization of Viagra is one way of illustrating how sex has moved from the private sphere to the public sphere. The concept of sex used to be more of an intimate, private act, and yet the concept is now broadcasted to millions over Viagra advertisements and the like.
Whereas before, there was a relative shortage of men in the porn industry, suddenly with the added confidence boost Viagra afforded them, men flooded onto the scene (Person). Gone was the timid and out came the brazen. The sexualization of our society helped bring about Viagra’s popularity and also, funnily enough, helped continue the cycle, perhaps even adding to the sexualization of society as can be seen with its effect on the porn industry.
Viagra is often correlated with masculinity. In Viagra commercials, football, basketball, NASCAR racing, deep sea fishing, sailing, and driving trucks are all featured. Pfizer, the company over Viagra, paid big bucks to be associated with the NFL, spending $31 million to be advertised in one season of the NFL alone (Rosenthal). Viagra is not only connected to the NFL through commercials though. According to Brandon Marshall, a wide receiver for the Chicago Bears, a lot of NFL players reportedly use Viagra to help with endurance during games (Sports Illustrated). Not only does Viagra act as a performance-enhancing-drug, but it is also advertised by bodybuilders, catering to men’s desire for masculinity (D’Marge).
The obsession many men seem to have with their bodily utilities is nothing new. There is an ancient fresco in Pompei that illustrates this perfectly. The fresco from 79 A.D. pictures a nobleman, a member of the upper classes, with an erect penis reportedly possessing “the length and girth larger than a man’s leg” lying on top of an ancient scale with sacks of gold acting as a counterweight to it (Psychology Today). Dr. Abraham Morgentaler calls this desire for a bigger penis the Stallion Syndrome. An example of Viagra compensating for the wounded male ego is the confessions men like Bernard, a 58-year old retired construction worker, in The Kerrville Times newspaper have made about getting more self-confidence and feeling good about who they are after taking Viagra (The Kerrville Times). This gives some insight into how many men value themselves and who they are physically more so than spiritually or emotionally. Gail Sheehy, the famous author of Understanding Men’s Passages, suggests that men should instead view erectile dysfunction as an opportunity to “reconfigure their lives and create a new definition of what it means to be a man” (Santa Cruz Sentinel). The popularity of Viagra seems like this suggestion never quite took off and men are reluctant to change what they consider to be the defining feature of being a man.
Viagra’s target audience appears to be heterosexual middle-aged white men of the upper classes. As Professor Jarret of the urology department at George Washington University put it, “When people have money to spend, they are willing to spend on their sexual health” (ABC News). After conducting an analysis myself of thirty Viagra commercials, 76.67% of the commercials star whites only. The men predominantly appear to be middle-aged in the commercials. Viagra commercials tend to focus on just a man or woman by themselves in their commercials. In fact, only 33.33% of the commercials picture a man and woman together. This may reflect on how women are not given a voice when it comes to Viagra despite sex ethically being a consensual act. The commercials advise men to consult with their doctors, but there is no line uttered saying to consult with their partners. When women do appear in the commercials, they are often posed seductively, as if more than willing and acting as sirens to lure men into the world of Viagra and make them believe they will be on the top of the world again by doing so–the quick fix that society craves. The quick fix to a man’s injured ego and the quick fix to relationship problems–many people appear to be under the misconception that sex fixes relationships, while it seems this is not the case (The Daily Herald; Santa Cruz Sentinel). The large percentage of commercials geared towards white males is no incident–they are the very people that are likely to feel most threatened in today’s progressive society, thus seeking a feeling of power. My findings appear to be in accordance with Meika Loe’s findings showing that advertisements for Viagra put great cultural emphasis on whiteness, masculinity, and heterosexuality (Loe).
Despite the fact that the heterosexual community is the main target audience of Viagra, quite a few homosexual men dabbled with the drug as well, often mixing the drug with others. Statistics, as shown in a newspaper, indicate that homosexual men using Viagra were twice as likely to have unprotected sex, thus increasing their chances of getting AIDs. There was a significant correlation between Viagra use and unprotected sex. The rate of STDs greatly increased after the release of Viagra also by no surprise given the statistics (The Hays Daily News).
Another audience that was not targeted in Viagra commercials, but certainly uses it, is young men in their teens and twenties. This is the recreational market audience. Though Viagra should provide no physical benefit for those without erectile dysfunction according to scientists, it does provide a psychological benefit. Placebo is an accurate example of the quote, “If you believe enough, it will happen.” There is evidence that just the thought of having taken Viagra or other sexually stimulating drugs makes people sexually excited (Herper; Harper). In one such study, Pfizer was examining the effects of Viagra on women but had to reportedly stop the study when they found that most of the women given placebos in the control group were sexually stimulated. Due to the fact that many popular recreational drugs, like cocaine, cause men to have trouble with erections, it is not a big surprise that young people use Viagra recreationally as an ingredient in their own concoction of drugs to offset the effects from other drugs they have taken. The problem with recreational use is that users often get drugs from the black market where no examination or medical history is done beforehand, leading to some risks. In an ironic twist of fate, one man in the U.K. that bought Viagra off the black market had to get his penis amputated (Malicdem). Pfizer estimates that 80% of websites selling Viagra were actually selling counterfeit drugs manufactured in unlicensed factories, containing talcum powder and rat poisoning among other ingredients (Hager). The recreational market for Viagra is huge–police seized 27,000 unmarked Viagra pills off the black market shipped all the way from Hong Kong to Mississippi (FOX 5). No one person needs that much Viagra, which is a telling sign of the money that person thinks he or she can make off of the shipment if he or she is willing to buy $663,000 worth of Viagra.
As women climb up the ladder of society, men need to find some way to reassert their dominance. Sex may act as a method of domination for these insecure men. As women increasingly enter the workforce, Viagra’s popularity seems to increase. In 1998, according to a graph made by the Women’s Bureau in the U.S. Department of Labor, there was a 59.8% participation rate among women in the labor force and a 74.9% participation rate among men in the labor force in 1998 and this employment gap has increasingly narrowed over the years (U.S. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR). A study conducted in 2019 by researchers at the University of Toronto titled “Growing sense of social status threat and concomitant deaths of despair among whites,” indicates that the rising white mortality rates within the United States are due to “a perceived decline in relative group status on the part of whites” (Siddiqi, Arjumand, etc). White males were at the top of the social hierarchy for a long time in America, but now gaps are closing between races and genders with higher educational attainment increasing across the board and wage gaps narrowing (Third Way). This feeling of decreased self-worth in public life leads to men with and without erectile dysfunction using Viagra in hopes of enhancing their performance and regaining the self-worth in the bedroom that they perceive to have lost in society. As Leonore Tiefer, an expert in sexuality with a PhD in experimental psychology, explains, people increasingly rely on “personal relationships to provide a sense of worth they lack in the public sphere due to increased technology, mobility, and bureaucracy” (Tiefer). This is not hard to believe given the tremendous societal changes America has seen in the past century. Voting is no longer an activity made exclusively for white males. Women now have equal pay, whereas before men were raking in the dollars and women were relegated to domestic life. The United States has become increasingly diverse. Given these changes and more, white men are no longer the kings of the public sphere, so in some ways white men rightly feel a loss because they lost this status.
The Woman’s Perspective
“Dear sir, my husband took Viagra instead of paracetamol this morning. Since our maid is also home, I can not come to the office today. Thank you” (Whisper).
This fear of infidelity was not an isolated event, in fact, Pfizer was even sued by a scorned woman whose husband started cheating as soon as he could with Viagra (Ukiah Daily Journal). Many seem to blame the drug for infidelity as opposed to the men themselves, similar to people blaming drugs for crime. The mention of a maid in the quote above also does a fairly good job of demonstrating the class Viagra caters to–the upper class. Just one dose of Viagra costs $25.75 and one dose does not even equal an entire pill (Try Sildenafil). According to Sally and Hilda, two elderly women interviewed, “the price is going to leave even the middle-classes behind” (Fischer, Seidman). It is a funny sort of coincidence that the man pictured in the 79 A.D. fresco previously mentioned was a member of the upper class because the price of Viagra tends to target people with money to spare. Perhaps this catering to the upper classes not only acts as a luxury to further separate men in different classes, but also as a hope of the upper classes proliferating, making more of those like themselves to supposedly “lessen the burden on society” as some might say. Men can be fertile as old as 92 (Guinness World Records).
Two advice columns, written by twin sisters, known as “Ask Ann Landers” and “Dear Abby” that appeared in newspapers provide a wealth of knowledge into what women’s thoughts were on Viagra upon its arrival. Women would lament to Ann or Abby about their worries and Ann and Abby would provide quick qips of advice to the women. One particularly controversial reply given by Ann Landers to a woman concerned with the coming of Viagra and her husband’s doctor recommending it to him despite her not wanting to have sex with him was basically that if she loved her husband she would have sex with him because it makes him happy (The Kerrville Times). Needless to say, that reply was met with backlash by other women, commenting that it was very much a 1950s-style retort. This woman debating over whether she was being a bad wife or not because of not wanting sex with her husband was not alone in her disinterest towards Viagra. A survey featured in one particular Ann Landers’ column showed that a majority of women were content without sex (The Salina Journal).
Change is often fought against and Viagra is one way of fighting change–changes in society and changes in biology. Both men and women try to turn back the clocks on mother nature out of vanity and Viagra is one example of that. Sex is not a medical necessity and a major factor into Viagra’s survival and popularity lies within the man’s ego.
“TIME Magazine Cover: Viagra: The Potency Pill – May 4, 1998.” Time. Time Inc. Accessed December 4, 2019. http://content.time.com/time/covers/0,16641,19980504,00.html.
Rock climbing as we know it is nothing like it used to be. It started as a branch of mountaineering, where mountaineers would use equipment to help them ascend the big walls they faced. Climbing only began its journey to become a sport in of itself in the early 1900s, and even then climbers used a lot of equipment to get up. In America, it was only in the 70s that climbers began to do what we now call free climbing – that is, climbing only with safety gear, with nothing but hands and feet to help them with the ascend. The innovators who began this trend were the self-titled Stonemasters, a group of fearless runaway teens that moved to Yosemite Valley and became virtually homeless. They spent their days climbing, working out, stealing food from the nearby hotels and partying.
These pioneers were barely of age when they decided to leave their lives behind to pursue climbing. Their entire teenage years were focused around this sport, which was often deemed more important than more socially acceptable activities other teenagers enjoyed. John Long (one of the founding members of the Stonemasters) for example, recalls that after highschool was over “[he] didn’t hang around for graduation, but was on the first Greyhound bus headed north for [his] first trip to Yosemite Valley”. The typical teenager would not dream of missing graduation, but Long did not give it another thought if it meant a few extra days spent in America’s climbing hub. The sport engulfed every aspect of his life.
