It's not clear to me why
you stopped, Mark. Forward motion here would be first, to put the
Wikipedia edits in place and let the community revise them. Before
doing that you might want to pass through removing or rewriting
sentences with the "neutral point of view" criterion in mind. Then
we should define the contents of the non-Wikipedia portion of the
project. Here the collection of popular culture and "medical
science" materials documenting the shift you perceive from "addict"
to "fiend" would be part of the "curated exhibit," which is not quite
what the Wikipedia article is for.
The gears of prohibition began churning long before the Harrison Act was passed by Congress in 1914 – a law requiring cocaine and narcotics to be dispensed only with a doctor's order. (Madge 106). Before this moment, various factors and groups acted on primarily a state level influencing a move towards prohibition and away from a lassie fair attitude. (Spillane 121).
Despite declining medical interest in cocaine, by 1903 cocaine consumption had grown to about five times that of 1890. (Spillane 91). Non-medical users accounted for almost the entire increase as cocaine-users extended outside the middle-aged, white, professional class. (Id). Cocaine became associated with laborers, youths, blacks and the urban underworld. (Id).
The popularization of cocaine first began with laborers who used cocaine as a stimulant to increase productivity. (Spillane 91). Cocaine was often supplied by employers. (Madge 84). Cocaine was often supplied to African American workers, who many employers believed were better physical workers; cocaine was thought to provide added strength and constitution and according to the Medical News, make blacks “impervious to the extremes of heat and cold.” (Spillane 91). However, users of cocaine quickly acquired a reputation as dangerous and in 1897, the first state bill of control for cocaine sales came from a mining county in Colorado. (Id at 92-93).
The popularization of cocaine use was not confined to African Americans or simple laborers. In Northern cities, cocaine use increased amongst poorer people as often cocaine was cheaper than alcohol. (Madge 84) In the Northeast in particular, cocaine became popular amongst workers in factories, textile mills and on rail roads. (Spillane 93). In some instances, cocaine use supplemented or replaced caffeine as the drug to keep workers awake and working overtime. (Id)
This period of increasing cocaine use followed with increasing fears that young children were being preyed upon and forced into cocaine addiction. (Gootenberg, Ed. 33). Indeed, it was even thought that cocaine was used to seduce young girls away from their homes and cause them to be addicted and dependent upon the substance and therefore be locked into prostitution. (Madge 102). Fears of the corruption of the youth by cocaine were popular and wide-spread but there is little evidence to support their veracity. (Gootenberg, Ed. 33).
Hysterical white and upper-class citizens reported cocaine epidemics as early as 1894 in Dallas, Texas. (Spillane 94). Reports of the cocaine epidemic would foreshadow a familiar theme in later so-called epidemics, namely that cocaine presented a social threat more dangerous than simple health effects and had insidious results when used by blacks and members of the lower class. (Id). Similar anxiety-ridden reports appeared throughout cities in the South leading some to declare that “the cocaine habit has assumed the proportions of an epidemic among the colored people.” (Id). In 1900, state legislatures in Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee considered anti-cocaine bills for the first time. (Id).
Hyperbolic reports of the effect of cocaine on African Americans went hand-in-hand with this hysteria.
In 1901, the Atlanta Constitution reported that “Use of the drug [cocaine] among negroes is growing to an alarming extent.” (Madge 85). The New York Times reported that under the influence of cocaine, “sexual desires are increased and perverted … peaceful negroes become quarrelsome, and timid negroes develop a degree of 'Dutch courage' that is sometimes almost incredible.” (Madge 89). A medical doctor even wrote “cocaine is often the direct incentive to the crime of rape by the negroes.” (Id). To complete the characterization, a judge in Mississippi declared that supplying a “negro” with cocaine was more dangerous than injecting a dog with rabies. (Id 88).
These attitudes not only influenced drug law and policy but also led to increased violence against African Americans. In 1906, a major race riot erupted led by whites and sparked by reports of crimes committed by black ‘cocaine fiends.’ (Madge 85). Indeed, white-led race riots spawning from reports of blacks under the influence of cocaine were not uncommon. (Spillane 120). Police in the South widely adopted the use of a heavier caliber handguns so as to better stop a cocaine-crazed black person, who was believed to be empowered with super-human strength. (Madge 90). Another dangerous myth perpetuated amongst police was that cocaine imbued African Americans while tremendous accuracy with firearms and therefore police were better advised to shoot first in questionable circumstances. (Id 91).
