Lest you think issues with Narcotics, drug abuse and addiction were something ushered in by the 1960s, I hate to tell you this; but, nope, ‘fraid not.
Drugs have been part of our culture (more or less) since there stopped being Neanderthals. But what made it different in the 20th century was the widespread use and advances in medication for pain brought on largely from World Wars 1 and 2. Modern medicine was making huge strides, but so were the drugs being developed to combat affects of chronic pain.
Granted, in 1951 it was all about smoking Marijuana and the perceived almost instant gateway to Heroin use. Los Angeles was hot in the grips of an epidemic of sorts – and the Youth of Southern California were at highest risk. But that’s not to say there wasn’t, at least limited, instances of abuse of things like Morphine and Phenobarbital, not to mention teenage alcoholism.
This radio documentary focuses on Heroin and Marijuana, both considered illegal substances. There is a certain sensational aspect to this 1/2 hour tour de force through Youthful over-indulgence. And some of the references, particularly by those members of law enforcement (who should actually have known better) strain credulity as they go to great lengths explaining the sinister aspects of Marijuana – something glommed onto after a few too many showings of Reefer Madness I suspect. But this was also a tour de force in the area of Radio Documentaries; the actual go-to-where-its-happening which was something new in broadcasting. Before that, it was all dramatic recreations which, if you’ve ever heard one of those, take the element of quaint to new and nauseating heights.
No, this was drug addiction as told by the people and from the kids who were smack in the middle of it (no pun intended). Gets a little over-the-top in a few places, but it’s an attempt to prove a point. Los Angeles, like many major cities in America, were experiencing a revolution in youth not experienced in generations earlier.
From the standpoint of 2018, the problems of youth in 1951 and the (in retrospect) innocent toke on a “stick of marijuana” pale in comparison to the problems of opioid addiction today.
Just goes to show you, it’s all about kids experimenting with things that might kill them – same then; same now.
Here is that 1/2 hour documentary Dance With Death, produced by CBS Radio Pacific Network in Los Angeles, on August 28, 1951.