Heroin Addiction

May 27, 1970

Report Outline
Alarm Over Increased Heroin Addiction
Sources and Characteristics of Opiates
Efforts to Rehabilitate Heroin Addicts
Special Focus

Alarm Over Increased Heroin Addiction

Spread of Heroin Addiction to the Middle Class

Heroin addiction, long the scourge of the black ghetto, suddenly has emerged as a serious problem among middle-class and upper-class whites as well. Only four years ago, it was generally accepted that opiate addiction was the mark of the intellectually less imaginative, the economically deprived, the Negro, and the Puerto Rican, whereas psychedelic drugs were the agent of the middle and upper incomes, the artistic and jazz worlds, and more particularly the “avant-garde” and cause-espousing college student. That distinction no longer holds true, if indeed it ever did. Heroin has penetrated all barriers of race and class, arid the disease and crime associated with it have created nationwide alarm.

Use of heroin has spread so widely in so short a time that the problem seems fated to grow worse. Dr. Donald B. Louria. president of the New York State Council on Drug Addiction, said in February 1970: “If you think your problem with heroin is serious now, you wait, because at the rate we're going…within a couple of years every high school and every college in the country will be inundated by heroin.” Louria added that he was “flabbergasted” by the fact that “all of a sudden, unpredictably, this dangerous, addictive drug has grown in frightening popularity.”

Louria's concern is shared by all who are familiar with the white, odorless, bitter, crystalline powder known as heroin, An opium derivative like morphine or codeine, heroin is powerfully addictive. One dose a day for only a short while may produce dependence. Physical tolerance of heroin increases rapidly, too, with the result that the addict needs steadily larger doses of the drug to satisfy his craving. Heroin habits of $50 or more a day are common. Few addicts have enough money of their own to support so large a habit, so many resort to burglary or shoplifting. Others become dealers in heroin, thereby not only satisfying their own needs but also introducing others to lives of addiction. This “chain-letter” effect is perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the heroin problem, especially in view of evidence that fewer than 10 per cent of all heroin addicts ever successfully kick the habit.

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