What Shall We Do with Our Narcotic Drug Addicts?
A CANADIAN POLICEWOMAN
In words of terrible vividness the writer of this article describes the frightful ravages of the disease of narcotism which has laid its foul hands on nearly io,opo Canadians. What is more, she points the way to its utter destruction
BLONDIE was a native daughter, born of Old Country stock. Her family were and are people of assured position—perhaps a little too stiff-necked, a little too rigidly proper for this democratic day and country. Blondie was full of the joy of living. And sometimes she rebelled against the superiority complex of the family and their (to her) boring propriety. And one day, the rebellion became acute and she eloped with the coachman. No—I don’t mean the chauffeur, I mean the coachman.
And the family erased her name from the Bible and I suppose from their conversation, for when I knew her nearly a decade later, broken, wrecked, utterly derelict, she told me that she had never seen or heard from one of them in all the bitter years.
She was emaciated, with all the blood drained from her face, a ‘snow bird’ indeed. She was serving behind a counter in a low cabaret patronized by half drunken or wholly drunken Siwashes, Hindus, Roumanians, Slavs— but why go on? Any person down and out and degraded that had the price of a drink might be there. And often, if he were penniless he might still go, for there was not one thrifty soul in the crowd and usually some one would be in funds and treat the needy. And, sometimes, the men drank enough to find Blondie attractive and so she made money for drugs. -
I knew that, for her, the game was nearly over. The coachman had long since become a thing of the past and to a woman of her breeding the shame had been too intolerable. There was no come-back. She died a few months later from an overdose of opium, all alone in a
One day, there was brought to our City jail, a dreary, drab, sallow young woman, almost senseless from morphine. Her dead hair was matted into an impenetrable wad, her lack-lustre eyes were not quite closed Her black dress had been dragged through the dirt. When she was able to speak intelligently, she told me that she had a sister who taught school in the city and requested me to telephone her, which I did.
About an hour later a slender, exquisitely dainty young woman of about twenty-five asked to see my charge. Wishing to save her the anguish of remembering her sister behind bars, I brought them both to our office. The accused woman could only sit on the floor with her head in the visitor’s lap and whimper like a dog. The teacher returned later with food, clothing and toilet articles and it was most pathetic to see her attempting to wash and dress that wreck and to bring her back to some semblance of humanity. It was so impossible to comb her hair that it had to be cut off.
The prisoner was released, on an undertaking from her family to make a home for her in some place far from the city, where she might have a possible chance to make a new and clean start. We have not heard of her since.
A ‘Dope’ -Mother
"VTATURE’S instinct for preserving the race is shown in the fact that rarely does a confirmed drug addict bear a child. A comparatively short sojourn in the Land of the Poppy automatically produces sterility. The only exception to this rule that I have known, was Jean. She was a young Scotch girl who was deserted by her mother when the latter returned to her native land. From information we received later, it is probable that she was a regular ‘dopester’ from the time she was fourteen. At about the age of sixteen, she took up her residence with a negro, and a baby was born to this union. A few weeks later a report came to the Police Department that the mother was neglecting her baby. The officer sent to investigate, found her associating with a Chinese youth of
fifteen. The tiny, emaciated infant was lying on the bed in a stupor. Jean and her Chinese friend were taken to jail and the infant rushed to the hospital. Examination showed that the little arms were dotted with what appeared to be the marks of a hypodermic needle.
No charge of breaking the moral code would stand against Jean or the young lad, and the latter was released. She, however, was found guilty of failing to provide proper care for her child and sentenced to prison.
While she was there, the nurses put up a strenuous fight for the baby’s life but it was of no avail. A few days later she died—one of the most innocent victims of the drug traffic.
Jean has served her sentence and been released. When last I heard of her, she was reported to be ‘on the road’ and still using drugs, although managing to keep out of jail.
The Flood of Drugs
PRANCIS W. COWAN, Chief of the Narcotic Division -*■ of the Federal Department of Health, in statistics recently sent out from his office, states that facts, compiled as carefully as his investigators have been able to estimate them, would lead him to believe that in 1924 there were approximately 9,500 drug addicts in the Dominion of Canada. Can you see them? Can you see nine thousand five hundred Blondie’s, sisters of dainty school-teachers, seventeen years old Jean’s and babies with hypodermic marks in their tiny arms? Nine thousand five hundred!