The Stonemasters rejected societal norms for little to no reward, often leaving comfortable lives behind to sleep in the wilderness with nothing but a sleeping bag for warmth. They had no jobs, no home, no real direction in life besides wanting to climb. To the outside world they were reckless teenagers not contributing to society, but that didn’t stop them: they were after something, but what? Rock climbing in its purest form has no external reward. Though it is much safer now, back in the 70s it was an extremely risky sport with the very real danger of ending in death. The Stonemasters sought out this danger asking nothing external in return, so where lay their motivation?
These teenagers were looking for something beyond what life had to offer them, especially since most (if not all) of them were not leaving something particularly extravagant behind. In fact, many climbers who first joined the Stonemasters but had ties to their previous lives ended up leaving The Valley after the first few months to return to their homes and pursue a more traditional lifestyle. The ones who stuck had successfully separated themselves from every aspect of modern society, taking Camp 4 (the place where most yosemite climbers took refuge, pictured below) and making it into a land of their own. Surrounded by the great walls of the park, they had no aspirations beyond getting to the top. The idea of being ‘productive members of society’ brought them no joy, and so to The Valley they went — in search of something more.
According to Dave Hardy of Liverpool John Moores University, this something more comes in the form of peak experience — encompassing flow, ecstasy and self-actualization. What Hardy dubbed peak experience can easily be compared to a transcendental experience, something often achieved through meditation or — you guessed it — drugs. It comes as no surprise, then, that these climbers seeking something more combined the two things that brought them such feelings. Sometimes taking it to the extreme, when climbers would ascend a huge wall while tripping on psychedelics. They endangered their lives by doing this, with only this peak or transcendental experience as a reward.
But doing dangerous things for the sake of doing them (that is, with no obvious reward) runs deep in climbers’ blood. It comes to be though mix of youthful recklessness, competitiveness, and community. Let us take a deeper look at the latter of the three.
Community in an integral part of climbing, as oftentimes your life is quite literally in somebody else’s hands. If you are climbing more than 20ft up, there are only three things keeping you from plummeting to your death: your skills, gear, and your climbing partner. The Stonemasters took this idea to the extreme, forming a family in Camp 4. They ate together, climbed together, trained together, lived together, and smoked together.
Even today, smoking cannabis is seen as a mostly social thing to bring people together. Back in the 60s and 70s, this sentiment was arguably stronger. With all the anti-war riots occuring at the time, cannabis “became something — and sometimes the only thing — that diverse fractions of antiwar protesters had in common”. It was known to get rid of racial and social tensions between groups to bring them together, a phenomenon repeatedly seen in this era. At Camp 4, where community and competition were so often intertwined, cannabis served as a way for everyone to come together at the end of a busy day to relax and make amends. Using cannabis in this manner was extremely beneficial, for without a community these climbers never would have succeeded as much as they did. In fact, many would have left Yosemite days after arriving.
Following John Long’s story (the aforementioned Stonemaster founding member), he arrived in Yosemite by first taking a Greyhound bus as far as he could, then hitchhiking the rest of the way. All he had with him were two friends, minimal equipment and no experience with big wall climbing. The only reason he was able to continue his pursuit to climb El Capitan (the most famous wall in the Valley) was because he had the help of many experienced climbing legends, in particular Jim Birdwell (“The Bird”). These climbers quite literally showed him the ropes, leading him to become one of the most well known american climbers. Climbing was an obscure sport, and the only way for it to evolve was through a strong community that helped each other.
Though climbers clearly had a strong sense of respect for each other, their views of authority were entirely different — comparable to the relationship between hippies and authority. In fact, this comparison got taken to the extreme by the general public in after to the Stoneman Meadow Hippie Riot, which will be discussed later. The point being made now is that the authorities these hippies and climbers grew up listening to were lying about the dangers of the drugs they now took — saying it led to manic behaviour and heroin addiction. In their experience, all cannabis (and psychedelics, to some extent) did was enhance their climbing experience (in the case of climbers) and bring them together (in the case of both these groups). So if they lied about drugs, who is to say these authorities were not lying about everything? This distrust of authorities, stemming because of personal drug use, led to growing tensions.
In the 60s, young people were in pursuit of personal freedom — be it by protesting against the Vietnam war (and thus, against being drafted) or asking for the decriminalization of drugs. With the Nixon administration, the 70s turned tense in regards to drug use. In a sense, this made communities still enjoying marijuana even more tightly knit — and even more distrustful of the authorities and outsiders they viewed as ‘squares’.
Now let us take a look at the event that catalyzed this hate: The Stoneman Meadow Hippie Riot of 1971. Yosemite National Park had long been a tourist destination for families to enjoy nature, but things began to change in the 60s when more and more young hippies swarmed the park looking to feel more connected with nature. This caused immediate tension, as these youngsters were loud and plentiful, disturbing the peace of many families — especially since “the smell of marijuana [began wafting] through the meadows”. It all climaxed when a riot broke out at Stoneman Meadow campsite, with hippies and park rangers attacking each other. The backlash of this was that from now on, park rangers grouped climbers and hippies together: they both smoked a lot of pot, had long hair, and were young. Years of ranger harassment towards climbers followed.
This inherent hostility between authority and the reckless youths only led climbers to act out more. Many injustices were done towards them, one climber even recalls spending a week in jail because he drank out of an abandoned coffee mug at one of the coffee shops (as these climbers often did, since they could not afford to buy food or drink). Once he went in for trial the judge immediately dismissed the case, exemplifying how ridiculous the entire scenario was. Rangers were out to get the Stonemasters, demonizing everything they stood for. Climbers shared the sentiment, hating rangers for making it harder to do what they love. In Dale Bard’s words (another member of the Stonemasters) “this isn’t your park, it’s our park”.
Clearly, the counter-cultures of climbing and the hippie movement have a lot of overlapping ideals that feed off of each other. Both seeked something deeper than what society presented them with, turning to drugs (mainly cannabis) and nature to attain said thing. This drug revolution was fueled by distrust of authorities, unwillingness to conform to the society that they so wished to escape and the undying want of the aforementioned peak experience. As such, drugs and climbing were so intertwined that one became a fundamental part of the other.
This all became exemplified one morning in Camp 4 when two climbers made an unbelievable discovery that would change their lives. In the middle of the frozen Lake Chronicopia, mere miles away from Camp 4, lay a plane crash. This was not just an ordinary place crash, however: it was an illegal plane filled with 5 tons of cannabis! Now, these broke climbers did the one logical thing — instead of reporting it to the rangers, they spent a month scavenging all that they could. As one reporter put it, “Over the course of the next few weeks, [climbers] got more and more efficient at extracting the weed; pulling it out assembly-line style. They hiked out with chainsaws that they stole from the park service. One guy would cut a square of ice, the next guy would pull the ice out, the third would fish for the bales”. It served as a way for these climbers to defy the rangers, since all of this was done under their noses — by the time the rangers found the plane crash, all the cannabis was gone and there was no evidence to link the raid back to the climbers.
It was the 70s, and this discovery was a gold mine (besides being extremely satisfying for the climbers regarding their rivalry with the rangers). The 20 – 30 climbers living in Yosemite Valley were becoming rich by selling all the cannabis they did not smoke themselves. Many could now afford to buy better climbing gear, living necessities, and even houses. They were no longer poor dirtbags living off of peoples’ good graces and stolen food. With this came a distinct change in dynamic. The climber lifestyle was based off being minimalist, caring about nothing but climbing. Monetary gain shifted things, making it so that climbers could now afford masses of material goods.
The way climbers originally used drugs aided them to truly immerse themselves in the lifestyle. Now, cannabis was acting as a barrier between these pioneers and climbing. It no longer helped them build a community around climbing and achieving self-actualization like discussed previously, but rather distracted them from such.
Viewing it from a different lens, all the money the cannabis got them also helped push climbing forward in a different manner. The focus was no longer on escaping societal norms and living off-grid, but rather on building a life in society while maintaining a passion for climbing. It made the sport sustainable with a traditional lifestyle, helping in the transition between complete immersion in this lifestyle and building a life outside of it. Logically, living the life the Stonemasters lived was not sustainable. With their newfound wealth, they could afford to focus even more on climbing without having to worry about where their next meal was going to come from. They could afford to buy better and safer gear to climb harder. It all just came down to how the money was used.
Many Stonemasters used it to sustain their climbing careers, at least for a little while. One member, David Bard, recalls that “[the money] was enough for me to live very comfortably for, you know, four or five years”. Others blew through the money way too fast, getting distracted from climbing for the momentarily attractive spender lifestyle, but returning to The Valley and “rediscovering their one and only passion”. Instead of adding to the climbing experience, cannabis momentarily served as a distraction to some by granting them access to so much money, but everything eventually subsided.
In conclusion, the reason people turn to the grand walls of Yosemite is to escape society, and to find something more. These climbers found peak experience on the walls. John Long recalls his first time atop El Capitan (pictured above), “only then did the whole disparate experience harmonize itself into a point of emotional symmetry and purpose”. He, like all hardcore climbers of Yosemite in the 70s, found peace following a reckless dream fueled by carelessness, freedom, and drugs. Cannabis and LSD began as a way for climbers to embrace this lifestyle, to go against what authorities told them to do. Suddenly, it served as a way for climbers to sustain themselves financially, perhaps to the point of distraction, but surely the overall effect was positive towards their climbing journey. Without having drugs in the picture, especially cannabis from that godforsaken plane crash, the Stonemasters would not have been able to achieve their climbing goals as fully and effortlessly as they did.
On March 5, 1982 actor John Belushi died at age 33.1 Over a decade later, actor John Candy died on March 4, 1994 at 43 years old.2 Just a few years afterward, actor Chris Farley passed away at 33 in December of 1997.3 While all three of these actors accumulated remarkable fame through unforgettable performances, they all shared a distinctive characteristic that will be linked to them forever. Due to the abuse of drugs throughout their lives, all of them tragically overdosed before they hit the age of 45. Their deaths not only put an end to bright careers that entertained millions worldwide, but represented a key data point in a devastating larger trend: the number of celebrities to die from a drug-related incident has been steadily rising since the end of the 20th century. Looking at the period between 1970 and 2015, a group of German researchers found that 220 prominent people had died from this cause at an average age of just 38.6 years, with the numbers increasing as we entered the new millennium.4 Although the facts reveal a growing problem, this is an issue that has plagued Hollywood since its inception, dating back to the dawn of its Golden Age.
