Psychotoxic Drugs

January 27, 1965

Report Outline
Rise of a New Black Market in Drugs
Characteristics of Psychotoxic Drugs
Existing and Proposed Federal Controls

Rise of a New Black Market in Drugs

A new effort will be made in Congress this year to put through legislation aimed to check an alarming growth in the non-medical use of so-called psychotoxic drugs. This term is applied to drugs, not legally defined as narcotics, which nevertheless affect the mental outlook of the user. The group comprises the well-known sedatives, stimulants, and tranquilizers frequently prescribed by doctors for home medication, as well as the more exotic vision-producing drugs like LSD-25 which are never prescribed for home use. Contrary to popular impression, these drugs, although not addictive in the same way as the narcotics heroin and opium, may have extremely serious consequences when taken without medical supervision.

Pressure for stronger government action to confine psychotoxic drug distribution to medical channels has been building up for the past half dozen or more years. A bill to give the Food and Drug Administration new powers for this purpose passed the Senate last August, but it did not come up in the House before Congress adjourned. Sen. Thomas J. Dodd (D Conn.), sponsor of the measure, reintroduced it on Jan. 12. Five days earlier, President Johnson had included in a special message on the nation's health a recommendation that the 89th Congress adopt “legislation to bring the production and distribution of barbiturates, amphetamines and other psychotoxic drugs under more effective control.”

The Dodd bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Labor and Public Welfare. Dodd, as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee to Investigate Juvenile Delinquency, plans to schedule a new series of hearings, like those held by the subcommittee in several parts of the country in 1962, on the use of dangerous drugs by young people. Dodd believes that the general public is not yet sufficiently aroused to the dangers of using psychotoxic drugs. Investigators have found that illegal distribution of psychotoxic drugs has continued to mount since the subcommittee first brought the matter to public attention nearly three years ago.

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