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The influence of culture on drug use post WWII

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.

Omission of ‘Coping Theory’ or Medicinal Theory’ in Present Day Discussion of Youth Substance Abuse

Our examination of the evolution of drug use over the course of US history has provided a plethora of rationales for different drug usages. Many of these rationales consider the social anxieties plaguing the country at the time in addition to means of physical and economic access. In examining how history recalls these occurrences, I hope to shed light on the current discussion of modern day drug use as it pertains to youth indulgence in marijuana and alcohol. 

‘The Hidden Epidemic: Opiate Addiction and Cocaine Use in the South,’ and ‘Medical Theories of Opiate Addictions Aetiology and their Relationship to Addicts Perceived Social Position’ walk through the social circumstances that may have influenced Americans’ use of opiates. ‘Hidden Epidemic’ acknowledges that rampant endemic disease such as cholera and diarrhea and widespread injury in the south as a result of Civil War casualties created an ideal atmosphere for individuals to use opium for their pain relieving effects. We see here historians providing medical reasoning for the use of opium. ‘Hidden Epidemic’ also highlights the changing social climate, particularly as it relates to the degenerate social status of plantation owners, as necessitating a drug that would numb emotional pain with a specific notion to ‘pervasive depression.’ Rather than attributing physical pain with drug use, historians recognize and thus validate emotional pain. On the other hand, cocaine use amongst blacks was explained by their need to remain awake for the long hours they worked. The source is unclear about whether blacks were introduced to cocaine by their bosses, or took the initiative themselves to indulge. Nevertheless, the source aims to hypothesize the external circumstances that could have promoted and maintained an interest in drugs to ultimately explain the difference in drug use across racial groups. 

‘Medical Theories’  dissects similar motivations for opiate drug use as it aims to draw correlations between the shift in demographic opiate abuse and medical practitioners’ perspectives of addiction and potential treatment. This secondary source analyzes a number of primary sources in the forms of medical articles to explain numerous theories. One such theory, coping theory, hypothesized that many white affluent businessmen utilized opiates to cope with the rigors of civilized life and demands of their work, particularly to assist with ‘completing their tasks and helping them fall asleep.’ Similar to Hidden Epidemic, this source acknowledges that opiates may have been used to ‘assuage physical or emotional difficulties.’ These perspectives however changed as the demographic which most abused opiates shifted to lower class minorities. In the late nineteenth century to the early twentieth century, physicians began to label addiction as an innate degeneracy, meaning that individuals with addictions inherited this mental defect and could not be cured. This comes at a time when primarily working, lower class whites were abusing opiates. Much later, in the 1960’s, we see the rise of communicable disease theory to describe heroin addiction as being sourced from exposure to host, agent, and environment. This theory is truly the first indication of drug abuse justified as a means of social relating. Here the physical and emotional necessities that prompted the earlier use of opiates is eliminated. We can understand this concept by reflecting on the role of alcohol in ‘The Alcohol Republic.’ Rorabaugh describes drinking as a very social occurrence with the establishment of gentlemen’s clubs, the prevalence of drinking at celebrations, and the association of the American Revolution with local taverns. It was clear that alcohol at the time was very much a part of the culture and so, external justifications for its indulgence was unnecessary. 

We can juxtapose these discussions with the perspectives that dominate the discussion on youth marijuana and alcohol abuse today. The general consensus is that teens indulge in marijuana use as a result of peer pressure and the glorification of the drug in music videos and other media forms. In fact, the rise of the term ‘social drinker’ is indicative of the manner in which many perceive youth to partake in substance abuse. Why is it that modern day purveyors of this topic fail to discuss the possible emotional or physical justifications of marijuana use. Both secondary sources discussed include references to primary source indicating that even at the time, the justifications for opiate abuse were recognized. With this information, we can not say that ‘time’ is needed for historians to realize the true meaning behind youth indulgence in marijuana. 