A golden age in general refers to a unique period of ideal peace, prosperity, and general happiness. In the history of cinema, the time between the release of the first major motion picture in 1915 until the early 1960s brought the explosion of the television as a new mass medium is often referred to as the Golden Age of film.5 Studios raked in obscene amounts of money as countless people flocked into theaters as their preferred means of entertainment. By 1920, 40 million Americans were going to the movies each week, causing studios to employ over twenty thousand people.6 In the 1930s, even through the greatest economic turmoil the country has ever known, it is still estimated that this number grew to 80 million.7 Eventually, the period peaked in the first half of the 1940s where everyday people, preoccupied with the war overseas, used movies as a way of escaping the harsh realities of the world for just a few hours.8 At the absolute apex in 1946, “motion picture theater attendance reached its highest level ever.”9 Nevertheless, even with all the benefits that accompanied this economic boom, many actors during this time period suffered from very real and debilitating drug abuse problems that ran roughshod through their livelihood. While there aren’t many detailed statistics relating to this topic, some of the most profitable stars of the time such as Shirley Temple, Debbie Reynolds, Elizabeth Taylor, and Mickey Rooney all struggled with drugs at their height of their respective power.10
One additional performer in this category was Judy Garland, the prodigiously talented singer and actress who many identify from her starring role in the timeless 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz. This paper will attempt to answer the question of why drug addiction was seemingly so prevalent in the entertainment industry using Garland’s career as a case study. There were three main avenues that led her to drug abuse, all stemming from the truths of how Hollywood as an industry operated. First, the overarching control studios had on her daily activities led her to feel helpless, that she was unable to make even the smallest decisions for herself. Second, the secluded bubble of image obsessed artists that she lived amongst in Hollywood led to a tendency for her to focus too much on her personal profile as a way of keeping up with them. Finally, the emerging entertainment media made her overly self-conscious about her standing in the industry and made her feel as if her career was on the verge of collapse. While it is difficult to apply these three explanations to every actor at the time, all in all Hollywood was a location that bred depression regardless of the fame and fortune that could be amassed. In turn, it was not uncommon for stars to resort to certain drugs as an outlet to relieve their symptoms and cope with reality.
It is paramount to comprehend Garland’s history to in turn fully understand where she ended up. Frances Ethel Gumm was born on June 10, 1922 in Grand Rapids Minnesota, the youngest of three daughters.11 Performing with her sisters in vaudeville productions at only two and a half years old, little did anyone know she would end up an exceedingly popular movie star with nearly 100 film and television credits to her name.12 After the family moved to California in 1926, she would change her name to Judy Garland in 1934, an amalgamated stage name cobbled together from a Hoagy Carmichael song and the surname of a prominent local drama critic.13 After auditioning for a role in September 1935, she was signed to a contract of $100 per week by the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) studio, paving the way to stardom.14 As a pop culture icon, she “personified a youthful energy and promise that seemed to embody America and its future.”15 At the same time however, she fought with drug problems nearly her entire adult life. It started as an adolescent when her mother gave her and her sisters stimulants, a move she defended by declaring she had to “keep these girls going!”16 Garland never found a way to stay off these “pep pills” and fought addiction, mainly a harmful cycle of amphetamines to perk up and barbiturates to calm down, for years to come.17 Her addiction got so bad that she would suffer constant nervous breakdowns, attempt to commit suicide multiple times, and have her liver swell to four times its normal size, all leading to a brief stay at a psychiatric hospital.18 Eventually, it all caught up to her and she died of a barbiturate overdose in 1969.19 While there is a case to be made that Garland being introduced to controlled substances by her mother in her childhood set her on this tragic trajectory, it is clear through her writings and interviews that Garland was immensely depressed and turned to drugs as a way to relieve the pain like so many in her position.
The film industry in this so-called Golden Age differed greatly from where it stands nowadays. One of the starkest anomalies looking backwards is the remarkable power studios had in the process of filmmaking. They not only financed the films, but had strict contracts with talent preventing them from working with other studios, owned the theaters the films were shown in, and in some cases even owned the companies that processed the film in its physical form.20 If you were an actor or actress that signed with them, they were not afraid to interfere with your personal life as their profits were directly tied to your image. With only five major studios forming a monopoly that wouldn’t be struck down in the Supreme Court until 1948, there were no other options for stars like Garland who had to suffer the consequences of being an MGM employee if she wanted to remain relevant.
One area where this was the most prevalent was in her dating life. Like most teenage girls, Garland had romantic interests in countless boys. However, since the studio believed they needed to protect her sparkling image as a pure teenager, it made for a complicated situation. “Dates chaperoned by [her] mother or intimations of pubescent crushes were allowed and/or concocted by the studio—but nothing more than that.”21 Other actors also represented by MGM, including Mickey Rooney and Freddie Bartholomew, often times were set up with Garland to fabricate an air of honesty around them, making sure none were seen in relationships with older people, thus damaging their persona.22 When 19-year-old Garland attempted to break free from this system by marrying a composer named David Rose in 1941, MGM was reportedly furious and ordered her back to work within hours of the wedding being finalized or she would be in breach of her contract.23
Moreover, at the time labor regulations were scarce and Hollywood executives took advantage of them, usually to the detriment of their actors. The 1941 film Babes on Broadway starring Garland and Rooney clocks in at nearly two hours in length, though the studio was able to complete filming in entirety in just 31 days.24 In order to keep them upright during this hectic period, representatives from MGM, in a shocking development, hooked their star actors on harmful drugs. Specifically, Garland was given Benzedrine, otherwise known as speed, to keep her energy at the proper levels.25 “They had us working days and nights on end. They’d give us pills to keep us on our feet long after we were exhausted. Then they’d take us to the studio hospital and knock us out with sleeping pills…Then after four hours they’d wake us up and give us the pep pills again so we could work 72 hours in a row,” Garland was quoted as saying.26 Even though they were filming around the clock, the two of them were not excused from studio scheduled publicity appearances designed as another means to boost their value. Outside of the obvious ethical issues here, this represented perhaps the greatest strain on her already damaged mental health. Since she was working all day, she never really had time to do anything else with her life. In a 1948 interview in which she admitted to having a “tendency to never let down during a picture,” she answered affirmatively when asked by the journalist, “You seldom find time for any relaxation and have no favorite way of relaxing?”27 Her work not only took up a disproportionate share of her day and left her with nothing to enjoy during her down time, but it also showed an impressionable mind that drug use such as this could be socially acceptable. Having started in show business before most kids can even form a complex sentence and receiving her initial contract when she was just 13, Garland never got to experience a normal teenage life while under the iron fist of MGM’s rule. Looking back at the time from adulthood in 1967, she told McCall’s magazine “Do you know how ‘difficult’ it is to be Judy Garland? And for me to live with me?”28
Outside of constant studio intervention in her personal life, perhaps nothing exacerbated these negative emotions more than the location in which she was living in. Hollywood has always been, and continues to be, a bubble, a place for like-minded people to congregate and sequester themselves off from the rest of the American public. Time magazine in the 1930s described it as “the most self-conscious city of a self-conscious nation,” a phrase that signified how substantially the residents worked on upholding a positive self-image.29 Similar to the studios, the actors knew their fame relied precipitously on how the public viewed them. Should they be labeled an adulterer or lose their looks, the lifestyle they worked so hard for could come crashing down. For Judy, it was this latter issue that was the motivator, specifically when it came to her weight. From a young age, it is evident that she struggled with being overweight. Shortly after they signed her to their monstrous contract she was told by MGM she was too fat to be in their movies.30 In one of her very first interviews conducted in 1937, the writer described her as “a husky, hearty little girl with a huge appetite.”31 In an ill-fated attempt to alter her image, she made it her mission to get in shape to fit the figure that the studio yearned for. The results, frankly, were frightening as she careened directly to the other end of the spectrum. Just a few years after those comments, in 1942, columnist Cal York reported that she was “now down to ninety-eight pounds” with the studio again “frantic with concern over her health.”32 She was so preoccupied with making sure she fit into the collective beauty standard that she didn’t realize the damage she was doing to her psyche and how patently unhealthy her behavior truly was. Not in a good place and later revealing she “hated the way [she] looked”, she never stopped abusing her pills in a misguided effort to fix her mental state.33 This stemmed from the collective Hollywood mindset of doing everything possible to appeal to the masses who were responsible for supporting their work, as well as what she referred to as a mild “inferiority complex” when measuring herself against other Hollywood stars.34 As Garland accurately put it in a 1951 letter in Cosmopolitan magazine entitled “My Story”, “Hollywood is a place where it’s easy to think the world revolves around Hollywood.”35
Another aspect of Hollywood that was growing at this time was the entertainment media, ushering in a “no holds barred” era of journalism.36 In essence, this was the time where press coverage began to magnify every small detail in the lives of famous people as if each one was a matter of national importance. With her weight troubles a particularly striking topic, not to mention the flak she received for her five separate marriages, Garland berated the press whenever she had the chance. “Honestly, I don’t know why, but all the gossip writers keep painting me as if I’m boy crazy…I’m not that way at all,” Garland said in a 1940 piece, “The papers have it wrong. I don’t go mooning over some new fellow every other day. It’s all so unfair.”37 Even a decade later with more time in the industry, she still expressed very similar views. “I’m so tired of reading articles in newspapers and magazines in which I’m described as neurotic, psychotic, idiotic, or any other ‘otic’ the writer can think of.”38 It’s clear that she disliked the press, not only for the negative comments they made, but also for the privacy it denied her.
To give a particularly striking example, Garland in an interview with Motion Picture magazine in the late 1930s, discussed how her mother had let her purchase a motorbike, something that she had always wanted.39 However, she never got the chance to enjoy it as someone spotted her riding it and leaked the story to the press, being quoted as saying she was “going up and down that bridle path [in the middle of Sunset Boulevard] at what looks like eighty miles an hour.”40 Needless to say, the studio was apoplectic at thinking of what dangers could befall their young cash cow and stepped in immediately, forbidding her from motorbiking. She couldn’t have a moment alone to just be a regular teenager with the press following her and it made her feel trapped. It was around this time, as she divulged much later, where she was unable to sleep, becoming “a walking advertisement for sleeping pills.”41 It is hard to blame this directly on the press coverage, as she said sleep troubles were something she suffered from starting very early on in her childhood, but she described spending an inordinate time worried about what people thought of her since she would read things about herself that had “no basis in fact.”42 Keeping in mind how early Garland started in show business, it is easy to infer that she wasn’t given as long to mature as other kids her age. When the news media then bombarded her with negative stories, she may not have been mentally tough enough to ignore them, instead digging deeper into her hole of depression.