And yet we have a Narcotic Drug Act on our statute books by which narcotic drugs brought into the country may be consigned only to specific manufacturers or wholesalers, who may sell only to licensed retailers; who may sell or give the drug only to doctors, veterinary surgeons or dentists, or to persons having prescriptions from doctors, veterinary surgeons or dentists.
Records of all sales have to be kept, and returns made regularly to the Federal Department of Health as to the exact amount of drug handled and to whom it is given.
A person who has narcotics in his possession without a prescription from a doctor or license from the Health Department, is guilty of an offence and on conviction will be liable to a penalty which ranges from six months in jail and a fine of two hundred dollars, to seven years imprisonment and a one thousand dollar fine. If the drug is supplied to a minor, lashes may be added.
Theoretically, every ounce of narcotic drug brought into Canada is under government supervision and control from the moment of its entry into our territory until it reaches the ultimate consumer, and the ultimate consumer may be only a person requiring the drug for medicinal or laboratory purposes. Severe punishment is provided for its importation, possession or use contrary to law.
And yet Canadian experts tell us that, of the 9,500 persons mentioned above, only 777 were medical cases reported as such by the doctors. Once more, I am using Mr. Cowan’s figures. His comment with regard to these users is that, he believes that ‘bv far the greater number are criminal drug addicts, whose condition, in its inception and its continuance, is due to vice, vicious environment and criminal association and, therefore, the consideration of this particular group proves conclusively that it is a police problem.’
If Mr. Cowan’s estimate is even approximately correct, and we have 9,500 addicts and 777 reported medical cases, there must be over 8,000 residents of Canada using drugs illicitly.
And yet public records show that, in 1924, there were 997 convictions only for offences relating to the Narcotic Drug Act.
Difficulties of Drug Detection
TT IS evident that we have a drug -*• problem, that we are not as yet striking at the root of the evil and that more radical action will have to be taken if we are to rid our country of this dead weight of misery.
I have heard condemnation of the supposed laxity of police officials and customs officers because of their alleged indifference towards the stamping out of this evil. I should like to point out several reasons, often not considered by the layman, why the importation and selling of drugs sometimes almost defies detection.
First, drugs can be carried in such small compass. A bottle of whiskey may easily be found, if a man has it on his person. Liquor may be identified by its smell or its bulk, it is comparatively simple to discover when it is being illegally shipped in large enough quantities to be a matter of serious concern.
Narcotic drugs are utterly different. They are, in some forms, colorless, tasteless and odorless. They can be sent * through the mail, express, or customs in ways that baffle the utmost shrewdness. Dope when concealed on the person, can be found, sometimes, only by ripping to pieces every article of attire. Any hem, any lining, facing or seam may have in it cloth interlinings, ostensibly part of the garment, but in reality receptacles for the carrying of drugs. An unsuspecting person might take such an article of clothing to pieces and make it over and not even notice the powdery substance that would be scattered harmlessly around. There is not a book or a piece of furniture that may not be used as a carrier.
It may be hidden in food in a way that makes it almost impossible of detection except by chemical analysis. I have known a piece of prune pie sent in to a prisoner to have enough opium in it to have kept her drugged for a month if it had reached her. Women brought into jail have opium stuck in their hair or the toes of their shoes, morphine in their powder boxes, in fact, drugs hidden in every conceivable spot. Narcotics are so concentrated that hundreds of dollars worth may occupy a very small space.
Another difficulty, is that the effect of the drug on the user is not easily noticeable except to the expert. A man
who breaks the liquor act is often such an outstanding advertisement of his transgression that even the most unobservant person could not fail to notice him. His forbidden goods proclaim themselves loudly on his breath, in his walk and his conversation.
Drugs do not do so. I knew a young girl, who, when she was fourteen, went to live with her grandmother and stayed with her two years. During that entire time she was ‘sniffing coke’ and throughout the visit neither of her grandparents nor the young cousin who lived with them suspected it. They were worried about her poor health, her lack of color and vitality, her dull eyes and her depression, varied by outbursts of vivacity during which she seemed to ‘walk on air.’ They knew that certain physical functions were not developing, but only when accident revealed to them the state of affairs could they look back and see that it had existed for two years. This girl could not have gone home with one drink of whiskey within her without their knowing it at once. There is a type of person who can use some narcotic drugs for years and live almost normally.