Despite a plethora of evidence suggesting marijuana can be used to treat menstrual pain, headaches, cancer related pain and other very general and common anxieties, this has been largely ignored by individuals who hold strong opposition against the use of marijuana. Similarly, despite significant scientific research attributing red wine and other types of alcohol to healthy heart activity, the primary discussion of alcohol use in youth revolves around social drinking or peer pressure. Perhaps as suggested by ‘Medical Theories,’ the particular race and class of those youth individuals indulging in marijuana has a large influence over this discussion…

Assessing the Impact of Addict Identity

By Théo Davis

Emily Remus’ “Tippling Ladies and the Making of Consumer Culture, Gender and Public Space in Fin-de-Siècle Chicago” and Hannah Cooper’s “Medical Theories of Opiate Addiction’s Aetiology and Their Relationship to Addicts’ Perceived Social Position in the United States: a Historical Analysis” present two compelling, albeit very different, analyses of how the perception of marginalized groups consuming drugs shifts society’s view of said drugs. Cooper’s adherence to the scientific method, compared to Remus’ linear narrative, paired with Cooper’s more profound and effective relation to overarching sociological theories make for a more useful historical analysis.

When reading Hannah Cooper’s article published in the International Journal of Drug Policy (with a respectable impact factor of 4.244), immediately apparent is its loyalty to the scientific method, from the section structure to the quantitative methods. Cooper establishes a solid foundation through Critical Race Theory, Social Constructionism Theory, and other scientific papers, before reinforcing internal validity with random sampling and robust methods for operationalizing medical professionals’ aetiology and prognosis of opiate addicts. Most impressively, Cooper’s results reinforce critical race theory and implore current day researchers and medical professionals to critically self-evaluate how their perception of a drug’s users distorts how they view a drug, its causes, and its impacts.

This analysis’ strengths are rooted in the scientific method. While this method remains the “gold standard” in many fields of academic research, its adoption within the field of history has been sporadic, as issues with data availability render many questions hopelessly unanswerable. Further, even with the scientific method, questions always remain, such as how truly representative the Indux Medicus, from which these sample was drawn, is, and how the results vary in different regions of the United States with differing demographics of addicts..

In contrast, Emily Remus’ analysis adopts a more narrative structure; presenting a linear series of arguments, and retaining a thesis. The paper was published in the Journal of American History, which carries a measly impact factor of .684. This is worth considering, but is not detrimental to the paper’s validity itself. More worrying is the absence of opposing views or arguments to address inevitable concerns. The overarching argument appears both convenient and too broad in scope.

Despite this, Remus’ argument is compelling, proposing that Chicago’s unique environment, paired with the rising purchasing power and heightening cultural influence of monied women led to radical emerging forms of female pleasure-seeking, such as expanded autonomy for public drinking and greater political activity. Chicago is convincingly established as the laboratory of urban modernism and the center of American progressivism. Similarly, Remus assures with ample citations that the market began to tailor to female pleasure-seeking and cultural cachet as it had never before. Remus concludes that Tippling Ladies presented the amalgamation of modernizing gender roles and America’s culture of consumption, antagonizing opponents of both.

Both of these analyses wrangle with the perception of marginalized groups consuming drugs and how society shifts its view of the drug as a result. Cooper demonstrates that medical professionals’ aetiology and prognosis of addiction shifts depending on the perceived identity of the addicts. As opiate addicts shifted from being primarily affluent and white to being primarily poorer Americans of color, the perceived causes of addiction shifted from external to internal and the nature of condition from curable to incurable. Remus likewise argues that fear and discomfort with expanding female pleasure-seeking contributed to male villainization of Tippling Ladies and support for the Temperance Movement. As the Temperance Movement grew, support largely divided along gender lines.

I argue the discrepancy in each article’s strength also lies with how each author relates their analysis to a greater sociological perspective. Where Remus romanticizes a narrative of feminist empowerment by affluent white women, Cooper demonstrates an ever-evolving systematic prejudice of poorer, less white, Americans. Cooper explains how drugs, and how the medical profession observes them, reinforces existing unequal power structures. Remus, meanwhile, fails to significantly investigate the broader social implications, leaving the reader with questions such as; did monied women empower themselves through expanded pleasure-seeking or was this “empowerment” only a tool for men and capitalism to ever-further exploit women?

Both articles, to different effects, promote greater ideas; of shifting modern gender codes and growing consumerism, and of Critical Race Theory. Thanks to the scientific method, Cooper provides more effective support for the later, going so far as to present a topical recommendation to those in the medical profession today. The comparison of these two articles leaves us with profound questions as well. Should the scientific process play a larger role in historical analyses? Assuming there is inevitable bias within both, is a scientifically valid random sample more accurate than a specialized historian who aggregates?