Therefore, while Garland may have rejected being labeled as “tragic” on countless occasions, there is likely no better way to describe her. She was as innocent and as talented as anyone coming to Hollywood in those days, but the harsh reality of the experience fundamentally altered her life for the worse. When she wasn’t worrying about her weight or how the news media was spinning tales of her personal life that could only damage her career, MGM was working her around the clock and making sure she fit the rigid image they had invented. Although some have also posited that it was not the industry itself but the money that led these stars down a path of drug abuse,43 in hundreds of interviews of Garland from the 1930s to the 1960s, she was never once described as a lavish partygoer. It is most likely that the amphetamines Garland was abusing were simply a cheap and easy to acquire method of controlling her mental health. This was not a problem just in Hollywood at the time as United States consumption rates rose to greater than 2 tablets per person per year and advertisements promised “cheerfulness, mental alertness, and optimism in minutes!”44 Nevertheless, the hardships of life being an actor in the Golden Age of Hollywood can be said to have directly damaged their mental states, causing many to self-medicate with dangerous drugs that physically weakened their health. For Garland who passed at age 47 declaring “I don’t believe dying is the end. There is too much preparation in life for something else,” she was just another icon gone too soon, a disturbing pattern embedded within the country’s entertainment society.45
4) Just, Johannes M., Markus Bleckwenn, Rieke Schnakenberg, Philipp Skatulla, and Klaus Weckbecker. “Drug-Related Celebrity Deaths: A Cross-Sectional Study.” Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy 11 (December 9, 2016). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13011-016-0084-z.
Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), also known as “acid”, is one of the most popular psychedelic drugs, frequently known for its properties of causing users to “feel out of control or disconnected from their body and environment.” LSD was first synthesized in 1938 by Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann with the intentions of being a medicine. More specifically, LSD has been shown to interfere with the chemical balance of one’s brain which can interfere with the regulation of one’s own physical and emotional well-being, as well as their understanding and perception of the environment around them. A single dose of acid may only last for up to 12 hours, but can have a long-lasting substantial impact on a person. With these effects in mind, a single dose of LSD could result in a variety of experiences, both positive and negative. Due to these effects, in 1971, the government placed LSD as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substance Act meaning that it has a “high potential for abuse”, “no accepted medical uses”, and “a lack of accepted safety for use.” However, the means in which the government obtained this information was not through traditional ethical medical experiments that could scientifically lead to said conclusion. Instead, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) abused their power and targeted vulnerable minority populations throughout the 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s, in order to perform experiments on them with the sole intention of weaponizing LSD as a mind-control drug. This was a continuation of malicious state-sanctioned abuse towards vulnerable minority populations. In order to fully comprehend the extent to which the government was malevolently and systematically using these “studies” to harm minority populations, we must look at various experiments’ goals and their methods for achieving those goals.
With the rise of the Cold War in the late 1940s, the United States was desperate to develop tactics that would give them an advantage in their intelligence gathering efforts. In order to do this, the U.S. government did what they are best at and stripped citizens, mostly citizens of color, of their civil liberties and human rights in the name of “national security”. One of the experiments: Project MKUltra, as it was coded, was never intended to be used for medical research. It was actually the code name for an umbrella of experiments on humans and animals that were intended to identify and develop drugs and procedures to be used in interrogations in order to weaken the individual and force confessions through mind control. Only 10 years after its creation, the CIA was aware that LSD was a new drug with untapped potential, and thus they wanted to test out its euphoric capabilities. Lieutenant Charles Savage of the Navy was one of the first military officials to perform a study in order to attempt to understand the potential long term effects of LSD usage. In his study, “Project Chatter”, he attempted to search for positive LSD effects that would have long term benefits on depression. Although he failed to link the two, he did conclude that LSD causes a distortion rather than a deterioration of reality. People on LSD are then highly subjectable to “hallucinations induced by suggestions” which he recognizes as having potential use for psychotherapy.
Failing to find a conclusive medical benefit to the consumption of LSD, the CIA shifted their focus from psychotherapy, to psycho-warfare. U.S. researched noted that LSD “is capable of rendering whole groups of people, including military forces, indifferent to their surroundings and situations, interfering with planning and judgment, and even creating apprehension, uncontrollable confusion and terror.” The CIA clearly had full intentions of turning LSD into a weapon in order to create subservience in other countries to the United States military. Additionally, the CIA worked towards creating forcing loyalty upon domestic citizens as well through the use of LSD and hallucinations as a result of suggestions. Once again, the CIA knew that what they were doing with drug testing might have been theoretically revolutionary, but that the unethical means they went through in order to perform the study outweighed any potential benefits. Project BLUEBIRD (which would eventually be renamed to MKUltra in order to denote the level of classification) was one of the first studies done by the CIA in order to attempt to weaponize LSD for brainwashing purposes. Their knowledge of the potential ramifications of the experimentation amplifies the governments culpability in the abuse of these clandestine operations.
Project BLUEBIRD, before it was even proposed, was already understood to be an unethical study. In the proposal for funding, security requirements are proposed which classify the project as of the utmost confidential and thus labeled “TOP SECRET” and any document transferred between offices must have had been hand carried and on a “Eyes Only” basis and “dissemination should be limited to only those who have ‘need to know’”. On top of their desire for such secrecy, their understanding of their unethical and thus malicious behavior is codified in their proposal when they note that documents can be declassified to just “secret” when the documents “do not specify the true purpose of this program, nor does it make direct reference to the materials and means” of the program. The CIA is clear in their understanding of how unpopular and controversial their project is by classifying it from even some of the most highly ranked military officials. If they felt that they were academically contributing to the scientific understanding of LSD, then the need for so many fail-safes of secrecy would be unnecessary. The CIA further displays their direct understanding of their unethical practices when attempting to find a psychiatrist. First of all, they use the psychiatrist as the only licensed medical professional. They will perform physicals and various examinations that they may not be an expert in, because exposure of the program is of utmost priority. And second, they note on problem 3 of potential problems to finding a psychiatrist as “[h]is ethics might be such that he does not care to cooperate in certain more revolutionary portions of the project.” They eventually find a psychiatrist that will be “completely cooperative in any phase of our program, regardless of how new or revolutionary it may be.” Project Bluebird was known by the researchers to cause ethical concerns, but yet they continued anyways and received financial support from the government. The project focused on using LSD and its subsequent effects as a means of interrogation and brainwashing. Although the raw data from the study is unavailable (due to it still being classified), it can be reasonably understood that in order to perform an experiment on interrogation and coercive techniques while under the influence of LSD, they had to use interrogation techniques in a legitimate setting so as to get accurate results. At its core, the purpose for the study was unethical so any subsequent actions acting on behalf of the project are unethical as well.
The CIA continued their research into LSD being used to force unwilling subjects to perform actions under instructions from the US in their various sub-projects of MKUltra. One of these is Project Artichoke which attempted to use LSD and methods of hypnosis in order to produce amnesia and other vulnerable states in order to see if a person could be “involuntarily made to committ an act of attempted assassination.” Not only is this again fundamentally problematic at its core, to make someone unknowingly and unconsciously attempt to assassinate a target for the U.S. government. What makes the problem even worse is that this specific study was intended to be “a ‘trigger mechanism’ for a bigger project, it was proposed that an individual of [CLASSIFIED] decent” that is “proficient in English and well established socially and politically in the [CLASSIFIED] Government could be induced under ARTICHOKE to” involuntarily attempt an “assassination of against a prominent [CLASSIFIED] politican, or if necessary, against an American official.” Project Artichoke, if performed by any individual or organization that was not the CIA, would have been viewed as a direct act of treason and violation of basic human rights. By forcing someone to commit a crime knowing they would have no recollection of committing said crime or why they did it, they are forcing subjects to have a weak and seemingly unrealistic defense, thus implicating themselves in their assassination attempt and absolving the U.S. government of any responsibility or culpability in the matter. Additionally, the CIA theoretically prepares to use the same tactic in order to kill a U.S. official, which again is conspiracy to commit murder as well as treason. It is clear through the goals of just these two projects that the CIA was malicious in their intended use and study of LSD. In addition, the methods for which they used in order to recruit subjects was overly coercive and abusive so as to target minority populations, since they were seen as less valuable members of society than whites in the white dominated government of the 1960s.
Another strong indication of the abusive towards minority communities through drug testing is the way in which the CIA and researchers recruited members to their study. Before diving into the subject, a clarification of what it means to “voluntarily consent” to a study must be understood. Consent is willful, enthusiastic, and active. When the government utilizes certain recruitment tactics, it must be understood that even if participants voluntarily sign a legal contract consenting to the study, coercive methods by the government are abused by researchers in order to target minority populations. Drawing analysis from a 1983 court case Scott v Casey, the CIA partnered with Emory University medical school chairmen in order to disguise themselves as members of the United States Public Health Service and contact the Federal Bureau of Prisons so that they can use convicted prisoners as subjects for their LSD mind control programs under MKUltra. Although participants signed a legal contract consenting to the study, the contract was overly coercive because it gave incentives of early release from prison as well as large payment while in prison, both of which would be a great incentive for any prisoner to partake in the study. In other studies like Operation Midnight Climax, the CIA would have CIA operatives pose as sex workers and lure clients back to CIA safe houses where they would be unknowingly drugged and observed through a one-way mirror. The purpose of this practice was to study LSD doses on unsuspecting victims. This tactic would later expand to restaurants and bars in which agents would simply just drop LSD into unsuspecting people’s drinks. Combining these abusive tactics of recruitment into the study as well as the subsequent effects of being coerced into or unknowingly being dosed with LSD, like Frank Olson who, after a week of being unknowingly fed LSD committed suicide, amplifies the maliciousness of the government. These tactics are often most used on minority populations because of their vulnerability and desire to gain access to their human rights.
Targeting minority populations for blatantly unethical studies has been a common practice of the United States government for some time now. In the 1930s, the U.S. government sponsored the “Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male” in which the intention of the study was to observe cases of untreated syphilis. In order to do so, they lied to the participants and informed them that they were being treated for “bad blood” and would be receiving free health care from the U.S. government as a reward for participating in the study. Thus, the participants were completely unaware that they ever even had syphilis in the first place. It was to their understanding, more or less, that they would participate in the study for 6 months and then receive free treatment and healthcare. Tuskegee University, a historically black college in Alabama, agreed to permit the study and loan the U.S. Public Health Service full access to their medical facilities because they were under the impression that the purpose of the study was to benefit public health in the local poor population. They targeted a specifically black, young, and poor population because they knew that their incentives of free health care would be more coercive since these black men still did not have access to all their constitutional rights. This practice of intentionally lying to their subjects and partners was not only unethical, but done with malicious intent because they knew they were systematically harming African-Americans by withholding treatment. While the university and subjects were told the study would last only 6 months, it actually ended up lasting 480 months (40 years). Not only would this lead to the death of over 90% of the subject group (523 people), the U.S. government, during the timeframe of the study, declared penicillin to be an adequate cure for syphilis. However, not a single subject was informed of that breakthrough and thus were prevented from accessing a life-saving drug.
