THE GRAVE DRUG MENACE
EMILY F. MURPHY
Magistrate of the Province of Alberta
MY OBJECT in writing for MACLEAN’S MAGAZINE four articles on the subject of Drug Addiction has been to show: (1) How widespread this evil has become in Canada; What the Federal Government has done to check it; and what further steps should be taken by them to this end.
•(2) To discuss its relation to insanity, crime, racial deterioration and social wastage.
(3) To consider whether prohibitory liquor laws lead to the increase drug consumption.
(4) To throw some light on “the gradual reduction’ or “ambulatory method” as practised by the medical profession, and to show how it has failed to cure.
(5) To tell how the habit is most frequently acquired, and how the illicit traffic in drugs is carried on.
(6) To shoiç what the police-arm of the Government is doing to grapple with the evil, and how the cases are usually dealt with in our Courts of Summary Jurisdiction.
(7) To consider whether drug addiction is a crime or a disease, or both.
While facing the drug evil without blinkers, l shall endeavor to discuss it without offending the sensibilities of the readers. The only excuse any writer or worker can have for acquainting the public with the particulars of this or other social evils, is that the public mag be warned of their dangers, and aroused to strike them doron before they gain the strangle-hold.
All honest and orderly persons should rightly know that there are men and women who batten and fatten on the agony of the unfortunate drug-habit — palmer-worms and human caterpillars, who should be trodden under foot like the despicable grubs that they are.
And all folks of gentle and open hearts should know that among us there are girls and glorious lads who, without any obliquity in themselves, have become victims to the thrall of opiates. “Till they perish and they suffer—Some ’tis whispered—down in hell.” It is fitting then, that both as readers and writers, we should approach this urgent matter with teachable spirits, with tolerance for each pther’s opinions; and with wills ready to act in eon junction where duty seems to direct.
ON OPIUM smoker has questioned, “If I should gain heaven for a pice (coin), why should you be envious?”
His question is based on two lies. The smoker dees not gain heaven, and we are not envious.
Certain slack-twisted persons of both sexes, in search of possible adventures, or desirous of surcease from the pain of their own inefficiency, may be led to
efficiency, may be led to think there is something felicitous in the smoker’s “heaven” as here set forth, but they think amiss.
One has but to come closely in touch with the smoker to know that his vaunted “pipe dreams” are not invariable visions of moon-haunted nights, flower-starred islands, and the hushing of velvet wings.
On the country, he dreams more often of tremendous glooms and fatal slopes, so that he cries aloud for help with a voiceless throat.
Instead of a heaven, his open-eyed dream ultimately becomes a terrible hell, “a dwelling deadly cold, full of bloody eagles and pale adders.”
Opium addicts, especially if they be poetic, throw a lure over their vice and write of it as “a song that sleeps in the blood,” but few write of their tears that are bitter as ink,
and how they get to know all the untold sorrows of the world.
Of course, they do not tell these things, for every drugfiend is a liar. The dream in their blood is only a morbid and clamorous appetite—yes, and a vulgar one.
Besides, an inveterate user of drugs has no more blood in his body than a shrimp. Indeed, because of their pallor and extreme emaciation the Chinese denominate the advanced addicts as “opium ghosts.” And the name is apt, being descriptive above all others of these ashy-faced, half-witted droolers; these unfortunate cringing creatures who are so properly castigated by the whips and scorpions they have made for themselves.
“Why then do they smoke?” you ask.
Again I reply, for forgetfulness. Maybe, they smoke too for the excitation of the senses, an effect which the new smoker gets on five grains but which, it is said, requires as high as 270 grains for an old smoker.
Leads to Broken Homes
SOMETIMES, a man will come to the magistrate to tell of his domestic infelicity and how his wife has deteriorated both mentally and physically. She has become careless of her appearance, and indolent; neglects her home, and remains away all night, or even for days. He has thought, of every reason but opiates, and is staggered when the idea is first suggested to him. Then, he begins to
understand why she stole money from him; the reason she sold her jewelry; why she has become so ill-looking and her face so fretted with wrinkles. He begins to comprehend the cause of her continuous despondence and her desire to commit suicide, and why she is “gey ill to live wi’. ”
A man or woman who becomes an addict seeks the company of those who use the drug, and avoids those of his own social status. This explains the amazing phenomenon of an educated gentlewoman, reared in a refined atmosphere, consorting with the lowest classes of yellow and black men. It explains, too, why sometimes a white woman deserts or “farms out” a half-blood infant, or on rare occasions brings it to the juvenile court for adoption.