The “Drug Problem”

by Hope Chang

Few could dispute that drug use has been and continues to be controversial – particularly in the United States. From 1920-1933, the government implemented a nationwide constitutional ban on alcohol. Citizens of the 1960s experienced the rise of a counterculture heavily associated with psychedelic use. Today, our headlines are constantly bombarded with discussion of marijuana legalization. Substances – what their effects are, who uses them, how they are used – have consistently been a moralized topic of heated debate and are deeply influenced by their contemporaneous public perceptions. The central arguments in both Cooper’s “Medical theories of opiate addiction’s etiology and their relationship to addicts’ perceived social position in the United States: an historical analysis” and Becker’s “Drugs: What Are They?” operate under the assumption that drug policies and the perceptions of drugs are somewhat arbitrary, in that they often are more reflective of their social contexts than their pharmacological makeups.  However, despite this similarity, both authors diverge in their methods of inquiry and ultimately in their key takeaways on how to address the American “drug problem”.

                  In “Medical theories of opiate addiction’s etiology and their relationship to addicts’ perceived social position in the United States: an historical analysis”, Cooper attempts to explore the relationship between health professional’s theories of the causes of opiate addiction and the general public’s perceptions of the opiate addict’s race/ethnicity, social class and gender in two time periods: 1880-1920 and 1955-1975. Cooper acknowledges that drug-related laws and policies do not only relate to inequitable social relations, but often contribute to and perpetuate them. She guides her exploration through two frameworks: Firstly, the social construction of knowledge, which posits that all knowledge (including scientific knowledge) is produced socially, and thus reflects the social contexts from which it was produced. Secondly, critical race theory, which postulates that the dominant social group – in this case, wealthy whites – which establishes and perpetuates unequal racial/ethnic relations, does so to maintain their material and social gain. In “Drugs: What Are They?”, it could be argued that Becker also operates under these two frameworks, even if it is never explicitly stated. Becker acknowledges the presence of a real “drug problem” in the US but argues that it has been dealt with and conceptualized wrongly. He states that instead of defining substance use as a problematic human behavior that must be addressed through police force, we should be treating the phenomenon as a “semantic problem”.  He emphasizes that categories such as “drugs”, “food” or “medicine” are not pharmacological categories which accurately reflect the chemical makeup of a substance, but rather decided upon by a small group of people with enough power (i.e. the State) to elect what substances are proper or improper. Ultimately, Becker alludes that drug policies often rest on the arbitrary classification of substances and thus we must redefine this initial (mis)classification to adequately address problems surrounding their use. Although Becker concentrates on the role of the government in unjustly creating drug policies, from Cooper’s critical race theory perspective, one could argue that the government is in many ways synonymous to the dominant social group given that it is primarily made up of older, white, wealthy men. In both articles, then, Cooper and Becker are in agreeance that unequal power structures have an inherent and formidable influence on drug policies.

Cooper and Becker both concentrate on the social perceptions of substances and how these perceptions affect policies and users. Cooper utilizes qualitative methods to explore her hypothesis that changes in the perceived racial/ethnic, class, and gender demographics of addicts at least partially contribute to the development of medical theories surrounding opiate addiction. She retrospectively meta-analyzes primary source medical articles from two specific time frames, selecting from a stratified random sample of all the appropriate studies published in medical journals. Additionally, Cooper provides a plethora of other studies to support her claims throughout. Conversely, although Becker also cites other studies as evidence, he does so far more sparsely. Ultimately, most of his claims seemingly arise from his own logic and remain unsubstantiated, providing only two references at the end of his article. In this realm, Becker’s article falls short in comparison to Cooper’s. Although Becker’s arguments may be more stimulating in some regards, he ultimately lacks the evidence to truly prove them and as a result his future directions are quite vague and unactionable. Altogether, Cooper’s article clearly stands out in its rigorous and scientific methods. Cooper and Becker operate under similar frameworks in discussing drug use in the US – they both recognize the possible negative implications of drug use while also emphasizing that its surrounding policies can oftentimes be biased andeven arbitrary. However, Cooper’s article ultimately stands out in its rigorous methods and its explicit key takeaway that present day researchers should be critical when studying the causes of addiction, remaining mindful of the ways that their biases could not only present itself in their research but the ways in which their research could perpetuate social inequities.