Addicts may give to casual or even interested observers the impression that they are weary, dull, over-excitable or merely eccentric. That a man drinks, even moderately, is apparent to every one with whom he comes in contact.
A Conspiracy of Silence
ALL men and women interested in law enforcement - realize, also, another fundamental difficulty in obtaining convictions in drug-selling cases, and that is
that all parties to the transaction are anxious to suppress evidence. If a man burglarizes a home, the victims will promptly give the police every conceivable assistance in locating the offender. The same is true of many types of crime—arson, forgeries, assaults, murders, destruction of property, or slander. In these cases, sufferers from the offence are eager to be of help in apprehending the criminals.
In the matter of drug distribution, every individual concerned exerts his utmost effort to block investigation.
And one of the most curious conditions of the dope habit is that it has the peculiar quality of giving to its devotees an uncanny ability to defend it.
The average drug addict has a faculty for easy, fluent, fanciful lying that the inexperienced would not credit. The drug stimulates the imagination and creates utterly impossible and bizarre phantoms that could not exist in an ordinary mind. ‘Pipe dream’ has become a synonym for a vision of the fantastic and unreal.
And the universal knowledge of the constitutional untruthfulness of drug addicts places a further defence around
the activities of their exploiters, because in the rare cases where they are willing to tell the truth about the circumstances under which they got narcotics, their word literally is not worth the time that it takes them to utter it.
I have every sympathy for wretched victims of the insatiable craving for ‘dope’ and would do anything possible to put out of action the agents who perpetuate their misery, but I would not condemn, on the unsupported testimony of twenty of them, the most suspicious character I know.
There is another general difficulty in obtaining convie-tions in drug cases. Many charges heard in criminal courts are of offences committed in moments of temptation by persons chiefly law-abiding. Strange as it may seem, they are often the offenders most easily proved guilty. When the impulse to do the wrong has passed, they are afraid, ashamed, or unskilled in the art of eseap ing detection and will awkwardly blurt out the truth.
Drug sellers are, almost invariably, individuals who have deliberately set themselves up to evade the law. They have intimate contacts with scores of underworld dwellers and the sheer instinct of self preservation makes these men rally to the support of any co-lawbreaker who gets into trouble. Often the most miserable, drab, down and outer will find money piling up for his defence, because any conviction of an underworld member weakens, in degree, the positions of all of them.
Once upon a time, in_a city which shall be nameless, there lived a Chinaman whom we will call Sam Chow. For months, rumors of his drug selling activities had been reaching police ears.
He had a number of ‘runners out,’ all Chinamen. His agreement with them was probably the customary one, which is that the agents work on a regular and usually generous salary. If any of his plans fail, and he is caught, he assumes all responsibility. If he is fined the ‘bossee man’ pays the fine and charges it up to profit and loss. If he is sentenced, he is paid on his release a definite sum for every day spent in jail. Mr. Cowan reckons the profit on illicit drug selling as from ten per cent, to 10,000 per cent, of the investment. Chinese are born gamblers and there always are many of them ready to take a chance.
Sam Chow was wealthy and rapidly becoming more so. His runners out were loyal and discreet. Drugs were getting into the hands of school children. The public was aroused, mass meetings were being held, the press was active. For months the Narcotic Drug Division had believed that Sam Chow was the fountain head of much of the supply.
When members of this ‘Dope Squad, had leisure time.it became a habit to loiter in the neighborhood of his house. Numbers of Chinamen went in, it is true, but came out again and quietly proceeded on their way. Finally, the public and the press wearied of the subject. Mass meetings ceased and editorial writers discussed other topics. But the Police Department still wanted Sam Chow.
And, then, one day, Smith and O’Toole of the Narcotic Squad came in bringing one Wong Ching, and a poor Canadian derelict, Mary Martin. They had found them together. Wong had several packages of morphine and a good deal of money. Mary had one package of morphine and was penniless. The police booked them both up as having drugs in possession and hoped for some developments, for Wong Ching was known to be an habitue of Sam Chow’s house. The most patient cross-examination, however, revealed nothing. Wong denied having given her the narcotic, and she said that she got it from a woman. Both were found guilty of having drugs in possession, and sentenced to prison terms.
