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Smoke and Mirrors
The War on Drugs and the Politics of Failure
By Dan Baum

Chapter One: A Question of Discrimination

A Practical Matter: 1969
[President Nixon] emphasized that you have to face the fact that the whole problem is really the blacks. The key is to devise a system that recognizes this while not appearing to. -- H. R. Haldeman to his diary

As a practical matter, there was only one problem with Nixon's law-and-order campaign: once he won, he had to deliver, and at that time the federal government had almost no role in keeping the streets safe. From the Founding until Nixon, people looked to their local police to keep order in the neighborhoods. The federal government prosecuted only interstate-crime--the Mafia, white-collar fraud, national security, smuggling, civil rights, crimes that crossed state lines. Safe streets were a community matter. But having won the election on a law-and-order promise, Nixon had to create a federal role in policing street crime. This, in large part, would be the job of Egil Krogh Jr.

Then twenty-nine, Egil Krogh was -- even by the standards of the Nixon crew -- a square. At the age of eleven he'd made a deal with his father: if Dad would stop drinking alcohol and smoking tobacco--both of which he did heavily --"Bud," as junior was called, would never touch either. His father stopped drinking and smoking, and Bud embarked ton a life of total abstinence from alcohol or drugs of any kind. Even, more fateful for young Krogh was the family friendship with the Ehrlichmans from up the street, whose teenage son, John, took a liking to little Bud.

After a stint in the navy and law school, Krogh went to work in John Ehrlichman's Seattle firm, one of the first to specialize in environmental law. It was 1968; Ehrlichman was away managing the travel arrangements of Richard Nixon's campaign, and when he was named White House domestic policy adviser he asked his young friend to be deputy. Krogh didn't even take the time to ask his wife; he agreed on the spot and within a week was living in transition headquarters, New York's Hotel Pierre, just down the hall from the president-elect himself.

Shortly before Christmas, Ehrlichman took Krogh aside for a chat. The president-elect wants some ideas on crime, Ehrlichman said, and some recommendations on how to handle the antiwar demonstrations. That's going to be your area, Bud. We're flying down to Washington tomorrow to talk with Roman Hruska.

Republican senator Roman Hruska of Nebraska, ranking minority member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was the Republicans, Senate point man on crime. Krogh entered Hruska's office with a giddy sense of awe. Barely a month earlier Krogh had been a first-year associate fresh out of law school with no criminal law experience. Now he was at the right hand of the White House domestic policy adviser, shaping criminal law with one of the most powerful men in the United States Senate.

Hruska had a plan: the White House should create a big crime bill specifically for the District of Columbia. As you know, he said, the federal government administers the District directly. This is the one place we can have a hand in the kind of policing people care about. It's a disgrace you can't walk the streets of the nation's capital without worrying about getting mugged. This is the kind of issue that moves people. You send a D.C. crime bill over right after the inauguration and I'll get it passed, Hruska said. It will be good for the White House and good for me.

As Krogh scribbled notes on a legal pad, Hruska dictated what he wanted in the bill. He described the preventive detention and no-knock provisions Santarelli had failed to get into the big national crime bill a year earlier. Taking no chances, Hruska ordered Krogh to take a couple of trusted GOP staff members over to the Justice Department to write the bill. He introduced two dark-suited men no older than Krogh. One was Don Santarelli. The other was the chief Republican counsel in the House, John Dean III.

You take these fellows over to Justice, Hruska told Ehrlichman and Krogh. Have them write the bill and send it to me. I'll do the rest. A couple of weeks after the inauguration, the new attorney general, John Mitchell, convened a meeting at the White House. Mitchell had run Nixon's campaign; he knew what promises had been made and their political importance. Ehrlichman was there, along with Krogh, and from Justice, Mitchell brought his new associate deputy, Don Santarelli.

This administration was elected on a law-and-order platform, Mitchell said. Let's have some ideas about how to deliver.

Krogh and Ehrlichman talked about the D.C. crime bill they were writing. That's fine, Mitchell said. What else?

Santarelli mentioned the new agency LBJ had created to provide federal assistance to local police departments. It's called the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration, or LEAA, Santarelli said, and Congress authorized only $75 million for it the first year. We should think about expanding that, Santarelli said. Shiny new police cars are the kind of thing people notice.