Along with African Americans, lower-class users of cocaine were typically denigrated as well. A distinction between addict and fiend soon developed. Drug addiction from opiates and cocaine was well-known amongst citizens in high social and economic positions and was regarded as a treatable condition, often contained to private treatment facilities and asylums. (Spillane 103, 107). By contrast, cocaine use amongst African Americans and other lower-status citizens was seen as a vice, a condition of being morally and mentally degenerate; their addiction was not seen as an understandable escape from pain but a reprehensible desire to gratify sensual pleasures. (Spillane 103). Accordingly, these kinds of addicts did not have the resources for private treatment and intervention was limited to short-term detention hospitals, police drunk tanks or incarceration. (Id 108). This shift from viewing addicts as victims to viewing them as cocaine fiends occurred before prohibition but helped spur the prohibition movement by framing cocaine-use as a moral contagion requiring heightened supervision and control. (Id 104, 117). A contemporary physician framed this point of view: “vicious user of a drug whose sole excuse is the seeking for new sensations, is a person who does not need protection, but rather restraint by law in order that he may not become a menace to the public weal and a care for public charities.” (Gootenberg, Ed. 34).
Ultimately public opinion rested against the cocaine user. Criminality was commonly believed to be a natural result of cocaine use. (Spillane 119). Much of the influence for these kind of perceptions came from the widespread publicity given to notorious cases. (Spillane 121). While the historical reality of cocaine’s effect on violence and crime is difficult to disentangle from inflamed perceptions, it does appear that the image of the violent, cocaine-crazed fiend was mostly a projection of society’s fears and prejudices, fueled by a few violent episodes. (Id 119). An image with acute racial overtones. (Id 121).
Before any substantive federal regulation of cocaine, state and local municipalities evoked their own means to regulate cocaine. Because of the initial lack of targeted legislation, on both federal and state level, the most typical strategy by law enforcement was the application of nuisance laws pertaining to vagrancy and disturbing the peace. (Spillane 111). Subsequent legislative actions aimed at controlling the distribution of cocaine rather than its manufacture. (Gootenberg, Ed. 35). Reformers took this approach in part because of legal precedents which made it easier to control distributors, such as pharmacists; state and local boards of hearth or boards and pharmacy often took the place of regulatory bodies for controlling the distribution of cocaine. (Id 35).
Some states took the position of outright banning of all forms of cocaine sale; Georgia was the first to do this in 1902. (Madge 82). A New Orleans ordinance banned cocaine sales as well but left an ill-defined exception for therapeutic uses. (Gootenberg, Ed. 35). A more common requirement was to restrict the sale of cocaine or impose labeling requirements. A 1907 California law limiting sale of cocaine to only those with a physician’s prescription resulted in the arrest of over 50 store owners and clerks in the first year. (Id 35). A 1913 New York state law limited druggists’ cocaine stocks to under 5 ounces. Labeling requirements initially operated on a state level with some states even going so far as to require that cocaine and cocaine-containing products be labeled as poison. (Id 37).
Eventually the federal government stepped in and instituted a national labeling requirement for cocaine and cocaine-containing products through the Food and Drug Act of 1906. (Gootenberg, Ed. 37). The next impactful federal regulation was the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act of 1914. While this act is often seen as the start of prohibition, it is both important to notice that prohibition force were in play long before 1914 and act itself was not actually a prohibition on cocaine, but instead setup a regulatory and licensing regime. (Madge 106). The Harrison Act did not recognize addiction as a treatable condition and therefore the therapeutic use of cocaine, heroin or morphine to such individuals was outlawed – leading the Journal of American Medicine to remark, “[the addict] is denied the medical care he urgently needs, open, above-board sources from which he formerly obtained his drug supply are closed to him, and he is driven to the underworld where he can get his drug, but of course, surreptitiously and in violation of the law.” (Madge 107). The Harrison Act left manufacturers of cocaine untouched so long as they met certain purity and labeling standards. (Gootenberg, Ed. 40). Despite that cocaine was typically illegal to sell and legal outlets were more rare, the quantities of legal cocaine produced declined very little. (Id). It was not until the Jones-Miller Act of 1922 put serious restrictions on cocaine manufactures. (Id).
Gootenberg, Paul, Ed. Cocaine: Global Histories. Routledge, London. (1999).
Madge, Tim. White Mischief: A Cultural History of Cocaine. Mainstream Publishing Company, Edinburgh. (2001).
Spillane, Joseph F. Cocaine: From Medical Marvel to Modern Menace in the United States, 1884-1920. The John Hopkins University Press, Balitmore and London. (2000).
-- MarkBierdz - 01 Dec 2011