Under the influence of the drug, the woman loses control of herself; her moral senses are blunted, and she becomes “a victim” in more senses than one. When she acquires the habit, she does not know what lies before her; later, she does not care. She is a young woman who is years upon years old.
Realizing that no woman may become or remain degraded without all women suffering, you may attempt something in the way of salvage, only to find that to reform her would be about as difficult as making Eve from the original rib. Unrestrained by decorum, void of delicacy of soul, moulded by vice, the companion of debauchees and drabs, she seems to he one of those desperately "down-and-out" women who, for her life dictum, has taken the words "Evil, be thou tn> good.”
Sometimes, her husband takes her to another city; or the police may gather her in for a term in jail. Sometimes, she goes to the asylum, and sometimes she dies, hut more often she just lives on, a burden and heartsoald at home and abroad.
When we consider the quiet insidious way in which the drug habit lays hold on those who dally with it; how it distorts the moral sense of the habitue, and the enormous human wastage that results therefrom, we cannot but agree with Dr. C E. Terry who describes drug addiction as “one of the most vast,
■complex, and depressing chapters of national and international life, and one which has no parallel in all the stories of human misery and misunderstanding.’’
But while we have been speaking of opium smoking,itshould be borne in mind that this is the least common form of drug addiction owing to the difficulties attending its practice, and the greater probabilities of its detection by the police.
Its derivatives, such as morphin, heroin, andcodein are, however, used enormously, especially by the male''portion of
this Dominion. The same ratio of male addicts to females prevails in the United States. In this connection Mr. Charles B. Towns, who has studied the question for years, says; “Women, though constitutionally more liable than men to feel the need of medicines, form the lesser portion of the drug-taking class.”
Women are more given to the use of veronal, trional, sulfonal and other habit-forming drugs which are taken to relieve insomnia, without the users realizing the attendant dangers. These drugs are coal-tar derivatives and do not come under the drugs prohibited by the Opium and Drugs Act of Canada.
It may come about that, some day, regulations governing the use of these will be thought advisable, for, after all, the man who said “Anything that acts like an opiate is an opiate,” was talking very sensibly. The users do not speak of these drugs as opiates but as “ hypnotics,” although discriminating persons might prefer the former word. Physicians say the effect of these coal-tar derivatives is, to thin the blood and disturb the heart’s action, thereby producing neurotics.
Cocaine, the Most Popular
pERHAPS the most popular of the prohibited drugs. ^ in Canada, is cocaine in that its use does not require pipes as for opium, nor subcutaneous injections as for morphia. It is also more easily smuggled and gives a quicker and more intense result than any other drug. Indeed, the snuffers of cocaine are frequently designated as "happy-dusters” because of their sense of exhilaration and satisfaction. Cocaine has the distinction, too, according to an eminent authority, of providing for its users “the shortest cut to the insane asylum; it takes them across lots.” These are the folks who hear buzzing and imperious voices from the night, or from the republic of dead men. Remorse, jealousy, and fear make themselves faces that leer, glower and threaten, while an unknown persecutor pours electricity into their bodies, or poisons their food. Their mood varies from fierce elation to that of sullen, sardonic melancholy.
Cocainomaniacs are commonly called “cokies,” and, as a rule, get scant sympathy from the medical men or police officials who are obliged to deal with them.
And yet, in our more leisurely hours, the most casehardened of us, recalling their deplorable condition and fear-haunted faces, must perforce recall the words of the poet who said,
J have looked into ail men’s hearts.
O secret, terrible houses of beauty and pain —
J 'have looked into all men’s hearts.
And I cannot be gay, and I cannot be bitter again,
It has been found in different countries that the use of noxious drugs changes from time to time, the maximum ddmtion passing to the one most easily procurable.
in 1907, cocaine
was the drug most used because of the breaking up of opium smoking. Two years later opium had a revival and claimed 25 per cent, of the addicts.
In 1 9 09 , morphin had driven out
nearly all competitors and was favored by 98 per cent, of the addicts.
In 1910, heroin began to be used and by 1916 it was the daily “dope” of 81 per cent, of the addicts, the balance depending largely on morphin.
Heroin, which is put up in tablets, is a derivative of morphin and is three times stronger than its parent drug.