Good idea, Mitchell said.

Street robbery and burglary are the crimes most people fear, an aide chimed in; how about making those crimes federal, launching a big federal initiative on that?

No, no, no, Mitchell said, shaking his huge head and pulling the curved pipe from his mouth. Robbery and burglary are purely local. There is no-conceivable federal jurisdiction. Can't -you do better than that?

Well, somebody said, there's drugs.

Mitchell nodded approvingly. Drugs were almost entirely imported. Protecting borders was a federal responsibility, and drugs often moved across state lines. I like it, Mitchell said. Problem is, nobody ever hears anything about federal drug enforcement. We'll have to make BNDD more visible to the public. Work on that, would you?

The White House considered the Washington Post a sworn enemy of Richard Nixon: the paper never gave him a break. But John Ehrlichman had met the Post's owner and publisher, Katherine Graham, at a dinner party and they'd enjoyed each other's wit. Now she was in his office, offering an-olive branch.

Crime in this city is out of control, John, she said. My son, Donny, is a D.C. patrolman and you should hear the stories he tells. I've been talking to a few friends of mine, and we think-the White House should do something. At a minimum, the District needs a thousand more police officers on patrol.

Ehrlichman was pleased: Graham would be happy when they announced the D.C. crime bill that Krogh was working on for Roman Hruska. Usually, the Post's evening rival, the Washington Star, was the friendly paper in the capital. It would be nice to see one issue on which the Post could applaud the White House. We're working on something, Kay, Ehrlichman said, and I think you're going to like it.

A D.C. crime bill presented a perfect opportunity, Santarelli thought. Congress never fought much about D.C. Few legislators were willing to squander political capital on laws that affected only one city. But any law the administration could pass in D.C. would serve as a model for the rest of the country. The administration would point to D.C. and say, "See how well this worked on a small scale? New let's pass it nationally." The District could serve as a kind of Spanish Civil War for the coming War on Drugs--a place to field-test new weapons and tactics. The first things he wrote into the new D.C. bill were the provisions that didn't make it into the 1968 crime bill: preventive detention and no-knock.

In addition, Santarelli created something called "loose search warrants" that let police search property not specifically named in the warrant. He proposed extending wiretaps and electronic surveillance to such traditionally privileged conversations as those with doctors, lawyers, and clergy. And he suggested a life sentence for a third felony conviction, although nobody in 1969 thought to call it "three strikes and you're out."

Some of these new provisions were pushing the Bill of Rights pretty hard, Santarelli knew. Nixon's White House and Justice Department were as ideologically conservative as Ramsey Clark had been ideologically liberal, and Santarelli sometimes worried about them doing real violence to the Constitution. The lawyer running the Office of Legal Counsel was a good example. He was young, like Santarelli, and from Arizona. He was smart enough, but doctrinaire, ponderous, and unimaginative. Nixon could never keep his name straight--kept calling him "Renchburg." Rehnquist was too unusual a name for Nixon. In any case, this was the guy who would be checking Santarelli's D.C. bill for constitutionality. Santarelli liked to think of himself as "conservative in a liberal tradition" and sometimes worried about giving people like Rehnquist too much ammunition.

Ultimately, though, Santarelli put his misgivings aside and sent his legislation up to the Hill in good conscience. The law provided checks and balances. Police couldn't get a no-knock warrant without presenting a pretty good stack of evidence to a judge. That was key. As conservative as the executive and legislative branches might become, Santarelli was certain the judiciary would remain liberal. It seemed to Santarelli a fixed truth, as dependable as the firmness of the earth, that the judiciary would always be the liberal branch of government. Judges, especially the justices of the United States Supreme Court, would forever counterbalance whatever the Don Santarellis and William Rehnquists could cook up.