Smith and O’Toole stood in the corridor after the court adjourned and indulged in a refreshing exchange of views. Much of the conversation must, I fear, go unreported. The gist of it, however, was that they had sat for months on every knob, stump, block, pail, fence-post, clod of earth, picket, pool of rain and drift of snow within a block of Sam Chow’s. They had been cold and hungry and dirty and wet; they had ruined their clothes and their lives since infancy trying to apprehend the dirty devil, and all they’d done was to get poor old Mary and that lyin’ crook in jail, and if it took them the rest of their lives, they’d land Sam Chow where he belonged. Their anguish at the time was too great for jeers but in the days that followed it was the fashion, when they foregathered with their peers, to ask with gentle courtesy if they had brought Sam in yet.
And then the unexpected happened. Early one morning, unheralded and amid our awe-struck silence, our friends, Smith and O’Toole, came into the police station bearing with them about two hundred thousand dollars worth of drugs—and Sam Chow. They turned their haul over for safe-keeping and tucked Sam away for the night. O’Toole was jubilant. He said, “We’ve got him cinched. He called me over into the corner and told me he’d give me fifty thousand dollars if we’d let him go, the skunk.” It was the catch of the season. The Press lauded the activity of the officers and their photographs were in the daily papers.___
Sam’s counsel was summoned in the morning and at once arranged for bail and a remand.. Our interest was aroused when we heard that the defence was calling our old acquaintance, Wong Ching, from prison to testify.
When the case was heard, the detectives swore that during Sam’s absence from his house they had searched for the drug and had found it marvellously concealed in a joist in the basement ceiling. They told about awaiting his return, arresting him and warning him. O’Toole added that he had been offered a bribe of fifty thousand dollars.
The cross-examination was short.
“Did you see the accused put the drug there?”
“When you arrested him did he tell you that it was his?”
To Smith, the lawyer said: “Did you hear any discussion with regard to money between the accused and Mr. O’Toole?”
“No, I saw them talking together in the corner but I did not hear what they said,”
“That is all. I will call Wong Ching.”
And Wong Ching, being duly sworn, stated that Sam was a friend of his and that on one occasion while the latter was away from home, he had hidden some of his drug supply in his cellar. He said that the accused had no knowledge of its being there.
He further stated that this was part of the amount he had owned when he was sentenced three months earlier.
When Sam was put in the witness box, he denied any knowledge of the drugs, stating that he had not any idea that they were there until the detectives told him so. He said that O’Toole was most mistaken about his having offered him a bribe. And there the matter stood. There was no proof to connect Sam with the drugs. There never had been a conviction against him. In the face of the sworn statement of another man that they belonged to him, it was impossible to enter a conviction. The matter of the bribe was one man’s word against another’s. In civil cases, a judge may balance evidence and exercise a good deal of latitude with regard to which testimony he shall believe. In a criminal case, the accused must be given the benefit of any possible doubt.
Wong was already serving a sentence for having drugs in his possession and could not again be charged nor could his sentence be lengthened by the discovery of additional evidence. The judge had no alternative but to dismiss the case and Sam passed out of the court a free
man. Wong returned to finish his term, doubtless cheered by the promise of further largesse on his release.
The counsel for the defense looked blandly at Smith and O’Toole as he passed them later in the hall. They were almost speechless, but O’Toole revived enough to
say, “There goes that---lawyer with my fifty thousand
Not even Sam’s money could save him forever. He made a slip finally and when I last had knowledge of him he was comfortably tucked away and spending his days at work under the direction of a gentleman with a gun.
But long hours of the time of busy men had been spent getting a conviction against one offender. During his palmy days, he had accumulated a fortune and many an honest, hard-working man, dragging out an existence one jump ahead of the poor-house, would cheerfully serve Sam’s three years for the sake of the life of luxury that may be his if he’s wise enough at the end of his sentence to retire from active life and take his ease.