Although some might claim that the government was not being malicious because they were no laws surrounding ethical experiment practice in the 1930s, the resulting consequences of the study highlight the intentional abuse on African-Americans. In 1973, a whistleblower informed the public of the study and due to public outcry, an advisory panel determined the study to be “ethically unjustified” and ordered its immediate termination. After that, the NAACP filed a class action lawsuit in which the U.S. government voluntarily accepted responsibility by agreeing to a $10 million settlement. Additionally, they agreed to follow through on their empty promises and created a “Tuskegee Health Benefit Program” in which the U.S. government promised to give lifetime medical benefits and burial services to all living participants. The U.S. government actively accepts responsibility by then continuing to update the program in order to include spouses and offspring in 1975, and expanded the program in 1995 to include health as well as medical benefits. The government further accepted full responsibility for the harms created by the study when President Clinton stated “The United States government did something that was wrong — deeply, profoundly, morally wrong. It was an outrage to our commitment to integrity and equality for all our citizens.” To this day, the government is still paying 12 offspring for the damages they caused by intentionally putting African-Americans in harm’s way. The President recognized not only that the study caused harm, but also that it was the direct fault of the United States government. Even though he was not a direct proponent of the study, he recognizes that his position as the Executive means the government is responsible for past actions taken by the federally-backed researchers. Additionally, he highlights that this study not only caused significant harms, but that those harms were the intentions of the study and intended for African-Americans. “To our African American citizens, I am sorry that your federal government orchestrated a study so clearly racist.” President Clinton accepted that the federal government was responsible for these blatant racist actions and notes, “[t]hat can never be allowed to happen again. It is against everything our country stands for and what we must stand against is what it was.” However, systematic racism continued to manifest itself in state-sponsored drug testing experiments by continuing to target vulnerable populations and maliciously test on unwilling and unaware individuals. In the Tuskegee study, the government caused harm to its subjects by intentionally lying to them and subsequent harm due to a lack of treatment that could have been used to save their lives. Well into the 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s, the government continued to resort to these unethical practices in order to harm minority populations.
In conclusion, the United States government, and more specifically the CIA, utilized coercive and abusive tactics in order to perform studies on mind control with LSD. The researchers had little concern for the well-being of their subjects and were more interested as to how LSD can be militarized to their advantage. Notably, they targeted minority populations because they were vulnerable and would be easier subjects to abuse.
It was a cold December morning in Minnesota. Then again, every December morning in Minnesota is cold. Dan had slept in, not that that was a problem in his line of work. He didn’t have much to do that day, but he heard Karpis was back in town which meant a meeting was in order. Dan noticed the same guy down on the corner from the day before and the day before that. Dan knew this guy had it in for him, but what could he do to Dapper Dan? Who would be stupid enough to mess with the layover agreement? But Dan had a meeting to attend, Karpis was waiting, so Dan got in his car to head to the Green Lantern.
The date was December 4th, 1928, and Daniel “Dapper Dan” Hogan had just been blown up by a car bomb.1 It might sound like something out of a movie, but this newspaper clipping should serve as proof that it actually happened.
It is moments like this that characterize the Prohibition of alcohol in St. Paul, Minnesota. Gangsters, bootleggers, moonshiners, and speakeasies. St. Paul was far from the typical city during the Prohibition. St. Paul was a place many of the most famous gangsters of the Prohibition rested their head from Dillinger to Al Capone, to the Barker-Karpis gang, even Bonnie and Clyde, giving the city its nickname “Crooks Haven”.2 But what was it that made St. Paul such a special case?
St. Paul had a very unique climate during the Prohibition mostly because of the “layover agreement” started by John “the Big Fellow” O’Connor, the St. Paul chief of police. The layover agreement was started by O’Connor in 1900 when he was able to gain absolute control of the police department as its chief and was able to continue until 1936 when Thomas A. “Big Tom” Brown was expelled from the police force.3 The layover agreement is said to of had three rules: “check in with Hogan, donate a small bribe, and promise to commit crimes only outside the city limits.”4 If these three rules were upheld, the visiting gangsters, commanded by Dapper Dan, would receive police protection. As we can see from the newspaper clipping above speaking on a possible crime war following Hogan’s death, it was relatively common knowledge that Dan Hogan had a significant influence in the criminal underworld. This information was even known to the FBI who stated in a memo from 1926, “It is common knowledge in Minneapolis and St. Paul that Dan Hogan and Edward Morgan harbor criminals from other parts of the United States,”5 The FBI seemed to have been mistaken, however, because while Minneapolis police did have a deal with Edward Morgan to allow him to conduct his illegal gambling business, they had no such share in the layover agreement. In fact, in 1932 20 percent of the nation’s bank robberies occurred in Minnesota.6
However, if all of this was known by the government, how was this system able to be maintained? This was simply because the FBI was unable to gather enough admissible evidence to convict. This is because Dan Hogan worked mostly through proxies. There was, in 1927, a case where Hogan was arrested, but, prior to the trial, a key witness escaped a train and went to newspapers to say that his testimony was completely fabricated. Then, the remaining witnesses all completely changed their stories a few days before the trial began. However, while it was pretty clear that Hogan was able to manipulate this situation, there was no evidence with which the government could convict Hogan of a crime.7 The city of St. Paul also saw a significant decrease in crime within the city at the time which made the residents of the city generally unconcerned with the growing criminal underworld.
And while it is true the 1920s were a time of organized crime, corruption, bank robberies, and kidnappings, at the center of that was one very special drug, alcohol. The most well-known way to consume alcohol in the 1920s was at the speakeasies, which got their name from how quiet one had to speak their password to avoid being overheard by police. It was these speakeasies that allowed organized crime to flourish as criminals like Al Capone used their preexisting criminal contacts to get into bootlegging making massive amounts of money and fueling their operations and allowing them to expand further. It is estimated that Al Capone $60 million a year by supplying speakeasies with alcohol during the late 1920s.
Dapper Dan Hogan’s situation was quite similar, but he had one big advantage, he got other people to do essentially all of the work for him. Hogan was able to make massive amounts of money by maintaining the city of St. Paul as a safe haven and owning the incredibly popular speakeasy The Green Lantern. Paul Maccabee, in his book John Dillinger Slept Here: a Crooks Tour of Crime and Corruption in St. Paul 1920-1936, describes Hogan as a Godfather-Esque figure who, by 1927, was known across the country as “one of the most resourceful and keenest criminals in the United States”.8 Despite this national attention, Hogan was able to protect himself and many other criminals who decided to stop in St. Paul for a rest. Thanks to the layover agreement, every criminal who found themselves in St. Paul would wind up at Hogan’s Green Lantern.
While the Green Lantern was Hogan’s base of operations for meetings with criminals from all over the country, it was also just a favorite place for people to eat. The Green Lantern served food from hard-boiled eggs, Alvin “Creepy” Karpis’ favorite, to spaghetti. Most importantly, of course, the Green Lantern had a steady supply of beer thanks to a secret deal with the Schmidt Brewing Company. Sawyer, the man who ran the Green Lantern for Hogan (in order to allow Hogan to focus on his criminal operations), stated that people of “All walks of life” attended the Green Lantern.9 This, however, was almost certainly a lie. Alvin Karpis, in his journals, wrote about the Green Lantern, “Everyone had the same things in common—stealing, killing and looting.”10
But the Green Lantern was by no mean the sole speakeasy in St. Paul. Just one mile south down Wabasha St. lies the Wabasha Street Caves which was known to be a popular speakeasy.11 Right above the caves is my childhood home, yet another example of a speakeasy, all within a mile and half of each other. While the Green Lanterns stories of dangerous criminals are thrilling, they are by no means common to St. Paul’s speakeasy scene and certainly not the country’s. While speakeasies were criminal organizations thanks to the Volstead Act, the people who went to them were hardly criminal. It is in speakeasies that the term “dating” was born and where cocktails were invented to make the liquor taste better. In fact, under the 18th amendment, it was completely legal to consume alcohol as it only prohibited the “manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxication liquors”.12
The culture around these speakeasies is another subject of interest. Daniel Okrent, in his book Last Call: the Rise and Fall of Prohibition, said, “By 1930 the U.S. speakeasy was so ubiquitous, so indelibly part of American culture, that H. I. Phillips, a columnist for the New York Sun, was led to declare that “the history fo the United States could be told in 11 words: Columbus, Washington, Lincoln, Volstead, two flights up and ask for Gus.” While speakeasies were everywhere in St. Paul, this was hardly special. In fact, New York had upwards of 32 thousand speakeasies by the end of the 1920s.13 These speakeasies were very diverse ranging from restaurants that served homemade wine to jazz clubs filled with equal amounts of drinking and dancing. While for the most part the speakeasies of St. Paul were much like the speakeasies across the countries, the number of people involved with the illegal aspects speakeasies was quite unique. In fact, in 1922, Michael Gebhart, the successor of John O’Connor, estimated that at least 75 percent of St. Paul’s residents “were either distilling whiskey or making wine or beer by 1922.”14 That means, in St. Paul alone, there were an estimated 203,704 people producing alcohol. While these numbers are almost certainly exaggerated, it does suggest that St. Paul had a disproportionately large portion of its population involved in the production of alcohol compared to the rest of the country at the time.
These numbers also suggest a very different culture around drinking. Although there is a decisive lack of documentation on this, we can look at these images of writing found on the walls of a former speakeasy, my childhood home.
On this speakeasy, in particular, very little is know, but if we look at the first image here, we can try and decipher a little bit of information. The date clearly reads “Feb. 29, 1924 A.D” which, most obviously, gives us some information on when they operated. As for the list of names, while I could not find any information about them in censuses from the era, it is similar to the writing of names that many clubs do. This serves as a means of remembrance and togetherness and suggests a level of pride in the organization. This idea is reinforced by the emphatic “yessir!” in the top right of the image.
The rest of the images show the names spreading into the circuit breaker with dates going late as May of 1928 which suggests it was active to at least that date. What I find the most telling of the atmosphere of the speakeasy, is the comical drawing of John Hyland done by Ralph Higgs. All of this evidence points towards a casual and relaxed atmosphere very different from the boisterous accounts of other speakeasies. If we also take into consideration that this space is not very large and has a low ceiling, any loud noise in the room can be easily heard outside or anywhere else in the house, and it was the top floor of the building, it only makes it less likely that any sort of dancing or other similar spirituous festivities occurred here.