Weeks after sending the preventive-detention portion of Santarelli's D.C. crime bill to Congress, the Justice Department decided to find out if it was good policy as well as good politics. It commissioned a study of people arrested for violent crimes and released on bond during a recent four-week period. While the premise of the bill was that such people are likely to commit another violent act while on bail, the study found that only one out of every twenty did so. As Senator Sam Ervin pointed out in an acid speech, this meant prosecutors could hold nineteen harmless people in order to detain one dangerous suspect. The bill, the inimitable Ervin said, was "as full of unconstitutional, unjust, and unwise provisions as a mangy hound dog is full of fleas." Still, Congress brushed aside both the Justice Department's study and Ervin's objections, passing the D.C. bill largely as Santarelli had written it. Against a hostile majority in both houses of Congress, Richard Nixon had his first big legislative victory and a blueprint for future success. Having lost the White House over the crime issue, Democrats finally were hip to its power and were eager to climb aboard.

Ignoring inconvenient studies like the Justice Department's was just a beginning; the White House was on the lookout for evidence to support the link between drugs and crime. Right in the White House's own backyard, a couple of obscure researchers were about to provide some.

This doesn't look like the office of a Harvard-trained psychiatrist, Bob DuPont mused, looking around his dingy green cubicle at the D.C. Department of Corrections. But this is exactly where I want to be. Great things are coming. I can feel it.

Tall and gangly, DuPont emoted a gollygosh cheerfulness that infected those around him. He'd planned a private psychiatry practice after Harvard Medical School, but as part of his residency he worked at Norfolk Prison, the same Massachusetts lockup where Malcolm Little became Malcolm X. Inmates were fascinating, DuPont found. What drove them to crime? What effect did a prison stretch have on them?

Those questions gnawed at DuPont while he worked as a researcher at the National Institutes of Health in suburban Washington, and he jumped at the chance to take a second job--as an informal adviser and consultant--at the D.C. Department of Corrections. Though lower in prestige and pay than NIH, the Corrections work was a lot more interesting, and in July 1968 DuPont went there full-time as director of community services. "These people can't believe they have a psychiatrist from Harvard and the NIH willing to work fifty hours a week and make so little money," he'd tell people with a laugh. In D.C. he not only had a whole prison system to study and tinker with, it was a prison system at the center of power.

The District was under a microscope. Although D.C. had the lowest murder rate of any major U.S. city, mugging and robbery were high and the perception among D.C. residents was that crime was out of control. Because those residents included members of Congress, White House staff, and top dogs of the news media, District officials were eager to do something--anything--about crime. DuPont had a deskful of ideas for reform of the Corrections Department, including halfway houses and new types of drug treatment. He figured his work here would be noticed.

His plan in the spring of 1969 was to interview every inmate booked into the jail and urine-test as many as possible. Common sense told DuPont that addicts committed crimes to finance their habits. But researchers were barely beginning to study the possible links between drug use and crime. DuPont wanted his own data.

To get it, he hired a squat, energetic Philadelphian named Nick Kozel, who had just finished a Peace Corps stint in Ecuador. Kozel recruited a cadre of students from George Washington University to stand in the gloomy receiving area of the jail and interview newcomers. These were crazy times: some of the interviewers, self-styled revolutionaries, tried to foment rebellion inside the jail--getting nothing but cold stares from the inmates--while others swiped a pile of "D.C. Dept. of Corrections" T-shirts and started a minor fad on campus. In August and September 1969 they interviewed 229 inmates and got urine samples from 129.

Forty-five percent of the inmates either told Kozel's interviewers they were addicted to heroin or yielded a positive urine sample.

Forty-five percent DuPont was elated. This was the kind of news that would get his ideas for reform out of his desk and into play.

Wait a minute, Kozel said. Two hundred and twenty-nine men is a small sample, especially when only about half were urine-tested. And even if half the men arrested in D.C. are heroin addicts, that doesn't mean their addiction caused crime. We didn't ask them, for example, whether they had criminal records before they started using heroin. Maybe they were criminals first and addicts second.

DuPont wasn't interested in such quibbling. Here was the first scientific support of the conventional wisdom: addicts cause crime. Despite his own misgivings, Kozel helped DuPont write up the findings in a slim article for the International Journal of the Addictions. "What is worth noting . . . is the extent to which addiction and criminal activity are linked," they wrote. The article speculated only that addicts commit street crimes as frequently as nonaddicts. But the-conclusion strayed ominously from the data: "The addict poses a very real threat to property as well as to persons in the community," they wrote.