This case typifies many. It shows the initial difficulty, in the months of weary effort required to find the drug; the man’s financial ability to provide himself with expert legal advice when he was at last apprehended, and the fact that, when a conviction was finally registered, he had become a man
of such wealth that a long life of ease stretches ahead of him on his release, if he will be satisfied with his already acquired prosperity. Is it any wonder that many men take a chance?
On the whole, probably, police officials, customs officers and others charged with the control of the drug traffic are doing their best with the machinery we have given them, but there is another angle from which we might well view this problem.
The Problem of the ‘Cure’
1"'\RUG addiction can be cured. Of this there is abund-1—' ant evidence. I know at this present time, sufficiently intimately to be able to guarantee the accuracy of my statement, a number of persons who have been
confirmed users of drugs and from whom all desire has been gone long enough, and completely enough, for me to assert safely that it has disappeared forever.
Of only two of them shall I speak at present. The first one came of generations of educated and cultivated people. She had a tremendously vigorous body ■—almost the stalwart strength of a man, a brilliant intellect, strong, fine emotional development. At the time when the entry of women into any professional life was almost unheard of, she, as the result of the agitation of a strong group of women suffragists, was admitted to the study of medicine in a Canadian university. Her family moved later to the United States and she completed her course there and became a full-fledged M.D.
She had easy access to all sorts of medical supplies and tells me that in a spirit of sheer adventure, she took a dose of hashish. The reaction was most enthralling. She says that row, after the lapse of many years, she can pause and throw herself into the ecstasy of that moment. She looked at her image in the full length mirror and found herself strangely beautiful. An almost unearthly radiance suffused the room. She walked lightly, buoyantly, on air. She spoke, and her voice sounded sweeter than the songs of celestial choirs. The enchantment of the oriental herb was on her. And, in the mood of the adventurer, the daring pioneer into strange lands, she went on—adding chloral and morphine.
Months passed, and the form of reaction changed. The soft cadences became harsh, the voices of the cherubim took on tones like the croak of a raven in a deserted ruin and it said to her: “Never again, never again. You gave yourself to me and I’ll never leave you, never, never, never!” She was caught in a snare of her own setting. And, in time, she was taking quantities of a combinaation of drugs that would have instantly killed a strong, normal man. The habit had gained such a hold on her that, if she went five minutes past the time of her accustomed dose, nausea and dysentery racked her body and continued until her craving was satisfied. Without drugs, she would have died. She gave up her medical practice, or perhaps it gave her up. Her body was ruined, the fine intellect shattered, her mind obsessed by hallucinations. She went to~a famous American hospital in which she once had practised and asked if they would treat her. The doctor in charge definitely refused to take her in, saying that she was too far gone, they could do nothing; he bluntly added that they had no padded cell.
She tried a much advertised cure but it did not curb the desire. She had thrown her drug supply out of the window of a moving train, got out at the next station and walked back along the track until she found it. This woman, in direct answer to prayer, uttered, not in the hysteria induced by a huge assembly, but when she was alone on the sidewalk of a western Canadian city, felt the grip of the desire loosen and shortly afterwards it disappeared altogether. Bodily and mental health, were fully restored. She took up religious work in which she is still engaged.
I know a graduate nurse who became a confirmed user of drugs. She was living with a clergyman’s son who was separated from his wife. The wife died. The nurse, with as much emotion as she would have felt in sterilizing surgical instruments, undertook to overcome her drug addiction. As a nurse she was admitted free to a hospital ward. She faithfully took the prescribed treatment. When she completed her course, she married the man with whom she had lived. They went to a new neighborhood. For years, she has lived the ordinary, normal life of a happily married woman.
There is, all over our country, abundant testimony to the fact that drug addiction can be cured.
The State’s Treatment of Addicts
r"\0 YOU know how we, the state, treat the person •L' unfortunate enough to have fallen a prey to this most fatal of habits?
I met Marie nearly ten years ago, when I first began the police work which has proved so fascinating.
She was standing stark naked in one of the women’s wards in the citjjail. I said standing, I mean gyrating; whirling, leaping bounding. Her hair, kinky and black.. radiated from her head in every direction. Her body, swarthy and slender, and her eyes lit with half mad rage, showed strong evidence of Hawaiian blood. Her few tattered clothes were widely distributed around the floor and she was screaming at the top of her voice. At first the words tumbled over each other in such hasty profusion that they were incoherent.