The Importance of Place in Drug Culture:

Tippling Ladies and Consumerism in Late 19th Century Chicago and Drug Abuse in Post-War New York City

By Shreeja Patel

In “Tippling Ladies and the Making of Consumer Culture: Gender and Public Space in Fin-de-Siećle Chicago,” Dr. Emily Remus describes how modernism and the socio-political climate of the end of the 19th century gave rise to public disdain for women consuming alcohol in commercial public spaces. These women, referred to as “lady tipplers,” were distinct from other women at the time because they typically came from wealthy families and therefore had disposable income to spend on booze. Remus claims that public outcry was in response to new forms of female consumerism, demonstrated by the advent of new commercial public spaces in Chicago like tearooms and reserved spaces in luxury hotels designed to attract these women and their wealth. Furthermore, she emphasizes that the concept of women drinking in public radically opposed conventional social norms for women at the time. Overall, Remus suggests that Chicago’s “tippling ladies” gained a sense of mobility into spaces previously dominated by men by patronizing feminized commercial public spaces and that opposition to this practice was a reflection of public disapproval of pleasure-seeking consumerism in women.  

In “Jazz Joints and Junk,” Dr. Eric C. Schneider discusses the importance of place in the emergence of drug subculture in post-World War II New York City. He contextualizes this countercultural movement by discussing Mayor Laguardia’s alarm at drug use in the city and the coinciding regulatory measures taken by the federal government to combat marijuana and opioid—namely the Harrison and Marijuana Tax Acts of the 1930s. However, Schneider’s main argument rests in the idea that pushback against marijuana use was not due to the disruption caused by drug users but instead largely driven by the “social setting in which marijuana smoking occurred” (Schneider, 22). He claims that prohibitory measures were aimed at unearthing a shrouded culture of marijuana use in Harlem. With respect to opium use, Schneider characterizes the postwar jazz clubs of Times Square during the 1940s and 1950s as prime social settings for the birth of a new drug culture, as the concentration of musicians and patrons became an attractive feature for dealers and opium peddlers. He also suggests that this public manifestation of drug culture arose in the aftermath of the drug secrecy of the 1930s and led to more overt federal response in the form of police patrolling on the ground level as opposed to furtive investigation.

Both authors emphasize the importance of place in the emergence of each new drug culture. They recognize that addressing aspects of consumerism—like location and supply—are integral to drug popularization. Remus largely relies on scholarly journals and newspaper articles to characterize the practices of “tippling ladies” in late 19th century Chicago. Many of the quotes she pulls from these sources include observations made by witnesses and social commentary on female drinking practices. The inclusion of these supporting details creates a detailed image of how drinking amongst wealthy women played out during this time. However, I found the images she included in her article of the “tippling women” and the insides of their tearooms to be the most convincing evidence in supporting her argument that the creation of these spaces essentially subverted established social norms for women.

Fig 1. Reprinted from the Chicago Tribune, Aug. 2, 1896, p. 29. This sketch depicting women gathering at an alcohol serving soda fountain in downtown Chicago demonstrates both the luxury of this practice and its popularity amongst female patrons through clothing choices.

Though Schneider’s argument about the role of New York City jazz clubs in fostering the public problem of opioid abuse is quite similar, he relies mainly on personal accounts from jazz critics and artists to characterize his scenes. I found Schneider’s use of the investigative notes on marijuana culture published by the New York Academy of Medicine’s Committee on Public Health to be particularly intriguing. Though these notes are primary sources disseminated by an organization with a degree of authority, they essentially offer the personal account of Olive J. Cregan, one of the committee’s investigators. Cregan observed various physical spaces inhabited by marijuana users from tea pads and social clubs to the bathrooms of city public schools. As he concludes his discussion of Cregan’s sociological data, Schneider reflects on the credibility of her account: “While Cregan was not an ethnographer and did not reflect on being a participant-observer or probe into the meaning of her observations, she possessed a policewoman’s careful eye for detail that makes her account believable” (22). Schneider believes Cregan’s attention to detail gives her observations credence, but I am skeptical about the level of objectivity Cregan could have achieved as a white, female police officer. Much of Cregan’s observation came as a result of her trying to enter spaces predominantly occupied by those of highly distinct socio-economic and cultural backgrounds. For example, I was mostly struck by this notion when considering how Cregan went about investigating marijuana use amongst adolescent African-American high schoolers. Though she likely maintained a level of discretion in her research practices, I can imagine that her presence was acutely noticeable and likely played a role in what she was able to observe, thus corrupting its objectivity.