At any other time, such a small, obscure, and imperfect study might have been quietly ignored. But not in Richard Nixon's Washington. And not with Bob DuPont promoting it.

Jeff Donfeld was Richard Nixon's idea of a fine young man. He had hewed to his buttoned-down Republican conservatism all through college, and at UCLA had been the only University of California student body president to speak out against the Free Speech Movement. Donfeld had been openly pleased when the DA in Oakland prosecuted Mario Savio and 772 other unruly protesters. The two-assistant DAs on the case particularly impressed-Donfeld. One was a tall, patrician lawyer named Lowell Jensen. The other was a bulldog named Ed Meese.

After law school, Donfeld clerked for the law firm of Nixon, Mudge in New York and dated Nixon's daughter Tricia. Like Krogh, Donfeld was a devout Christian who had never gotten high on any substance, even beer. When Krogh was putting together his staff in the new Nixon White House, Donfeld was a natural choice, and since nobody else particularly wanted responsibility for drug abuse, Donfeld took it. At age twenty-six he was now in charge of drug-abuse policy for the Nixon administration.

Though he had no personal experience with drugs or the drug culture, Donfeld understood drugs, political potential. They were showing up as the second or third most pressing concern in poll after poll, just after crime. The two were related, of course: Donfeld had just seen a study the D.C. jail had sent over that absolutely proved the connection between heroin and crime.

Donfeld had another motive for taking a hard line against drug use. He believed strenuously in the Puritan ethic, which demanded that a person be in command of himself at all times. Drugs were not only unhealthy but immoral. Knowing that his boss was equally religious, Donfeld expounded often to Krogh on the moral depravity of drugs. Finally, Krogh cut him off.

That's offensive to me, Krogh said coldly. This isn't a moral issue; the president wants us to bring down the crime rate, and we can do that by lowering the incidence of drug abuse. This is a matter of health and public safety.

Jeff Donfeld was ahead of his time.

Fear and anger, Gordon Brownell thought. That's what got Richard Nixon elected and that's what will keep him in office.

A smooth-faced, heavyset politics junkie of twenty-four, Brownell had a dream job: administrative assistant to Nixon's political manager, Harry S. Dent. Dent had masterminded the so-called "southern strategy" that pried white southerners away from the Democratic Party during the last election by playing to their fear of black power and their anger at the civil rights movement. It had transformed the GOP's image from country-club golfer to defender of working whites fed up with expensive hand-wringing over Negroes and the cities. The strategy worked, but was poorly named. Nixon's win was national, and its most visible new adherents were manifestly northern--union-affiliated former Democrats known loosely as "hardhats."

The White House lived by the principles of the southern strategy, and Dent's office had its own lingo. There were issues that mattered to "our" people, and those that mattered to "their" people. "Their" people were what the White House called "the young, the poor, and the black." The phrase rolled off the tongue like one word: theyoungthepoorandtheblack. The young were the longhaired student antiwar types for whom the president had open and legendary contempt; the poor and the black were leftover concerns from the Great Society.

Brownell daily read a dozen newspapers from around the country and clipped stories that played on those themes. He looked for stories about badly managed social programs, watched for currents of localized resentment, combed the columns for colorful quotes and juicy anecdotes the presidential speechwriters might use. He particularly kept an eye out for drug stories. Drugs were one thing the young, the poor, and the black all seemed to have in common.

Despite Nixon's assertion to the preelection Disneyland crowd that drugs were "decimating a generation of Americans," drugs were so tiny a public health problem that they were statistically insignificant: far more Americans choked to death on food or died falling down stairs as died from illegal drugs.

So Brownell was delighted that the media were inflating the story by melding the tiny "hard drug" herein threat with the widespread "soft drug".marijuana craze. Marijuana, Brownell knew, was a perfect focus for the anger against the antiwar counterculture that Nixon shared with "his people." Brownell dug out a-recent clip from Newsweek: "Whether picketing on campus or parading barefoot in hippie regalia, the younger generation seems to be telling [the middle-class American] that his way of life is corrupt, his goals worthless and his treasured institutions doomed. Logically enough, a good many middle-class-citizens tend to-resent the message."in an article Brownell might have penned himself, Newsweek identified the targets of that middle-class resentment this way: "The incendiary black militant and the welfare mother, the hedonistic hippie and the campus revolutionary." The young, the poor, and the black. Nixon couldn't make it illegal to be young, poor, or black, but he could crack down hard on the illegal drug identified with the counterculture.