Has the Drug Habit Grown in Canada?
T N enquiring into the growth of the drug habit in Canada,
it is hard to secure reliable data outside that given in the Government Reports. For one thing, we are not given to tabulating our cases and it is, therefore, difficult to get evidence that would stand in a court of justice. For another thing, we lack the scientific attitude of mind, desiring to bolster up our theories or pet prejudices, rather than to set forth the naked truth.
Nearly every prohibitionist will advise you not to say publicly that the drug habit has increased, lest '‘the liquor people” make unfair use of your statement.
Conversely, the liquor people make absurd and sweeping statements concerning the ill-effects of prohibitory enactments, without adducing facts or figures to substantiate their claims.
The same difficulties, in a somewhat lesser degree, are encountered when one enquires from the pharmacists, physicians, military authorities, customs officials, alienists and even the police themselves. People are prejudiced, indifferent, ignorant, or fear to express themselves lest they get into trouble with their superior officers or with their departments. The great majority, however, are merely unobservant and inattentive. The constable on beat who can tell whether a man has a fit, is a drugaddict, or only sleeping off the results of “squirrel” whiskey, is a very clever fellow indeed, and heading straight for the Chief’s chair and the Chief’s salary.
In this respect, he differs little from those of us who are magistrates. We are too hurried and too worried to enquire closely into the cause of the mania. We like to think this is the province of the doctor, and that it does not concern us. We do not know whether the person committed, pending the orders of the Attorney-General, has been an habitual user of narcotics, and some of us do not even care.
In most asylums the patients are oniy housed, bathed and fed. They are seldom individualized for treatment as if they were ill at home, or if in the wards of a hospital.
Similar conditions prevail in the majority of prisons. No one seems to know how
many convicts are drug-users. One jail surgeon will tell you the numbers are negligible; others will say that they are alarming and that it is difficult to prevent the traffic of drugs, or to keep the prisoner’s friends from supplying him surreptitiously.
There are, nevertheless, a fine majority of official persons who are not afraid of the truth. If prohibitory enactments lead to an increase of drug addiction, they desire to know it in order that they may prepare for and intelligently cope with the menace, even as they are doing with the liquor traffic.
Among the other classes mentioned, we are indebted to a few officials who are concerned deeply, and who are eager for a vigorous policy of suppression on the part of the Federal Government. May their tribe live and increase!
WHEN we come to examine the Reports of the Inland Revenue Department, the Board of Health at Ottawa, and to read Hansard and the Blue Books, we find a wealth of data that is absolutely reliable.
Here we ascertain that, until six months ago, when certain drastic restrictions were made, the magnitude of the drug traffic in Canada was admittedly appalling.
In the year 1912, only 35 ounces of cocaine were imported into this country. Beven years later, the imports had jumped to 12,333 ounces.
In the year 1915, a remarkable drop in imports occurred, the number of ounces being only 50. .
In the same year corresponding drops occurred in morphin and crude opium. .
Mr. D. A. Clark, the Assistant Deputy Minister of Health, says this is probably accounted for by the fact that owing to the disturbances of the war the avenues of trade had not yet become adjusted, and stocks of these drugs were being held up by interested parties in the hope of sale for war purposes at very greatly enhanced prices.
In 1907, Canadians imported 1,523 ounces of morphin. Ten years later, we were importing 30,000 ounces. ’
When we come to speak of opium imports, it should be borne in mind that the quantity is computed in pounds, and not in ounces, as with morphin and cocaine.
In 1907, 67,464 pounds of opium passed through our Customs. The next year, 88,013 pounds went through. After this time, the imports began to decrease till, in 1916, they fell to 1,741 pounds. By 1913, they had risen again to 34,263 pounds.
Where Our Supply Comes From
IN 1918, the United States supplied Canada with 1,913 pounds of crude opium; Persia sent us 2,853 pounds,
and the British Empire 7,705 pounds.
In the same year, we got 4,795 ounces of morphin from Great Britain and 5,043 ounces from the United States.
For cocaine also, the United States is our chief source of supply. In 1918. we bought from that country 3,754 ouncesj as against 923 ounces from Great Britain.
A few months ago, our Department of Health went into co-operation with the Department of Trade and Commerce to actively suppress the trade in narcotics to the lowest legitimate point, and the result as developed may reasonably be looked upon with some degree of pride,
the trade having depreciated nearly two-thirds.