There was a little more information that I could find based on the deed of the property., this speakeasy was run two brothers, Charles “Chas” and Arnold Silverstein, out of the attic of the home they owned together. Despite the apparent small scale of the operation, there were a lot of countermeasures in place to avoid police raids. The house was fitted with a secret door hidden behind a bookcase to sneak patrons under the stairs towards either the back or front door, a small door with an eyehole perfectly aligned to see down the stairs of the attic and observe anyone who approached, and two towers with perfect views of the entire street (and the cathedral). Chas was even a police officer who’s name can still be found in the 1919 roster of police from the Ducas street station15 and as far as I can tell from police and FBI records of the time, they managed to fly under the radar. This sort of speakeasy is very different from the common conception of speakeasies as well as the known speakeasies seen in other parts of the country such as New York and points to a different culture around drinking in St. Paul.
The question then is, how did this situation in St. Paul arise? For this, we need to look back at the temperance movement and how it operated in St. Paul specifically. The state of Minnesota’s history shows widespread and strong support for temperance which became especially pronounced following the Civil War. In the wake of the civil war, Minnesota’s population boomed increasing from 33,100 to 298,000 in just twenty years. This rapid urbanization and industrialization matched with the return of the temperance activists who went away for the war allowed for the temperance debate to become central to the politics of Minnesota at the time. In 1869, just four years after the war, Minnesota’s first temperance group, Minnesota’s Temperance Party, was formed in St. Paul. However, they were not popular at all, with their candidate only receiving 3.2 percent of the gubernatorial vote.16 It wasn’t until 1887 when we see the first serious temperance law pass in Minnesota, the High License law. The law charged exorbitant amounts for people to be able to sell liquor in the state. While this law was effective at closing down many saloons and liquor stores, many stayed open and some counterproductive effects appeared in St. Paul. Interestingly, after the law was passed, arrests for drunkenness increased and there was an increase in the production of distilled spirits.17 Despite these unwanted results, the temperance movement carried on in Minnesota with the Minnesota representative from Granite Falls, Andrew Volstead, being instrumental in the passing of the National Prohibition Act of 1919, later called the Volstead Act.18
Clearly, the temperance movement from the very beginning had the opposite of the desired effects on the city of St. Paul. But why? It all comes down to the city’s demographics. After the Civil War, St. Pauls population increase was predominantly Scandinavian, Irish, and German, all of which are cultures in which alcohol held cultural significance. St. Paul acting as a center for much of the state’s temperance movement also ironically contributed to much of the city’s disdain towards the temperance movement. The temperance movement, mostly thought the evolvement of the bishop John Ireland, was able to get many Irish Catholics to join the movement.19 This was partially because it allowed these Irish Americans to distance themselves from their heritage to be more accepted by the upper classes, but it was mostly due to the massive influence John Ireland had in the community as an Irish bishop. However, this also distanced the Irish Catholics who were proud of their heritage and led to debates within St. Pauls Irish community. This also allowed for the German Americans in St. Paul to form their own German American identity to which alcohol was very important.20
St. Paul also had deep financial ties to the brewing industry with 6 brewing companies existing when Prohibition began with 29 separate brewing companies existing at some point during the temperance movement.21 Some of the most expensive and historic properties were built by these wealthy brewers with my childhood home, one of the speakeasies mentioned earlier, being built by Martin Bruggemann, one of the most successful brewers in St. Paul until his death. All of this contributed to a civic identity of the St. Paulite which staunchly opposed the temperance movement to the point where to defy the temperance movement, and later, Prohibition became like a badge of honor.
With all of this in mind, it’s no wonder St. Paul was so against Prohibition despite being from the state where the Volstead act originated. This anti-Prohibition attitude is what allowed for the rise of corruption and St. Paul’s criminal element as most of St. Paul was unconcerned with their criminal activity as long as it wasn’t dangerous for the city’s residents. From there grew St. Paul’s widespread, diverse culture surrounding alcohol. It’s well known and open rebellion against Prohibition, which was sustained by their ability to exploit the weaknesses present in the system of law enforcement, was the cities unique way of displaying its culture. Today, while the corruption and acceptance of criminal activity seem to have gone down, from the St. Patricks day parade to the ever-growing list of microbreweries, the city’s drinking culture lives on.
Paul Maccabee, John Dillinger Slept Here: a Crooks Guide and Corruption in St. Paul, 1920-1936, (Minnesota, Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1995) 2.
Park, Sharon. “Gangster Era in St. Paul, 1900–1936.” MNopedia. Minnesota Historical Society, November 4, 2015. https://www.mnopedia.org/gangster-era-st-paul-1900-1936.
Steenberg, Edward J. “John Joseph O’Connor and the ‘Layover Agreement’ (One Person’s Observations).” Saint Paul Police Historical Society – History of the St. Paul Police Department. Saint Paul Police Historical Society, 2019. http://www.spphs.com/history/oconnor/oconnor2.php.
Maccabee, John Dillinger, 2.
Park, “Ganster Era in St. Paul, 1900-1936.”
Maccabee, John Dillinger, 5-6.
“Wabasha Street Caves.” Wabasha Street Caves. Accessed December 5, 2019. http://www.wabashastreetcaves.com/.
“The 18th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.” National Constitution Center – The 18th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Accessed December 5, 2019. https://constitutioncenter.org/interactive-constitution/amendment/amendment-xviii.
Okrent, Daniel. Last Call: the Rise and Fall of Prohibition. London: Scribner, 2011. 207-208.
Mary Lethert Wingerd, Claiming the City: Politics, Faith, and the Power of Place in St. Paul (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2001) 252.
“1919 Yearbook.” Saint Paul Police Historical Society – History of the Saint Paul Police Department. Accessed December 5, 2019. http://www.spphs.com/history/1919/roster_ducas.php.
Meyer, Sabine N. We Are What We Drink: the Temperance Battle in Minnesota. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2018. 53-55.
Hoverson, Doug. Land of Amber Waters: the History of Brewing in Minnesota. Minneapolis, MN: Univ. of Minnesota Press, 2007. 287-297.
Images 1, 3, 4: Images from the Green Lantern Saloon circa 1931. Minnesota Historical Society. Minnesota Historical Society. Accessed December 5, 2019. http://search.mnhs.org/index.php?q=”green lantern”&brand=cms.
Image 2: Pioneer Press. December 5, 1928. https://www.twincities.com/2015/12/03/from-the-archives-st-paul-gangster-killed-by-car-bomb/.
an elementary or middle school aged child in the early 1990s sitting down
afterschool to enjoy America’s favorite pastime, television. You’re cozied up
with your afterschool snack and are excited to watch some cartoons. You’re
flipping the channels and trying to find The Rugrats,Dragonball Z,The Powerpuff Girls, or maybe some Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Instead, you find yourself watching The Land of Decisions and Choices, a
campy animated PSA looking like a hybrid between The Rugrats and Courage
the Cowardly Dog, warning you about the dangers of drugs and alcohol . Produced by a nonprofit
educational organization Drug Abuse Resistance Education, better known as
D.A.R.E., this special was a great ally of governmental figures in their fight
in the drug war.
Land of Decisions and Choices isn’t the first foray of
government education into America’s youth. Starting back in 1977 during the upswing
of the war on drugs, the Department of Justice asked the Ad Council to start a
public service series on the dangers of drugs for America’s youth, stemming
from the success of previous campaigns like anti littering and the ever
recognizable Smokey the Bear . As the face of this novel
movement, Scruff MacGruff the crime dog helped to “take a bite out of crime”
and encouraged drug prevention, among other public safety programs . In the first year of the
series airing, half of the U.S. population reported seeing at least one ad and
with a widespread viewership established, public service campaigns ramped up . With the election of
Reagan in 1980 and First Lady Nancy Reagan’s championing of Just Say No, anti-drug
fervor was naturally segued into children’s television in 1988’s, The
Flintsones Kids’ “Just Say No” Special .
This leads us back to The Land of Decisions and Choices and D.A.R.E’s
entrance into the avenue of animated public education in the 1990’s.
Land of Decisions and Choices was a far-reaching
public service message brought out of the classroom into the home, however,
D.A.R.E. focused the core of its curriculum mainly on its in-class sessions.
Invented and instituted in 1983 by the Los Angeles Police Department and Los
Angeles Public Schools, D.A.R.E. focused on “boosting the self-esteem of
students so that they can resist the temptations to use drugs” by way of
introducing police officers into classrooms and promoting complete abstinence
in a 17 week lecture style . Daryl Gates, the former
deputy chief of the Los Angeles Police Department who was integral in founding D.A.R.E., said his inspiration came from
“… ‘buy programs’ in the schools where undercover officers would buy drugs from
students. We kept buying more and more. It was appalling, depressing. I finally
said: This is crazy. We’ve got do something.” . Ruth
Rich, Los Angeles’s district heath education specialist wrote the first D.A.R.E. curriculum and made sure to
have police officers, not doctors or teachers, teach in the classroom indicating
that, “There’s a gap between the street and the classroom. Police officers are
believable on this subject. When it comes to drugs, they’re more credible than
a teacher” .
In a 1995 Reason interview with D.A.R.E.
officer Terry Campbell, differing D.A.R.E. classes are shown for different age
ranges of children. His interview starts with a 4th grade level
class. After introductions are made, he lays down the groundwork that the young
children will use later in the middle school curricula .
He asks what D.A.R.E. stands for, what is a drug, what medicine is, and how much
you take . He takes questions of
all types, satisfies the curiosity of the little kids, and reminds them to call
911, “if they need to” .
Then, Campbell moves on to sixth graders and begins by taking anonymous
questions from notes in a box, before entering into the lesson .
He works through a lesson on resisting peer pressure by bringing up a young
girl named Maggie, whose name was changed for privacy, to the front of the
class and asking “It’s possible that somebody’s gonna hold a gun to your head
and say, take these drugs. More common is the form that Maggie and I have been
best friends since kindergarten and I say, ‘Hey, Maggie, I got some marijuana
here and I think that it’s really great…” .
Maggie loudly interrupts by shouting no and continues to do so despite every attempt
at Campbell trying to persuade her .
With the conversation as a functioning introduction, Campbell steers the class
into their workbooks and through an exercise where they must get into groups
and estimate the number of 7th grade students out of 100 who have
been drunk from a national survey .
Every group is incorrect, and the lesson shows that the groups provide an
element of peer pressure about individual’s ideas on the percentage, and that
each student must be wary of that pressure when faced with the more pressing
real life choices of whether or not to do drugs .
years after its implementation, 5,200 communities in all 50 states and an
estimated 5.5 million schoolchildren participated enthusiastically in D.A.R.E.,
making it the largest national drug education program . Politicians by now had
seized this goldmine of opportunity to simultaneously support police officers
and promote both public safety and childhood education all while denouncing
drug abuse in America, a whopping 4 for 1 stance that quickly was adopted by
both parties. In fact, along with numerous incentives, grants, and donations,
this government to nonprofit relationship was solidified by Ronald Reagan
through proclamation 5854 which declared the third Thursday of April every year
as the National D.A.R.E. Day, in 1988, saying, “D.A.R.E. instruction programs have already touched the lives
of more than a million and a half students and contributed to improved study
habits, better grades, and greater respect for authority. In short, this
positive program of drug abuse prevention is effective.” .