Brownell loved his job and -- until he went wildly apostate and joined the opposition -- he was good at it.

It figures May 9 would be a bad day for the Nixon administration--it was he birthday of both Malcolm X and Ho Chi Minh. It was also, in 1969, the day the Supreme Court sided with drug guru Timothy Leary.

Leary had been arrested four years earlier on a complicated charge stemming from the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act, a law that established federal control over marijuana not by banning it but by requiring possessors to pay a tax of $100 an ounce, a great deal of money in 1937. The thinking was that most people wouldn't pay it and could then be arrested for tax evasion.

Customs agents on the Tex-Mex border had found a joint on Leary and charged him with failing to pay the $100-an-ounce transfer tax. Three months later, a federal judge in Texas sentenced him to thirty years in prison and a $30,000 fine.

Leary argued in his appeal that had he paid the tax, he would have been admitting to marijuana possession, a crime in Texas. The tax requirement, therefore, constituted double jeopardy. Earl Warren's Supreme Court agreed, and suddenly, as Woodstock summer loomed, the federal government found itself with no control over the possession of marijuana.

By coincidence it was two days later that Nixon nominated the conservative Warren Burger to replace Earl Warren as chief justice of the United States Supreme Court. The transformation of the Court, which Don Santarelli had thought impossible when writing his get-tough laws, was beginning.

City Works was having a rough night at the Irma Hotel. Maybe these kids just didn't like rock and roll. The band pulled out the stops, even tried some well-worn comedy patter, but the San Fernando Valley crowd wasn't buying.

During a break, lead guitarist Tommy Chong asked his singer, Richard Marin, if he could think of some shtick they hadn't tried. Chong, a half-Chinese Canadian, had met Marin in Vancouver, where Marin was sitting out the Vietnam War as a lounge singer. Marin was pretty good at clowning.

"I got a character," Marin said. "But I don't like doing it."

"What is it?"

"It's a low-rider, man. You know, a stoned-out Chicano. But it's kinda demeaning." As a kid, Marin had created a down-and-out Mexican character for laughs; his dad was an LA cop who'd tried to boil any Hispanic identification out of the family. But now Marin was hip to his roots and wary of ethnic sensitivities.

"Sounds great!" Chong said, shoving aside Marin's objections. "He got a name?"

"I used to use the nickname they gave me as a baby," Marin said. "They said I looked like a little pork rind, you know, a cuchifrito, so they called me `Cheech.'"

With that, Cheech and Chong-took the stage for the first time, launching the two most wasted potheads in showbiz. Van Nuys went wild. Getting stoned is not only mind-expanding-and political, Cheech and Chong told America, it's funny.

On September 19 the California Medical Association held a press conference to announce its findings about the marijuana "epidemic" among California youth. "Subversive elements have found that drugs can be invaluable," said Dr. Edward Bloomquist, chair of the association's panel. Bloomquist himself had spoken with students-who admitted their "inhibitions" were released through drugs supplied by "anarchists." Rebellion and contempt for elders make young people susceptible, Bloomquist said. Standing grimly beside the doctor as lie delivered this news was California's governor, Ronald Reagan.

Had the White House been willing to learn it, a tussle with the Mexican government in 1969 might have offered a lesson about how heavy-handed drug enforcement can make the problem worse.

The Mexican government wouldn't crack down on the marijuana trade the way Washington wanted it to. The marijuana problem is an your side of the border, the Mexicans-kept telling the Nixon administration. If your people want to buy pot, there's riot much we can do. A young Treasury official suggested the U.S. spray Mexican marijuana with herbicides whether the Mexicans approved or not. The U.S. decided not to go that far, but the suggestion would resurface explosively years later. In the meantime, the young official--a former prosecutor and FBI agent--was put-to work on a plan to shock the Mexicans into compliance by slamming the border shut. The young official was G. Gordon Liddy. The plan was Operation Intercept.