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By degrees, however, her speech became more normal and I gather that she was proclaiming to all and sundry that if the . . . police wanted to search her, they could have her . . . clothes as long as they . . . pleased. She didn’t want
them. Two other women looked stoically out of their cells as I hurried to help the matron in charge to gather up the discarded rags, hidden in which we found little packets of the incriminating drug for which we sought.
I stood on guard, until the matron carried these to the detectives awaiting in the corridor the result of our search, and
then, being unable to cajole or coerce Marie into her garments, we, by main force shoved her into a cell and locked her in.
Here she proceeded to rave and rage, to bang on the door and rattle her bunk most of the night. I might explain that in the cell she occupied there were two narrow beds that could be raised or lowered, as can be the upper berth of a Pullman. They were made of lattice work of iron strips somewhat like , the walls of' a teller’s cage in a bank only heavier. They were fastened to the wall with strong iron chains. The noise that can be made by one drug-, or drink-crazed person raising and dropping such a bed throughout an entire night would be hard for the inexperienced to imagine. There was, at that time, no padded cell in the jail and there was nothing to do but let Marie work off her exuberance which she proceeded to do till, in the early hours, she became exhausted and slept.
In the morning, the paroxysm had passed and reaction set in. Great beads of perspiration stood out all over her. Dry convulsive sobs shook her body. The drug had spent its force. She was not able to eat. She was abject, cringing.
“Please, matron, give me a tablet. My God! matron, I’m dying. 0 matron let me out. My God! My God!”
I opened the door of the cell and she came out into the ward. Shuddering with nausea and* groaning she was a pitiable wreck.
By dint of coaxing and persuading, I got her to wash herself and to put on the clothes she had scattered to the four winds of heaven.
She then, as does the average addict cut off from their supply, walked up and down, then sat down, then lay down, then got up again, calling and calling for the drug that might bring temporary release from suffering.
Nine o’clock came, and it was necessary to take Marie down to the little cubicle in which prisoners awaited their call to court.
She was in a state of collapse. She sat on the bench in the little ‘blind’ cupboard outside the court-room and began pleading.
“My God, matron, have a heart! Give me some tablets. I want the doctor. I’m sick. Oh, My God! My God!”
“Marie, you know that I can’t do that without a doctor’s prescription. Stop, pull yourself together! That’s your name now.” I gently propelled her through the door into the court-room.
There she stood in the crowded courtroom, ragged, dirty, degraded; pilloried before the society that has wronged her as surely as she has wronged society.
The droning voice of the clerk sounded. “Marie Deschamps, you are charged that at the City of Blank, on the tenth day of April, nineteen hundred and blank, you did unlawfully have in your possession a drug, to wit, morphine, without the authority of a license from the Minister first had and obtained or without other lawful authority, contrary to the provisions of the Opium and Narcotic Drug Act of the Statues of Canada. How do you plead, guilty or not guilty?”
“Guilty, Your Worship. But Your Worship. If you’ll only give me another chance.” Her soft, clearly modulated voice contrasted sharply with the dusky color and the tattered clothes and added to the grotesqueness of the effect.
“Your Honor, if your worship only will, I’ll promise Your Worship I’ll never touch it again. I’m going to give it up, Your Worship.” Exhausted, she stopped pleading.
The judge looked at her a moment and replied, “I’m going to give you what I believe is your only chance. I sentence you to six months in the common jail.”
“My God!” said Marie and groped her way back into our little ante-room.
In spite of her deathly sickness, however, she revived a little as the noon hour passed and, as we got ready, at two o’clock, for our trip to the provincial prison, she was almost resigned.
“Miss X. is so nice to us,” she said. “And,” she added, “the prison doctor will give me some dope and let me taper off.”
As we entered the grounds of the Provincial prison through a group of men, working under the supervision of a guard with a rifle, we swung around a corner and from one of the barred windows, a handkerchief fluttered.
“Oh, there’s Blondie!” said Marie.