This came about in 1919, through the passing of the folifiis lowing Order-in-Council:
“That it is expedient to provide that every person who imports or exports from Canada any coca leaves, cocaine or any of their salts or preparations, or any opium or its preparation, or any opium alkaloids or their salts or preparations, without first obtaining a license therefor from the Minister who is presiding over the Department of Health, shall be guilty of an offence, and shall be liable upon summary conviction to a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars and costs, or for a term not exceeding imprisonment for one year, or to both fine or imprisonment, and that these provisions shall be read as one with the Opium and Drugs Act, chapter seventeen of the Statutes of 1911, and everything in the said Act which is inconsistent with this resolution be repealed.”
TN October 1919, the Hon. N. W. Rowell A brought this Order down as a Resolution to amend the existing Act. Speaking to
this resolution, he said that since the Order had been passed “not only has the quantity of these drugs imported been, by the requiring of a license, remarkably reduced as the figures disclose; but the measure of control which the license gives over the druggist who imports the drug, enables the department to follow the matter up and to require the druggist to show how he has disposed of the drugs imported.
Moreover, even with this greatly reduced importation some druggists have not been able to show how their purchases have been •disposed of. These cases will be followed up in order to see that any who are violating the law are punished in accordance with the law.”
It is stated on excellent authority that more than 95 per cent, of the whole quantity used in Canada is imported into or about the City of Montreal, and most of the remaining 5 per cent, is bought by other dealers in Quebec. While it may be true that several of the largest wholesale drug firms in Canada are situated in Montreal, it is also known that that city is the headquarters for illicit distribution of this type of drug, and that a very large percentage must be smuggled into the United States.
The Business of Smuggling
WHETHER this claim is correct we cannot say, there being no figures to cover operations in smuggling. Our Government officials claim that, in the United States, the regulations against importation have raised the price of drugs in that country, and have caused illicit vendors to look to Canada for a supply. They point out that at Montreal morphin is rated at $12.00 per ounce, and in New York, Boston and Chicago, at from $60.00 to $70.00 an ounce, thus making manifest the incentive for the trade.
We think though, that our officials must be quoting wholesale prices in Montreal, and retail prices in the American cities. Indeed, it must be so, for from the imports recorded, it will be seen that our main source of supply of morphin is from the United States. Why should we buy from them at $60.00 or $70.00 an ounce when we can get a supply from Great Britain at $12.00 ?
The Survey for February 1919, published in the United States, says; “Drugs are smuggled from Canada and Mexico and sold by ‘bootleggers’ and unscrupulous physicians.”
This statement may be true to some extent, but there is evidence to show that we are subject to a similar plague of drug-peddling from the United States.
Previous to the passing of the Harrison Law in 1914, in the United States, their people consumed more habitforming drugs than even the people of China, the per capita amount being 36 grains. Their opium alone cost $18,000,000, and it was believed there were 5,000,000 addicts, or one in every twenty persons. This is probably an exaggerated figure, but it was definitely discovered that about 90 per cent, of the amount of opiates imported was used for the (corrupting of youths and maidens between the ages of 17 and 22.
How much of this 90 per cent, was smuggled into Canada for a similar purpose we are unable to state, but we know the proportion was large.
Be this as it may, our Canadian Government, through the Opium and Drugs Act, has taken upon itself the duty of striking strongly at narcotic drugs by its police arm and are deserving of the highest commendation.
Conservation of Life
it is plainly palpable that the illicit traffic in our Dominion has grown to menacing proportions and, as yet, it remains to be grappled with. There is no gainsaying the immensity of the undertaking, but it will never be so easily dealt with as now.
That the Government needs to take sharply remedial measures, especially in dealing with the addicts themselves, is also palpable. Since the war we have gleaned new ideas about the wastage of human material, and the duty of conserving life.
Where the addicts are concerned, we must not let ourselves fall into the pagan and horribly callous attitude of the ate Dowager Empress of China,
known to her people as “The Old Dragon.” When urged not to sign the decree against opium on the grounds that there were over nine million addicts in the Empire and that their sufferings would be painful beyond comprehension, she asked: “How many will die?” Her advisers informed
her about three millions. “That is not many in proportion to the benefit,” she replied imperially.
In this country it is our desire to have the benefits from its suppression without destroying our people or unduly impairing their efficiency. Such desirable results cannot be accomplished without careful plans, legislative sanction, and ample backing from the public.