On September 21, 1996, the border suddenly squeezed closed. Customs inspectors who usually waved almost everyone through began exhaustively searching every glove compartment, wheel well, backpack, and pocket. The result was predictable chaos, with lines of cars extending for miles. The Mexicans screamed blue murder, then pledged cooperation, and after twenty days the blockade was lifted.

While few arrests were made, Intercept yielded two noticeable effects. First, aerial drug smuggling began on a scale never seen before. "Recently positioned radar installations showed the blips of intruding aircraft from the south," the New York Times reported. Second, Intercept succeeded at drying up marijuana supplies temporarily. Whether this was good news, however, was questionable. "I know of four kids--and they're really kids, like under 16--who've tried smack because they couldn't get grass," one Cambridge, Massachusetts, dealer told Newsweek. A doctor running the Haight Ashbury Free Clinic in San Francisco noticed a sudden increase in kids strung out on stronger drugs than pot and was furious. "The government line is that the use of marijuana leads to mote dangerous drugs," David Smith told reporters. "The fact is that the lack of marijuana leads to more dangerous drugs."

As the first year of the Nixon presidency drifted into autumn, White House chief of staff Bob Haldeman asked Nixon's "house liberal," Daniel Patrick Moynihan, to draw up a list foretelling the administration's eight biggest achievements. Moynihan's response was more cheerleading than prophecy. He predicted an early end to a war that would last another four years. He forecast a downturn in prices on the eve of the worst inflation since World War II. And he promised an easing of tensions between blacks and whites that has yet to occur. But he did predict rightly that the rate of crime would slow and Nixon's high-profile drug policy would pay off.

"With respect to the drug traffic," Moynihan wrote, "[the president] will have impressed the nation with the fact that those in high office really know, and really care, about what is going on."

The same day Moynihan sent his forecasting memo, Gordon Brownell opened his first newspaper of the day and found a nugget of pure gold. There in the New York Daily News was a report that Art Linkletter's daughter Diane had killed herself while tripping on LSD.

Perfect, thought Brownell. The drug issue occasionally threatened to slip from the attention of Nixon's middle-class constituency--they thought of it as either a ghetto or a campus problem. But Art Linkletter was one of the biggest celebrities in Middle America. If drugs could take his daughter, they could take anybody's.

What better way, also, to dispel the notion that drugs are the fault of murky "root causes"? Diane Linkletter seemed a picture-perfect young lady--rich, white, Christian, and loved. This one can't be laid at the feet of poverty or racism, Brownell thought.

He clipped the story and sent a memo to Harry Drent recommending Nixon pen a personal condolence note to the TV personality. "Hopefully this letter would be released to the press, and even better, it might be read on Linkletter's daily afternoon television program `Art Linkletter's House Party' which millions of "Middle America house-wives, watch daily to absorb what Linkletter brings to them," Brownell wrote.

Two-weeks later, Linkletter appeared at the White House for a hastily assembled bipartisan conference on the drug menace. His presence, Nixon said, "gives a lie to the idea that this is something that simply happens to the poor. It is moving to the upper middle-class and so forth." Linkletter agreed.

"Diane was not a hippie. She was not a drug addict," he said. Rather, she was "a well-educated, intelligent girl from a family that has traditionally been a Christian family and has been straight." Linkletter added categorically that Diane "had no personal problems." It was the drug, and the drug only, that wreaked this tragedy.

Health, Education and Welfare secretary Robert Finch was at the Linkletter conference too, to relinquish officially his department's primary role in drug control. Under the big-drug bill Nixon was sending up to Congress, health officials and the surgeon general would no longer be responsible for ranking drugs according to their danger and potential for abuse. The job of "scheduling" drugs would fall to the attorney general and his chief narcotics officer. Cops, not doctors, would henceforth judge drugs, toxicity. The bill also did away with the complicated drug to that Timothy Leary had challenged in his successful marijuana defense and banned-drugs outright. This took Treasury out of drug enforcement and, as liberals had feared when Johnson put the BNDD under the Justice Department, culminated a trend. All federal drug-enforcement authority now lay with the Justice Department: prosecutors and narcs answered to the same authority.