Twenty-three years later, Barack Obama echoed these sentiments in his
proclamation 8648, cementing D.A.R.E.
day in national public consciousness and increasing its applicability to include the new wave of
opioid and prescription drug epidemics sweeping the country .
By 2002, D.A.R.E.’s 990 exemption form for Income Tax from the Internal Revenue
Service, due to its non-profit operating structure, showed gross receipts
amounting to $10,562,844, and estimated that the “efforts of police officers
& many volunteers – quantified value of time and effort in 2002 [was]
valued at $208,000,000” . When adjusted for
inflation, D.A.R.E. was
effectively spending a tremendous $311,939,840 in just 2002 in drug education,
and state-run affiliates of the national program raised millions more . Furthermore,
D.A.R.E. programs and curricula
reached 26 million children at an 80% implementation rate in public schools, considerably
up from its 1988 total of a million and a half students . The
entire nation was behind D.A.R.E. and no other public drug educational program
had come near the sheer size nor positive public opinion D.A.R.E. had amassed
over the 19-year period from its inception in 1983 to its operational height in
2002. D.A.R.E. was a wonder program, a sure-fire end to the problems of drug
abuse in America. There was just one, tiny little problem: D.A.R.E. was a
complete and total sham.
In fact, most of drug prevention ads of the
time simply weren’t effective and often were a façade masking the underlying
root problems of drug abuse. Behind the ads, John Morales, the voice actor for
the lovable crime dog Scruff MacGruff, was arrested ironically after being
flagged by a drug sniffing dog in 2011 for 1,000 marijuana plants and 9,000
rounds of ammunition for 27 weapons including even a grenade launcher . By utilizing the predominant paradigm of a
one size fits all NO to drugs, D.A.R.E. likened alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana
to crack cocaine and methamphetamine. As kids grew up and began to see that the
dangers were grossly overblown for alcohol and marijuana, many lost faith in
the arguments and mentality against doing stronger drugs and assumed that they
too were not nearly as bad as they were portrayed to be.
By 2002, the operational height of D.A.R.E.,
the public was beginning to show weary doubts about the effectiveness of drug
education programs, and especially so with D.A.R.E. Under 19 years of D.A.R.E.
of curricula, high school illicit drug use was actually showing a 13% from the
1992 low, and the 2002 high school drug use statistics matched the 1975 highs . In a Wall Street Journal article
providing an alternative to D.A.R.E., Tara Parker-Pope cites a smaller, newer
curriculum called LifeSkills . Backed by research from Cornell University,
the program teaches real life coping skills, focuses on one drug at a time,
refrains from lecturing, and moreover follows the students through their entire
school career. D.A.R.E., while being taught in 80% of school
districts, only has a 25% implementation rate in middleschool and further only
a 10% implementation rate in highschool. Unsurprisingly, Lifeskills produced a 66%
reduction in adolescent alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana use while D.A.R.E.
Despite doubts emerging as early as 2002,
public debate continued to rage over the effectiveness of D.A.R.E. because it
was so powerful not as a drug prevention tool, but as a political tool that had
won the hearts and minds of America. In a Wall Street Journal article
from 2007, Stanton Peele, a psychologist and addiction expert is echoing what
Parker-Pope wrote from 2002. He writes that “Research on effective drug resistance programs
finds that the best ways to prevent substance abuse are for kids to develop
skills, feel good about themselves, have positive peers, and look forward to
their futures.” and connects it to role models in presidents Bush Jr. Clinton,
and Obama who had all used drugs in their youth, yet straightened out in their
adulthood to achieve great things . Moreover, Peele cites
neural research driving adolescents to undertake risky behaviors such as drug
use and argues that programs like D.A.R.E. do nothing to confront the
circumstances of drug use by instead merely “troop[ing] in people who have
ruined their lives by their drug use and drinking, as object lessons in the
evils of sin. But there are reasons to believe that kids reject negative
messages from figures like these, and that purely scare tactics don’t work.”. In a fervent response
article, Dr. Alan Blum m.d., director for the University of Alabama Center for
the Study of Tobacco and Society, fires back with the tried and true D.A.R.E.
tactic of not even once saying, “What Mr. Peele overlooks is that even a single
episode of drug use can have serious adverse health consequences, not to
mention legal ones. The risk increases with each episode” . Tony Newman, a press
director for the Drug Policy Alliance quickly points out the error in Dr.
Blum’s response saying, “Mr. Blum appears to share the philosophy of many
abstinence-only programs that try to scare teens out of ever even trying drugs
by highlighting phony horror stories such as “Try marijuana and you may
become a homeless heroin addict.” Yet despite 20 years of “Just Say
No” D.A.R.E. programs, half of all 18-year-olds will have tried marijuana
before they graduate. And for most of those who try it or have friends or
family members who have, there are no nightmare experiences that our
“experts” predict. This leads to many teens ignoring all the
information told them by people in authority who have now lost their
Indeed, though officer
Terry Campbell clearly had good intentions when teaching his class, little Maggie
and the many other 4th and 6th graders gained nothing
from the curricula. To begin, Campbell never taught through high school, and
missed substantial parts of student’s vulnerable times for drug use. While the
laidback questions for the little 4th graders might suffice in
younger years as laying the groundwork, the program really falls apart in
middle school. In questioning Maggie, Campbell says “ … Maggie and I have been
best friends since kindergarten and I say ‘Hey, Maggie, I got some marijuana
here and I think that it’s really great…’” to which Maggie shouts “NO!”
repeatedly. An attempt was at least made to address peer pressure, but a
middle-aged police officer isn’t a 12-year-old student and the situations where
children may try drugs are never accurately simulated. In addition, simply
shouting “NO!” over and over is not a realistic defense to declining drugs, and
steps should have been taken to create more lifelike scenarios. Moreover,
guessing statistics on alcohol abuse in groups certainly shows peer pressure,
and makes students more aware of it, but it doesn’t address how to combat it,
and never applies it in the specific case of drug abstinence.
Starting in 1994, the
Research Trial Institute (RTI) started the first empirical studies of the
effectiveness of D.A.R.E. through meta-analysis of all previous research and
its results were clear: D.A.R.E. has little to no impact on teenage drug use . This breakthrough was
so shocking, the Justice Department, a part funder of the RTI, refused to
publish the results . Later, in the 1998, an
article in the Journal of Research in Crime and Deliquency found that
D.A.R.E. graduates were actually morelikely to experiment
with drugs, citing a possible boomerang effect where “an attempt to persuade result[s] in the adoption of an opposing
position instead.”. Finally, in 2003, a year after D.A.R.E.’s height, the General
Accounting Office launched an expansive study that concluded, yet again, that
there were no differences in illicit drug use between D.A.R.E. graduates and
In 2009 D.A.R.E. finally caved without sufficient statistical success and the withering support of the public, and selected Keepin’ It R.E.A.L. (Refuse;Explain;Avoid;Leave), as their new evidence backed curriculum from a registry maintained by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration . In this new curriculum lecturing is cut to 8 minutes and students work among themselves to mimic real life scenarios . Thankfully, early Keepin’ It R.E.A.L. research has shown the program works, and it has been commended by the Surgeon General in his report Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health for being among the select few programs that build “social, emotional, cognitive, and substance refusal skills that provide children accurate information on rates and amounts of peer substance use.” . Far from its original mission “to implement and support drug abuse resistance education and crime prevention programs in the USA.”, D.A.R.E. has amended its mission to “teach students good decision-making skills to help them lead safe and healthy lives.” and finally, conclusively, works .
America, D. A. R. E.
“Surgeon General Commends Efficacy of D.A.R.E.’s ‘keepin’ It REAL’ Curriculum.”
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It is not a new development that women’s actions are often
treated differently than the actions of men. One of countless examples is the
treatment of women who consume alcohol. How does mainstream American society
treat the consumption of alcohol by women differently than men? By looking at portrayals of female alcohol
abuse in the United States from 1900 to the present in relation to alcohol
abuse by males in the same timeframe and location, while paralleling evolving
scientific perception of alcohol abuse, this paper will give insight into the
way that gendered double standards tie into portrayals of alcohol abuse.
Specifications of Research
Alcohol abuse is defined as the use of alcohol
resulting in notable negative consequences, with both psychological and
physical components. This research will focus on the physical components. In
coping with the specific set data that is accessible, the research presented in
this paper will look specifically at a set of isolated gender, race,
nationality, timeframe, and substance variables. These research specifications
will create a more precise study and conclusion than if more axes were left
uncontrolled. The research question, then, is as follows: in what ways were
portrayals of Caucasian women’s alcohol abuse in the United States from 1900 to
the present different from portrayals of the alcohol abuse of their male
The selection of Caucasian women is a result of maximizing
the usefulness of available data sets, being that most of the relevant data has
discussed Caucasian women as the result of racial privilege. The selection of
the substance of alcohol is a result of its long history of legalization. The
selection of the timeframe used to contain my research was to contain the
research on the axis of time while including a large enough amount of time to
have a wealth of important data. The way that women who abuse alcohol are
viewed during any given timeframe is indicative of larger gender norms during
that time period. By looking at a time period of over one hundred years can
create a substantive observation about social portrayal patterns surrounding
the demographic in discussion during that time. Still, the variables of social
class and age have been left to be independent variables to explore.
innumerable instances of portrayals of alcohol abuse in this century. Still, in
examining exemplary instances of the differences in portrayal of alcohol abuse,
we are able to extrapolate a broader understanding of the culture that produced
those instances at that time. One prominent cultural comparison to draw within
the United States is that between Caucasian, mainstream early 2010’s pop icons
Ke$ha and Mac Miller. The late Mac Miller’s stoner persona discusses alcohol
abuse in his 2011 hit “Up All Night”. He sings “So I’mma get drunk, won’t be
leavin’ til three / Yea, I got a reputation of gettin’ wasted”, then further
addressing his big spending habits, objectification of his female bartender,
and becoming physically ill out of drunkenness (Miller). Ke$ha’s famed 2009
song “TiK ToK” includes the lines “Before
I leave, brush my teeth with a bottle of Jack / ‘Cause when I leave for the
night, I ain’t coming back “, then states that she will be partying and
drinking while out (Ke$ha).
Miller was portrayed as a laid-back man, from his apparel to
his song’s musical quality; see image 1 in appendix. Ke$ha, on the other hand,
was depicted as highly erratic. Her apparel was unusual, and both the apparel
and her demeanor were shown to be that of a “party girl” trope; see image 2.