But, perhaps, Mr. W. L. Mackenzie King, in his report published in 1908 on “The Need for the Suppression of the Opium Traffic in Canada,” struck the right note on this phase of the subject when he said :
“Other instances of legislative enactments to suppress the opium evil, and to protect individuals from the baneful effect of this drug might be given, if further examples were necessary. What is more important, however, than the examples of other countries, is the good name of our own. To be indifferent to the growth of such an evil in Canada would be inconsistent with those principles of morality which ought to govern the conduct of a Christian nation.”
Mr. King wrote these words in 1908, at the time of the Asiatic riots in Vancouver, when the Chinese residents had presented claims to the Federal Government for losses occasioned by the anti-Asiatic riots, during which seven of their opium factories were destroyed.
Mr. King, then the Minister of Labor, further said that the amount consumed in Canada, if known, would probably appal the ordinary citizen, who is inclined to believe that the habit is confined to the Orientals. The Chinese with whom he had conversed assured him that almost as much opium was sold to white people as to Chinese, and that the habit was making headway not only among white men and boys, but among women and girls.
This was eleven years ago, and no particular attention was paid Mr. King’s warning, with the result that all the provinces of Western Canada, are, to-day, suffering im-
mensely from this evil. In referring to the traffic in drugs, the Editor of the Edmonton Journal said in December 1919:
“It is known that vast forces are now engaged in peddling morphias, opiums, and lesser known and even more devilish narcotics and stimulants. A few days in the Edmonton police court would reveal the extent of the system here in the far north, and it is certain that a vast international organization is handling the importation and supply of huge quantities of every sort of vicious drug. Action cannot be taken too soon.”
“Valley of the Shadow.”
ANYONE who has lived in British Columbia knows that where the Chinese have their own districts, much smoking is indulged in.
Several years ago, with two plain clothes men known as “dope cops,” I visited Chinatown in Vancouver, that queer district where men seem to glide from nowhere to nothing.
In entering Shanghai Alley, I was warned to stand clear of the doorways lest a rush be made from inside, when I would be trampled upon.
In passing up a narrow staircase of unplaned boards, one detective walked ahead and one behind me, each carrying a flashlight.
“Why do you keep me between you?” I asked. “Gentlemen should precede a lady up a stairway.”
Without replying, the head man stopped about midway up, and inserted a long key into a board when, to my amazement, a door opened where no door had been visible. Here, in a small cupboard, without a window a kennel of a place—lay four opium debauchees or, as the police designate them, “hop-heads.” /
The hole was absolutely dark and-the men slept heavily. Although plainly narcotised, the police might not apprehend the sleepers. One may only arrest those found in the act of smoking. It would seem that here, as in the best English circles, the eleventh commandment is “Never interrupt.”
And so, in like manner, several doors were opened to show me how I was being protected from a stealthily opened panel and all this might mean to a witless, worthless, lamb like me. As you looked and looked again on these p r ostrate, open-eyed insensates it began to dawn on you what Bret Harte meant when he spoke of “The dread valley of the shadow of the
In one of these dens, the detective suddenly pointed like a dog oil game. “Opium!” he said, “I smell opium.”
Almost immediately from over our heads, we heard the pad of running soft-shod feet, for the game was up and afield. Upon entering the room above, no one was to be seen, but t he room was filled with the sickly fumes of cooked opium. Only the month half-dazed, unhappy an attempt to escape the police threw himself off the roof of a building and died on the pavement beneath. The other Chinamen, to have revenge, swore that one of these detectives had thrown the man off. The detective charged with this crime was the one ahead of me with the long key.
NOTE.—MacLean’s MAGAZINE has realized the need of aeqa inting the public at large with the facts on the drug traffic. The use of drugs has been groiving at an alarming rate in Canada of recent years, and the war has given it a terrible stimulus. To those who have come in contact with the facts it is clear that sterner measures of regulation and. prohibition must be devised if the menace is to be checked; accordingly it was decided some time ago that MACLEAN’S would give publicity to the grim story of drug addiction. The magazine has been particularly fortunate in securing Mrs. Murphy to conduct the necessary investigation and write these articles. In addition to being a powerful writer, Mrs. Murphy is police magistrate of'the Women’s Court at Edmonton and of the Province of Alberta, and. so has come very closely in touch with all phases of the drug traffic. It can be accepted that everything she says in these articles is absolutely authoritative. — THE EDITORS.