Control of Drug Addiction

September 5, 1956

Report Outline
Alternatives in Control of Drug Addiction
Attempt to Stamp Out Illicit Drug Traffic
Treatment of Addicts as Sick Persons

Alternatives in Control of Drug Addiction

Controversy over the effectiveness of methods currently employed to combat the long-standing evil of drug addiction has been stirred up by recent revision of federal narcotics legislation. The Narcotic Control Act of 1956, approved July 18, is designed to strengthen enforcement of existing laws against illicit traffic in drugs. It prescribes heavier penalties, including the death sentence, for narcotics offenders and includes provisions to facilitate arrest and conviction of peddlers and addicts. The so-called punitive approach to the drug addiction problem is thus carried to new lengths.

A number of physicians and lawyers opposed the legislation on the ground that the punitive approach has not succeeded in eradicating drug addiction. A better way to control and eventually wipe out the evil, they insist, is to treat addicts as sick persons, not criminals. Advocates of the medical approach contend that if doctors were authorized to administer narcotics in minimum doses to hardcore (probably incurable) addicts, the clandestine market in drugs would collapse for lack of customers. High prices, high profits, and other incentives and compulsions would no longer be present to nurture the illicit traffic.

Debate on Best Means to Attack Narcotics Evil

Opposing views on methods of handling the narcotics problem were explored at length in hearings before subcommittees of the two congressional committees which drafted the new legislation. Senate Judiciary and House Ways and Means subcommittees both rejected the proposal that keeping addicts on narcotics be sanctioned by law. However, they recognized that more attention ought to be paid to the medical side of the problem.

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