A Questionable Understanding of Tobacco and Alcohol Resistance

My favorite reading so far in class has been the Remus reading that goes through the process in which white women gained social consciousness and individuality through drinking culture and affluence of alcohol in Chicago. I was immediately drawn into the article because I was able to contextualize and recognize the reasoning for going downtown. Chicago is a unique city because there is no East side due to Lake Michigan, therefore the city grows outwards into the suburbs. Although downtown Chicago is already large, the majority of Chicagoians come from the suburbs or what we like to call the “Chicagoland area”. Because of this, I was able to better understand the reasoning for why white “monied” women were focused on traveling downtown into the city for shopping and why they would be stuck downtown and need to go to the drug store or drink some alcohol for some sort of upper for the day.  Additionally, Remus focuses on the social transition and creation of autonomy for affluent white women. This angered people in the temperance movement and especially men that were angered by women taking a literal seat at the table. This was an indicator of the (white) feminist movement beginning to emerge in the early 20th century which lead to several shifts in culture and politics in the United States (such as the 18th and 19th Amendments). 

The second reading I want to explore is the Courtwright Forces of Habit article. Courtwright takes to tobacco and expands on how tobacco was so special in terms of its prosperity and resistance to political opposition (something alcohol was frequently subject to). Tobacco is a relatively new drug due to it being native to the Americas. Additionally, it rapidly expanded its use and presence in Early Americas because although it was difficult to cultivate, racist slave owners abused and exploited black populations for their labor. Because of the unjust exploitation of black labor, tobacco was able to rise up in the market as a cheap drug which allowed low-income civilians the ability to purchase a previously held luxury reserved for the wealthy. Tobaccos ability to cut social categories allowed it to boom exponentially with the growth of the colonies. Additionally, because of the way tobacco is cultivated, producers were able to customize their tobacco in order to give them a competitive edge in the market. This began the capitalist agenda amongst Americans that relies on the exploitation of labor (and land due to soil exhaustion) in order to maximize profits. 

I chose these two readings to examine because their content focuses on how society reacted to the affluent and increased usage of these products. While Courtwright takes a much more historical and general approach to the use and presence of tobacco in American than Remus does on white affluent female usage of alcohol in Chicago, both articles focus on how the presence of drugs, and more specifically who was using the drug, affected society and basic understandings of the place these drugs had in the community. Courtwright mentions that the usage of tobacco originated in 1492 for Europeans but did not become popularized or widespread until the colonial cultivation companies such as Maryland or Virginia expanded their production and focused on the exploitation of slave labor. Once it became popular, tobacco was used by the majority of people due to it being so cheap. Herein lies the fundamental difference between the expansion of tobacco versus alcohol: tobacco was wide spread upon its initial proliferation around the world while alcohol was used as a symbol of class and status for centuries. Remus notes throughout their article that white affluent women drinking alcohol was so controversial because they were acting on more than just alcohol use, but they were challenging the idea that women did not deserve the same privileges as men in society. It was this notion of alcohol use that created the social change that followed temperance movements. Tobacco had violent opposition such as in Russia when they would cut off the noses of users or in Ukraine where authorities would shove a spike through the users nose. Alcohol took a much more political path in its opposition. Laws were passed throughout American history that restricted, taxed, or prohibited alcohol usage (see 18th Amendment) which was supported by the political elites because they felt threatened by women drinking alcohol in public and displaying their status of independent wealth instead of their connection to a man with wealth. These two drugs, which have both withheld the test of time, have been treated in society, specifically the United States, very differently. Although these two articles refer to two different points in time, they both emphasize how social class would have an affect on the usage of these drugs. However, I fail to fully comprehend Courtwrights statement that tobacco cut social classes and was resistant to political opposition. There were acts to decrease tobacco but no mention of any political process that attempted to legitimize the prohibition or at least restriction of tobacco. What was the cause for this? Why did Courtwright skim over the instances in which tobacco did have political resistance? Specifically violent resistance? Remus seems to go more in depth and explain the understandings and societal reasoning for alcohol’s prohibition. Why was tobacco able to go mostly unscathed? These ideas are brought up by Courtwright but they fail to further elaborate on how it affected society and the reasoning for why tobacco was able to cut social classes even though alcohol was also proliferating at the same time. 