While the contexts of both star’s personas were different, this example is
still powerful. We see a man drinking as hypermasculine in his sexualization of
the bartender yet depicted as relaxed through his overall persona. When Kesha
drinks in “TiK ToK”, she pursues men, gets a pedicure, tries on clothes and
does other hyperfeminine actions. She, however, has been depicted as “wild”,
while Miller has been merely “chill”.
This perception of Miller becomes even more evident as we
see pitchfork.com’s 2011 review of the album that includes “Up All Night”,
“Blue Side Park”. In regard to his use of substances, the page writes “He lusts
after fame, money, and women, and he smokes weed and parties. Obviously,
there’s nothing wrong with that; it is rap music, of course,” (Sargent). Ke$ha,
on the other hand is described by a blogger that The Guardian highlighted in
2009 as “trailer trashy” and “full of bravado and cheap beer” (Lester). Ke$ha’s
2010 persona is even still recently described as trashy; as papermag.com wrote
on April 18, 2018, “the trashy lyrics about brushing her teeth with Jack
Daniels, the way Kesha moved between speaking and speak-singing like a hangover
prevented her from giving more” (Morgan). The way in which her image has aged
is a powerful indicator of the strength of the perception of her image. Maybe
the disparity between portrayals in this case is merely a result of genre.
Maybe there’s more. Afterall, how many women were there alongside and as
successful as Mac Miller in the 2011 rap industry?
As recovered female alcoholic Brenda Wilhelmson writes in
her book “Diary of An Alcoholic Housewife”, she drank to try to fulfill her
idea of a successful writer in her male-dominated career as a journalist
(Wilhelmson). She engaged in alcohol abuse to try to keep up with the ultimate
success of the fellow journalists (Wilhelmson). Perhaps this notion of feeling
the need to drink to compete with males is a common thread between Wilhelmson
and the development of Ke$ha’s persona. Ke$ha has even publicly spoken out
about the distance between herself and her persona development, telling The
Guardian “Am I a party girl? … I don’t go to clubs. … I don’t do drugs … people
think I’m messed up all the time. I’m not,” (Elan). Her decision to
introduce alcohol abuse into her lyrical content and persona development were
certainly part of a strategy used to find and keep professional success. It is
likely that this decision not only accounted for fellow male artist competition
but also took into account the pervasive perceptions of female alcohol abuse
abuse”, in the United States, is currently a widely known term. Though the term
describes one of the most common forms of substance abuse in the United States,
there still remains conflict surrounding the causation of this behavior in this
century. To better understand the ways in which alcohol abuse is portrayed in
this century, we must first understand the ways in which alcohol addiction is
The two opposing sides of the argument are the Freudian
opinion and the biological opinion (Herzberg). The Freudian opinion states that
one’s alcoholism is a result of vulnerability created by social factors
(Herzberg). The biological opinion states that genetic predisposition makes one
vulnerable to alcoholism (Herzberg).
those of the biological opinion tend to sympathize more than those of the
Freudian opinion with both female and male alcoholics in the United states
because by pathologizing the abuse it became an illness rather than a flaw in
character (Herzberg). Those of the Freudian opinion, on the other hand tend to
stigmatize alcoholism as a result of poor decision making in both men and women
(Herzberg). This is because viewing addiction as a socialized element places
autonomy onto the abusers in relation to their own abuse. Some have an opinion
between the prior two extremes. This results in both sympathy and a placing of
blame for both men and women (Herzberg). Though these broader schools of
thought surrounding portrayal of abuse serve to create a framework for further
differentiations between male and female alcoholics: while these broader ideas
may seem non-gender-discriminatory, there is much more to social portrayals
than this foundation they rest on.
further tackling gendered double standards within portrayals, it is necessary
to first acknowledge some of the current understanding of the ways that women
are believed to react biologically differently to alcohol than men. The
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that women are at a
larger risk of some alcohol related problems (“Women and Alcohol”). This is
contributed to by women’s general smaller physical weight, which creates a
higher alcohol to body ratio for a smaller person than for a larger person. It
is also contributed to by the fact that, on average, women have less water in
their bodies than men pound for pound (“Women and Alcohol”). Both of these factors yield a higher blood
alcohol content faster for the average female body than for the average male
body (“Women and Alcohol”). This puts the average woman at a higher risk of
alcohol abuse or alcoholism. But is this slight gender difference, based on
average body types, cause enough for the formation of gendered double
1950 to 2000
A study in 1968 called “Family history studies: IV.
Comparison of male and female alcoholics.” found that addiction was potentially
genetic in part, supporting the modern biological perspective (Winokur, George,
and Paula J Clayton). On the other hand, the 1967 study “A Comparison of the
Outcome of Treatment in Female and Male Alcoholics” was skeptical of scientific
understanding of alcohol abuse at that time, criticizing research that has now
been disputed. The text opens with the telling quote “The literature on female
alcoholism is relatively scanty,” (Pemberton 367). The author further
elaborates, discussing relevant studies, one of which from the 1958 United
States “thought that female alcoholism was an expression of personality
misdevelopment, and produced some evidence to support this view,” (Pemberton
367). This study points to what is perhaps largely a root of a gender divide in
representations of alcohol abuse: misunderstanding. As we see from this, the
understanding of alcohol abuse by women was still severely incomplete in the
As an 1884 published research source stated, gender roles
are largely the dictator between differences in behavior between males and
females (Bell, Ralph, et al.). As Bell, Havelicek, and Roncek succinctly write,
“Differences in behavioral outcomes between men and women are believed to
reflect the differences surrounding socially appropriate behavior,” (Bell,
Ralph, et al. 552). This study goes beyond biological explanations and expands
into the impact of society on individual action. The paper reveals that general
literature concurs that men are more likely to be frequent alcohol users than
women (Bell, Ralph, et al.). However, this source and likely the sources
referenced in it take data by interview. We can learn, then, that men
interviewed were at least more comfortable admitting to frequent alcohol use
than women interviewed. Perhaps this is a result of the forces that created a
study that stated alcoholism is a result of “personality misdevelopment” in
women specifically (Pemberton 367).
To state that “9.4% of the males interviewed are heavy
drinkers compared to only 1.6% of the females interviewed” is merely to say
that 7.8% more of men admitted to heavy drinking (Bell, Ralph, et al. 552) fi.
These admittances, still, are powerful indicators of perhaps a gender divide in
heavy alcohol consumption but are also a window into the expected image of
female alcohol users. Perhaps 7.8% of women or more did drink heavily in this
study, yet perhaps many women were hesitant to admit their drinking habits.
An episode of mainstream sitcom “Full House” aired in 1990
shows the Caucasian eldest daughter of the family, still a child, being
pressured by Caucasian boys to drink alcohol; see image 3 (Franklin). The boys
are portrayed as the “bad boy” trope, and the characters of the show seem to
find it relatively normal that boys would be the ones accessing forbidden
alcohol. As two of her male guardians catch and discuss the daughter’s eventual
association with beer, she desperately askes one “How could you take his side[,
that I was drinking,] instead of believing your own daughter?” (Franklin).
Here, we see a loss of credibility of the female in the situation, and notions
of shame toward her perceived actions and her presented danger to herself. The
boys, however, are not discussed and are not penalized. They are portrayed as
rebellious, but not dangerous. This double standard of a different treatment of
the daughter and the boys can be likened to a different treatment of Ke$ha and
Mac Miller: the females consuming alcohol face the most negative response.
1900 to 1950
The Women’s Christian Temperance Union of 1873 stated that
male substance abuse was out of control (Gordon). With the organization’s
support, the United States entered a period of the Prohibition from 1920 to
1933 (Gordon). During this time, alcohol creation and consumption were illegal.
While largely a restrictive movement, many women were
empowered by the circumstances of Prohibition. As stated in “Tippling Ladies
and the Making of Consumer Culture”, women sought opportunities to drink
alcohol during this time (Remus). Remus writes that “The conflict over their
conspicuous tippling concerned more than spatial boundaries; it pivoted on the
right of women to pursue individual pleasure in public—a right most brazenly
expressed by drinking” (Remus 753). This quote gives specific attention to a
right to pleasure that women have been historically deprived of. For this
reason, among others, drinking itself was largely portrayed as a man’s activity
in the United States leading up to this point.
Encouraged Women to Drink” further describes the making, selling and
consumption of liquor by women during Prohibition. It continues the argument
that bootlegging and drinking by women were “critical developments in how women
worked and played in public” (Blakemore). Prohibition was indisputably powerful
in liberating women in many ways. This liberation, however, was not captured by
much of mass media.
the United States ruled that films were not entitled to protection under free
speech (Hunt). Mainstream media of most kinds followed this trend of censorship
(Hunt). The power of portrayals was perhaps most acknowledged under this
censorship. As a 1915 article exclaimed that “Many persons now recognize that
the cultural and moral influence of ‘the movie’ must be carefully estimated. …”
(Hunt). The federal Motion Picture Production Code of 1930 stated that “The use
of liquor in American Life, when not required by the plot or for proper
characterization, will not be shown” (“Appendix 1: The Motion Picture
Production Code.” 59).
virtual silence of mass media on the subject of alcohol abuse liberating? Or
was it deceptive in its conciliatory nature? Perhaps it was both. The heavy
freedom seen in “Tippling Ladies” was certainly enhanced without film exposure
of the women’s actions. But enhanced freedom is still relative and, though
women may have been freer to abuse alcohol within this circumstance than they
would have been with film’s exposure, women still lacked even basic freedoms in
this timeframe, compared to men. For this reason, it is likely that female
alcohol abuse was stigmatized more intensely than men’s at this time.
Women’s actions have been historically treated differently
than when men do those same actions. As shown in this paper, one of countless
examples is the treatment of women who consume alcohol. The United States
society from 1900 to present has treated women who abuse alcohol in various
ways over time. By looking at portrayals of female and male alcohol abuse
within this time span, while comparing differences of portrayals of males in
the same timeframe and location, it becomes clear that gendered double
standards ties into portrayals of alcoholism. “Chill” Mac Miller and “wild”
Ke$ha were treated very differently for abusing alcohol in reviews in this
century. They were also represented by very different personas. Similarly, the
oldest daughter in “Full House” was treated with distrust and a much more
severely negative reaction for alleged underaged drinking than were the actual
boys who provided the alcohol in the mid 1900’s. Drinking alcohol was largely
unable to even be depicted in media in the early 1900’s, though women were able
to be relatively liberated by female work and social rebellion during
Prohibition. Still, these women’s liberation left them behind men in rights and
likely left their alcohol abuse more stigmatized than men. A common thread
through these examples is clear: females are repeatedly perceived as worse than
males when abusing alcohol. This perception has varied over time and will
likely vary in the future. It is important that we are conscious of the way
that media portrayals are not only a product of societal values, but that the
portrayals impact the way that we understand the world as well.
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