America’s Little Dope Problem – The 1940’s: Goofballs – Past Daily Reference Room.
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First off: Radio documentaries really didn’t take off until the early 1950s when portable tape recorders came into their own. Anything that wasn’t able to be recorded “as it happened” was usually relegated to “dramatic re-creation”, where actors would read lines either verbatim from written transcripts of events, or embellishments in order to prove a point.
The end result was a lot of good and interesting subjects reduced to caricatures and over-the-top presentations whose intent was to scare the living crap out of the listener. Unfortunately, time hasn’t been kind and most of those “documentaries” are unintentionally hilarious and for all the wrong reasons.
All that said: Lest you think drugs, drug addiction and general substance abuse is a thing of recent years, its not. Drugs and their addictive qualities have been with us ever since the first medicinal compound was put together in order to do wonders for the common headache.
After World War 2, the Pharmaceutical industry exploded – due in large part to medications administered on the battle field in order to ease pain and save lives. It was, for the most part, the dawn of Modern Medicine and it’s promises of better healing and the miracles they worked were lifesavers for millions of people, and they still are.
But, there’s always someone around who thinks “if one is good, two must be better”, and so the miracle drugs were now being abused and their damage was becoming epidemic. That was post-War America in the late 1940s. This documentary is from 1949, when the problem of drug abuse and addiction were in danger of eradicating any good these drugs brought to life. The drugs in question were sedatives; nicknamed Goofballs because of their mood altering capabilities.
It became a real problem, and the numbers of drug addicted Americans was skyrocketing – more so than alcoholics. We were in danger of becoming a drug-addled society, not even into the 1950s yet.
Needless to say, the presentation is over the top and intent on sowing fear and hysteria (which, considering we were getting warmed up for the Red Scare, was a perfect fit).
There’s no question that drug addiction and substance abuse has taken a lot of people down and ruined lives, families and friends. Listening to this presentation, you get the distinct impression that the 1940s were just as skewed as any decade since. But the manner in which it’s presented does roll eyes, especially the overly dramatic music beds – if you can get past that, you’ll find that life has always been a series of complications and pitfalls, and that human beings, no matter during what period of time, have always been susceptible to it.
Keep reminding yourself this was an issue of great importance some 71 years ago and that some of those people may still be around (although well into their 90s). Like they always say; as much as things change is as much as they remain the same. Human nature and the search for the perfect high will always be around.