We drove up to the front entrance and waited until the turnkey opened the heavy steel door. In a few minutes, the matron came in. She greeted Marie like an old friend and the latter said to her! “My God, matron, it’s good to be home. Get me seme dope. I’m dying.”
They disappeared, and I went back to the car—Marie had come “home.”
Even when I first met her, Marie was an old offender and in the ten years since, she has served several sentences. At the time of the writing of this article she is once more in detention in the city jail and charged with the old offence.
What Happens to the Maries
r\0 YOU see how we manage it?
When Marie was acquiring the habit that has dogged her footsteps for many a weary year, we used to impose a fine for minor offences under the act.
And into our legal machinery we received the young woman-—perhaps just beginning to use morphine. Some of the drug was found on her. She was charged, pleaded guilty, was fined twenty-five dollars and was released. We, representing law and order, we, the system devised to protect the people, turned loose on society a walking menace as dangerous as a case of small-pox, more dangerous it may be, because small-pox advertises itself to all observant citizens and the prudent ones may withdraw.
Our beginner in the use of drugs, was released and went back to her friends a marked woman. Unless a miracle intervened, she also went back to her hypodermic needle. Presently, she was before the magistrate again. By this time the drug had established its work, the arrested woman had committed a second offence and was likely to serve a prison term.
She started the nerve-racking bodytorturing experience of ‘tapering off’ on the drug. At this state of her career, six months (a customary sentence) would set her on her feet, abnormal cravings begin to fade, appetite for food to return. Flesh would come back on the bones and blood into the flesh. An approximation to ‘normalcy’ would have been made.
Her time was up, the prison doors opened, she was free, often penniless. If there were friends, a family, something to tie to, she had a fighting chance to recover her lost estate and to become a successful citizen. If, as was true in most cases, there was no specially favorable environment for her, and she had little money and no work, she drifted back to old haunts, old companions, old vices.
As an effect of some drugs on the victim is to give them a keen desire to have their friends share their indulgence, there was more than an even chance that she was initiating other persons into the habit.
The story was repeated, the desire was now tremendously deepened, the body weakened, the grip of the mind was loosening, the agony of deprivation was intensified.
I have seen confirmed users deprived of their supplies, literally covered from head to foot with perspiration, trembling convulsively throughout their bodies, shouting and crying for hours in agony which was appalling to contemplate. After some days, perhaps a week of decreasing anguish, appetite would return and they’d start eating. Greedily they’d gulp down bread, a loaf, a loaf and a half, two loaves at a time, trying to still the craving.
I have known women who, every night for a year, have slept fitfully and waked continuously to ask for drugs. But, during all this time, physical strength was being built up, bodily vitality was increasing.
Once more they were released, usually without money. The appetite was still there. They went out, with greater strength, to further extravagance of indulgence, to more prolonged misery. Do you see? It is like dragging a murderer back from the jaws of death in order to hang him. You remember that, in the days of Indian torture or the Spanish Inquisition, the highest art was to keep the victim alive long enough to endure the greatest amount of agony.
Fortunately, information along this line is becoming more widespread and society is more keenly anxious than ever before to establish fine, clean living conditions for all its members.
A move was made in the right direction when, several years ago, the law was altered so that on every conviction under the Drug Act the minimum sentence must be a prison term of six months and a fine of two hundred dollars or in default an additional prison term.
The first advantage of this severer penalty is that it is, to some extent, a deterrent. To the persons who wish to try the experiment of using opiates as a new experience or as a joke, the fact that to have even the smallest amount may mean six months in jail, takes much of the thrill out of the adventure. The next advantage is that it may give to the beginner a sudden check and a forced abstinence and building up of the system that might in the early stages effect a cure.
However, .it is, at best, a clumsy and only partially satisfactory solution of a serious difficulty. The prisoner will be associated for six months with confirmed jail-birds, usually has insufficient occupation under cheerless conditions and when she is released, often without money, the State reaches out no helping hand. She is likely to become a repeater, spending half her life on the streets or in opium joints and the other half in a dreary jail. And during her periods of freedom, she probably will be starting new victims on the tragic road of the pipe or the needle. To really cope with the difficulty in an effective way, we must have further legislation, and equipment apart from the regular prisons.