Marijuana, Heroin, and Jazz in New York during WWII era

In chapter two of Erik Schneider’s book, Smack: Heroin and the American city, titled “Jazz, Joints, and Junk” the reader is educated on the jazz and marijuana industry in the 1930s and ‘40s and their connection. Schneider discusses how marijuana was an essential part to the identity of the musician and the listener during this period by writing, “Marijuana united entertainer and audience in a transcendent moment that challenged the normal limits of space, time, gender, and race” (Schneider 18). Jazz clubs in New York during this time period offered a haven for countercultural people to interact and freely express themselves regardless of their background.

Schneider also discusses research conducted by the New York Academy of Medicines Committee on Public Health in response to a request by Mayor LaGuardia in 1938. Laguardia wanted this research because marijuana was a frequent topic in the media and was associated with crime and violence along with an increase in users. The study was conducted in two separate parts, clinically and sociologically. The clinical study used 72 participants from local New York prisons; 48 participants identified as “users” while the remaining 24 identified as “non-users”. The clinical study determined, contrary to popular belief, marijuana is a non-addictive substance and did not promote aggressive behavior. This was the first major study done to come to this conclusion contrasted with what was being represented in the media. The sociological study was conducted by six plainclothes officers who observed the social behavior behind the use of marijuana. These police officers observed jazz clubs, tea pads, high school bathrooms, and other areas that were assumed to be places marijuana was used. However, the results were also unalarming and found that marijuana was mostly smoked by unemployed males between the ages 18 and 25. However, I question the accuracy of this study because it was conducted by police officers and not sociologists. While the police officers observed many noteworthy instances, they were also out of place and raised suspicions in some of the clubs and high school bathroom. I believe it would be extremely abnormal for a student to see an adult in their school bathroom and then proceed to smoke marijuana.

Moreover, in this chapter Schneider lays the groundwork for introducing and explaining how the social context of this time period in New York was ripe for the influx of heroin. Jazz clubs and other social settings created a shelter for those in subcultures partaking in drug use. As jazz and marijuana were regarded to be interlinked, heroin became connected to jazz as well. In a survey of 350 jazz musicians in New York, over half reported trying heroin. However, heroin came with more significant consequences for users compared to marijuana. These consequences and social contexts that introduced users to heroin is illustrated in Courtwright and Herman’s book, Addicts who survived: an oral history of narcotic us in America, 1923-1965.

In the chapter, “Hop” of Addicts who survived, transcripts of interviews with heroin users are provided. This offers the reader the individual social context which led each person to start using heroin. While each user had their own experiences and responses, all of them started their interview by describing what their life was like before heroin. However, I was unable to determine if their tone was remorseful or passive as I did not obtain and listen to the recordings. While subjective, this would have added value to my understanding of the events and experiences of these individuals by allowing me to unpack the meaning behind their tones or even body language (if there was a video). However, for people like a woman named Lotty, it is clear they regret ever trying heroin.

At the time of her interview, Lotty was 87; however, her responses and recollections are very clear to the reader. At the age of 14, Lotty left her family and went in search of work in New York. She was lucky to find a job dancing, a place to stay and was able to live a decent life. However, complications with this drug forced her to leave where she had stayed and took up a job dancing at another club. Lotty recalls her new boss telling he one night, “”Why don’t you go out and have some fun one of these nights?… But I had no idea I was going to that kind of a party when the boss asked me. I never knew what I was getting myself in for.” (Courtwright 80). Lotty shows how, during this time period, there was a social environment that would consume drugs like marijuana and heroin without knowing their harmful effects.

