For the readings Jazz Joints and Junk and the Oral history of Narcotic Use, we see the culture that surrounds drug use in the mid-twentieth century. These readings give two very interesting and distinct insights based on the nature of the sources. These readings were assigned together and lead to a discussion of how access and culture lead to an increase in drug use. How geography and exposure were some of the leading causes to use, despite what the public believed. Drug use was a facet of the culture but, not the dominating aspect.
The chapter from Jazz Joints and Junk is a secondary source that looked at different studies that looked at the drug culture at the time. The author spends half the chapter discussing marijuana use and the other half on opioid use. Both in relation to jazz clubs and other similar social spheres. The author explained how the government was afraid of an increase in marijuana usage because they thought it caused violence. This chapter looked at both scientific and sociological research done on marijuana use. They concluded that despite the fears of Mayor LaGuardia marijuana use did not increase violence and was not widely exposed to young adolescents. That the social scene of going to tea pads was more prevalent than anything else. It was a place to socialize and wind down a night rather than a drug that caused violent behavior. The fact that it was secret, and you needed to know someone to gain access is what added to the appeal. The culture surrounding it is what drew people in rather than the drug use itself. In the second half of the chapter, the author discusses the rise of heroin use in jazz clubs. The overlap between musicians and dealers. That while not all jazz musicians were dealers they did all have exposure to the drugs and some needed to get high to perform. The idea that the music was more entrancing when in an elevated stated.
The reading of the Oral Histories of Narcotic Use is a primary source that really showcased the way individuals interacted with opioid use. There is only so much information observation research can garner, so having first-hand tellings of the experience allows for a view that isn’t tainted by the bias that drugs are inherently bad. This reading showed that drug use happened to people from different walks of life but it was primarily through exposure. That none of these people sought drug use, but rather it was an aspect of their lifestyle. That as well as it focused that no two users were the same, that their way of interacting with the drug was shaped by the culture and price. How when we think of heroin users we assume they all shoot up, but many users fear this because of the dangers of skin popping. The use of needles was because it made it cheaper because you could use less. It showed that addiction could be a part of someone’s life, a part that most of the world is oblivious to.
Both of these readings showed how drug use was intertwined with certain culture, mostly it was meant to enhance entertainment. We saw this clearly in the Jazz and Junk reading, “ the music itself also played a role in the use of narcotics. Some musicians used heroin to help them play, while others used it to come down from playing”. This was also clear in the Lotty oral history because she explained how she was working in clubs and girls would get dressed up in silk nightgowns to get high and dance. That the use of drugs was not expected, but it supported the idea that if it is there people will partake. This was seen in the police study discussed in Jazz and Junk that it was offered like drinks were to patrons of tea rooms, that it was okay to decline. However, due to the level of secrecy involved in drug use the mystery and risk are what adds to the intrigue. This optimizes that drug use was a culture because it was a place to socialize, and brought people together over the shared idea of engaging in something illicit.
My biggest question would be if we took the intrigue of secrecy that dealing illicit drugs has would drug use go down? From my understanding, the draw of tea pads was that not all were welcomed, that it became an act that bonded a certain demographic that is normally shunned by society. So, to engage in an act that was also deemed taboo by society was almost an act of defiance. That if they were going to be categorized as other they may as well partake in deviant behavior.