Our World’s Little Dope Problem – Estes Kefauver And The United Nations – 1951 – Past Daily Reference Room
Elsewhere I posted other articles regarding the drug problems that America was facing in the 1950s. Seems 1951 was a watershed year for dope as several reports and interviews all took place during the twelve months of that year. But illegal drugs, it was being quickly discovered, were no longer the exclusive problem of the U.S. (if it ever was). The epidemic of drug addiction and crime associated with drug trafficking was skyrocketing and it was happening all over the world. And so the United Nations got into investigating the causes and conditions as to why this sudden uptick in drug abuse was taking place.
At this point (1951) the emphasis on Drug abuse was largely leveled at the Pusher; the person responsible for keeping your supply handy as well as recruiting people for the sales-force. They don’t really talk about where the drugs are all coming from – particularly pharmaceuticals. But Kefauver and the others taking part in this program all agree that Marijuana was the “gateway drug” and that it was only a matter of time before Morphine and Heroin were added to the mix.
But by and large, drug abuse took a big uptick right after World War 2 – popular culture was often looked at as the root cause, most notably Jazz and the growing interest in what became the Beat Generation would be viewed as scapegoats. I tend to not think so. Because if you look at the circumstances of the period; the end of World War 2 and the enormous numbers of military personnel suffering from what would later be diagnosed as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and not being addressed (or even given a name at the time, other than shell-shock or Battle Fatigue to the most serious cases), coupled with the growing issues of the Cold War and the Red Scare – you could say there were a lot of extenuating circumstances for which drug (and certainly alcohol) abuse would be hands-reach/hands-down solution. And naturally, where there’s a demand there will surely be a supply.
So listening to this interview you come away with the notion that Kefauver’s (and the UN’s, for that matter) view of the problem was more of looking at the end-result, rather than the issues from which the abuser and addict would look at drugs as the solution. Looking at getting rid of the supply is a whole lot easier than looking at the reason for the demand in the first place.
Strangely, it’s still going on – pretty much the same as its always been – in 2019 we have Fentanyl and opioids as the major destroyer of lives, communities and families and how they need to be taken off the streets. The real issue is what was it that caused them to be needed there in the first place? You can take all the drugs off the streets you want – but the reason they served a solution will never erase the problem. They couldn’t figure that one out in 1951 – they can’t figure that one out in 2019. Real simple – just walk backwards.
So, to give you an idea that history is sometimes a case of wash-rinse-repeat – here is that interview with Estes Kefauver from March 29, 1951.