It was John Mitchell's first big win. Even after Mitchell was indicted and forced to resign in 1974, the authority to "schedule" drugs remained with the office of attorney general. Although health officials since Finch have sought to reclaim it, none has succeeded.

Lloyd Johnston, a graduate student at the University of Michigan's Institute of Social Research, had for three years been sending questionnaires to the same group of 2,200 high school boys--of all races, incomes, and geographic locations--in the hope of learning something about the causes and effects of dropping out of high school. By 1969, when the boys were entering their senior year, he had learned two things: adding questions to established studies is relatively inexpensive, and researching hot topics is a ticket to generous funding. The "teenage drug epidemic" was a hot topic. Newspapers and magazines said "most" high school kids were drug users; estimates ran as high as 70 percent. But the news media's information was anecdotal; studies by academics, as well as by Gallup for Reader's Digest and Newsweek, had surveyed only adults and college students. Johnston saw an opportunity and tacked a few new questions onto his 1969 questionnaire.

What drugs have you used? Johnston's survey asked. Have you used them in the last year? The last month? The last week? How accessible are drugs? Johnston also included questions about alcohol and tobacco.

When the questionnaires were processed, it emerged, unsurprisingly, that tobacco was the-most widely used drug among high school students and about a third of them smoked it every day. Alcohol was next, predictably, with about one-fifth of the students drinking once or twice a week and another fifth once or twice a month.

What surprised Johnston was that nearly 80 percent of the group had never smoked marijuana. Barely I percent smoked every day. Other drugs were hardly visible; neither heroin nor cocaine had ever been tried by nine-tenths of the sample. The kids were pretty clean: black, white, rich, poor, grind, and dropout.

This was news, Johnston thought. In the book he and his team rushed together, Johnston wrote that "there certainly was not a widespread "epidemic, of illegal drug use among these high school students as the popular press had suggested." His interpretation: American youth are "less radical" and "more traditional" than their public image would indicate. "In fact, their continuing adherence to tra-ditional practices--namely, the-widespread use-of alcohol and cigarettes--may ultimately be the most important fact about youthful drug practices to emerge from this study" (emphasis in the original).

The antidote to Art Linkletter's House Party was The Dick Cavett Show, a putative electronic salon for intellectuals. Each week, the urbane Dick Cavett bantered wittily with the nation's intelligentsia. Margaret Mead, for example, wasn't likely to show up on House Party, but she and Cavett conversed on October 27 and the subject of marijuana came up. It should be legal, the sixty-seven-year-old anthropologist said, for anyone over sixteen. Prohibition, she said, "is a new form of tyranny by the old over the young. You have the adult with a cocktail in one hand and a cigarette in the other saying `you cannot' to the child. This is untenable."

The reaction was quick and hot. "Kids are taught patriotism and morality in the classroom," boomed one critic, Governor Claude Kirk of Florida, "but when they get home they-see a television set with this dirty old lady on it."

Read this with an open mind, Jeff Donfeld urged Egil Krogh.

He handed his boss an article about a couple of researchers in New York, Vincent Dole and Marie Nyswander. They had been experimenting with heroin addicts, trying to get them to kick the habit. Nothing worked very well--counseling, detox, cold turkey--because as soon as the addict hit the street, temptation loomed.

Only one type of treatment showed promise. If addicts took a daily oral dose of a particular synthetic narcotic, they could control their craving for heroin without getting high. Eventually they might reduce the dose and be weaned from drugs. But even if weaning wasn't possible, "maintenance" kept addicts functioning.

Initially, Krogh was repulsed. It seemed too close to the British experiment in which addicts took controlled doses of heroin. The idea of giving addicts a drug, when the function of government should be to break their addiction, was repugnant to the teetotaling Krogh. As you can imagine, Donfeld told him, I had the same reaction.

But as you've said, Donfeld continued, the president was elected to bring down the crime rate, not guard the nation's morals. The addicts in the Dole-Nyswander study commit fewer crimes. Krogh flipped back to the beginning and read the study again. Donfeld was right. Methadone, the new drug the researchers used, was the first really positive news that anyone could remember on the addiction-treatment front.

© 1996 Dan Baum

Little, Brown

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