Sanctuary for the Addict
I AM writing not as a medical woman, not as a psychologist, but as a policewoman. From my experience within jail walls, I should say that the first requirement for adequate handling of this situation is a proper custodial institution to which addicts may be sent on indefinite sentences.
Such a place should be made reasonably comfortable. There should be cleanliness, order, some beauty, music, ‘canned’ if most convenient, books, sports and some form of organized amusements. There should be an abundance of wholesome, normal work, much of it out of doors. Psychological and medical experts should be available and all that human wisdom can do should be done to help these people to help themselves. And it should be possible to keep the inmates there six months, six years or sixty years until they have some sort of fighting chance to maintain themselves in the outside world. The laws governing their sentences should be so drawn up that they might be given well-planned chances on probation, seventy times seven if necessary, subject to return to custodial care if they were still unable to adapt themselves to life.
A very few years of such handling of all convicted drug addicts would appreciably lessen the demand for drugs, and. when you lessen the demand you lessen the profit, and if you can lessen the profit sufficiently your illicit drug traffic will fade away into nothingness.
But you say, “Consider the expense. This social legislation, these moral reforms, these philanthropic laws are becoming so burdensome.” To that I should like to make two replies.
First, an institution of this kind might be, in a large measure, self-supporting, because it is one of the outstanding features of drug addiction that many of its victims who are utterly useless—centres of physical and moral contagion when in the grip of their habits—are sane, sound, efficient workmen when normal. Such an institution might well be planned for the carrying on of constructive work on a
commercial basis which would enable the institution to support itself in part and which would give the inmates some money for their decent establishment when they leave.
The second answer is, so far as economy is concerned, tremendously more important than the first. The most expensive, extravagant waste of civilization to-day (I mean waste in dollars and cents) is crime. I should like to point out to you later something of the annual cost to this country of our handling of crime and criminals-—after they are created. And in some shape or other most users of drugs are criminals and makers of other criminals.
What would you think of the city that, recognizing the evil of a small-pox epidemic, built huge plants for the accommodation of persons unfortunate enough to contract the dread disease, provided expensive armies of men to apprehend and lock up the victims and then released them at intervals, uncured, to carry the contagion out into the world and to infect others?
There is another phase of the matter much more difficult to regulate than the treatment of the drug addict and that is the treatment of the drug peddler. That is an extremely intricate situation. If the drug peddler were a normal man, in full possession of his faculties, keeping his mind clear and his body sound and dealing out degradation and death to humanity, I should say that no punishment recognized by law would be too great for him. There are higher-ups to whom this does apply. Certainly there are members of boat-crews, customs officials, and others, who sometimes make themselves party to smuggling of drugs into the country. There are drug-sellers who are just commercializing the weakness of their fellows. For such, when they are caught, there should be drastic punishment.
But some purveyors of drugs are themselves addicts, poor, broken, tremulous off-scourings of civilization. When I see prosperous well-fed men standing on platforms and hear them say that laws should be framed making the lash obligatory when a citizen is convicted of drug-selling, I realize that they are discussing a subject with which they have had little intimate contact.
When the drug-seller is also an addict he could be handled probably, in an institution such as I spoke of above. Only, as a deterrent to his activity, there might well be a long minimum period of detention stipulated.
The causes of the use of drugs are hidden deep in morbid physical, mental and moral fibres of human beings. These tendencies are sustained by economic pressure which accentuates the weaknesses. They are stimulated by coldblooded greed for gain of men so lacking in imagination that they can turn into the world a steady stream of misery provided that they may reap a pecuniary profit.
The cure must be as deep-reaching as the disease, a building up and strengthening of the physical, mental and moral fibre of all the nation. It must be sustained by the easing up of the economic pressure that grinds our weaklings to powder or crushes them to pulp. The man who, for gain, is poisoning our lifestream by selling habit-forming drugs must be firmly suppressed.
In spite of scare-heads and sensational rumors, the freer flow of enlightenment is uplifting civilized life and purifying the dank and moldy spots. Greater social consciousness is lessening economic pressure. We will, in time outgrow the drug habit. In the meantime we may expedite the process by a kindly but unwavering coercion of its victims into the path of sane living and a severe penalizing of those who, for their commercial advantage, are trying to perpetuate the evil.