These two chapters from Schneider, Courtwright, and Herman illustrate that the common misconceptions of marijuana that demonized users drove them underground where they created subcultures and environments that supported the use of drugs and illicit substances. Many of these groups were then introduced to heroin and because of their mostly harmless experiences, they did not ask questions when heroin was especially popularized after WWII. This led to a rapid spread of disease and even death among users that could have been avoided given proper widespread education.

Schneider, Eric. Smack Heroin and the American City Chapter 2.

Courtwright & Herman. Addicts who survived: an oral history of narcotic use in America, 1923-1965 Chapter 3.

The Black Cocaine Fiend: Fact or Fiction

The Cocaine fad of the late 1800s is not something often talked about today aside from the passing mention that Coca-cola once contained cocaine. The actual history of this trend is much less jocular. According to America’s First Cocaine Epidemic by David F. Musto, after cocaine’s introduction to the United States in 1885, many people took to the drug including the famous Sigmund Freud. By 1890, however, “the Medical Record cited some 400 cases habit” (Musto 62). Shortly after cocaine saw a sharp rise in popularity, many physicians began to speak out against it “warning their colleagues in articles and speeches of the danger of creating “cocainists.” (Courtwright 67). It was then that we see a sharp decline in the widespread acceptance of cocaine and a different concept emerge of the black cocainist. 

Courtwright speaks on this in his article The Hidden Epidemic in which he speaks about the early history of opiate addiction in America and briefly on the subject of cocaine. Courtwright argues that cocaine was the drug most used by black people at the time which he says they used to “to help them endure long spells of loading and unloading steamboats,” (Courtwright 67) in New Orleans. Cocaine use then is said to have quickly spread to the south where the workers of cotton plantations would use it not only to help with work but also for “dissipation” (Courtwright 68). However, what makes the idea of the black cocainist so strong is that black use of cocaine seemed to be much higher than that of white people. Courtwright asserts that in 1912 the black population of Jacksonville had nearly twice the rate of cocaine use of the white population.

Musto paints a much different picture of cocaine use at the turn of the century. Musto suggests that cocaine use was much more widespread when it found its way to the United States. It was used as a miracle cure and put in drinks often used as a replacement for alcohol.

It was also available for only 15 cents which is equivalent to about $4.25. It was widely legally available in several different forms which suggests that cocaine use was pretty widespread. Marketing for it was also directly targeted towards families as can be seen in the attached image. This is relatively inconsistent with Courtwright’s assertion that it was black people predominantly using cocaine. I think this inconsistency lies within the source of Courtwright’s assertion. Courtwright seems to be making this claim based on Table 3 in his article which is of the 1912 Jacksonville Registration/Maintenance Data and shows that of the 155 cocaine users recorded, 102 of them were “colored”. However, if we look just to the next table which shows the records from the same organization just a year later, we can see that over 200 of the 346 cocaine addicts were white. 

We can also look at the other sources which Courtwright uses to support these claims. Courtwright also sights, “Southern police chiefs who responded to a national survey on drug use in 1908 and 1909 stated that there were relatively more black cocaine users than white, an opinion shared by their northern colleagues. Prison statistics, although fragmentary, are consistent with the belief that cocaine was more popular among blacks than whites.” (Courtwright 68). However, both of these sources aren’t very reliable. Of course, the claim that Southern police chiefs were racist shouldn’t be controversial but their “northern colleagues” are not expunged of clearly racist activity purely due to geographic location. The north was still racist and was the birthplace of the notorious Jim Crow laws. As far as prison statistics are concerned, it is very possible that black cocaine users were arrested much more frequently than white cocaine users, especially with the growing fear of “black ‘cocaine fiends’” (Musto 64). 

Cocaine also saw a significant rise in price during the 1910s due to new drug legislation which would have made cocaine much less affordable to the average black American. Furthermore, in medicine cocaine was mostly used to reduce the cravings for those addicted to opiates which we know were predominantly white. What we see here is that the basis of many of Courtwright’s claims, while not necessarily false, cannot be taken as absolutely true. In fact, Courtwright’s assertions don’t align very well with Musto’s more general account of the cocaine boom which demonstrated its wide reach. I think this makes Musto’s less specific take on the cocaine fad much more useful as while Courtwright makes a lot of potentially useful claims, the evidence isn’t strong enough to suggest they are absolutely true and he fails to preface them as such.