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The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia

The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia

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Published by anon-703596
Alfred W. McCoy
Alfred W. McCoy

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Published by: anon-703596 on Nov 27, 2007
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The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia
 Alfred W. McCoy
with Cathleen B. Read and Leonard P.Adams II
 http://www.drugtext.org/library/books/McCoy/default.htmThe Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia
 Acknowledgments
Examining and exposing the true nature of the international heroin traffic has provided interesting copy for.some writers and brushes with danger for others. Very early into our research we discovered that there werefacts we were just not supposed to know, people we were not supposed to talk to, and questions we werenot supposed to ask.But there was a large group of friends who cooperated with us, and we with them, in uncovering thepolitical dimensions of the international heroin traffic. There are many persons in Southeast Asia whohelped us immeasurably by supplying us with firsthand accounts of incidents and other "inside"information whose names may not be mentioned out of respect for their personal safety, but whoseassistance is greatly appreciated. This group includes students, past and present government officials, lawenforcement personnel, and journalists.We would like to acknowledge the many newspapers and periodicals that opened their files to us, includingFar Eastern Economic Review, La Marsedlaise, Lao Presse, Le Monde, Le Provencal, and the South ChinaMorning Post. We are grateful to members of the press corps in Hong Kong, London, Paris, Saigon,Singapore, Vientiane, and the United States who shared their information and informants with us and gaveus many leads, some of which they themselves were unaware or unwilling to follow up. Among this groupwe would like to thank Simon Albury (British Broadcasting Corporation), T. D. Allman, Jacques Decornoy(Le Monde), Leo Goodstadt (Far Eastern Economic Re-view), Grace Helms (Milford Citizen), JohnHughes (Christian Science Monitor), and Peter Dale Scott.We were assisted in our research in London by Adrian Cowell and Cornelius Hawkridge and in Paris byJean Chesnqaux, Phillipe Devillers, General F. Gambiez, Annick Levy, Guy Mor‚chand, Laura Summers,and Christine White. In the United States we were helped and advised by Fred Branfman, James Boyd of the Fund for Investigative Journal-ism, Antonia Dul, Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Litshultz, Professor KarlPeltzer of Yale University, and Virginia Lee Read. In Laos we are grateful to our interpreter, PhinManivong, and our photographer/guide, John Everingham.Finally, we are most indebted to Elisabeth Jakab of Harper & Row, who, in addition to being a superbeditor, was a constant source of encouragement and inspiration.
 
 The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia
 
Introduction:The Consequences of Complicity
*
Notes can be found here
 
AMERICA is in the grip of a devastating heroin epidemic which leaves no city or suburb untouched, andwhich also runs rampant through every American military installation both here and abroad. And theplague is spreading-into factories and offices (among the middle-aged, middle-class workers as well as theyoung), into high schools and now grammar schools. In 1965 federal narcotics officials were convincedthat they had the problem under control; there were only 57,000 known addicts in the entire country, andmost of these were comfortably out of sight, out of mind in black urban ghettos.(1)* Only three or fouryears later heroin addiction began spreading into white communities, and by late 1969 the estimatednumber of addicts jumped to 315,000. By late 1971 the estimated total had almost doubled-reaching an all-time high of 560,000.(2)One medical researcher discovered that 6.5 percent of all the blue-collar factoryworkers he tested were heroin addicts,(3)and army medical doctors were convinced that 10 to 15 percentof the GIs in Vietnam were heroin users.(4)In sharp contrast to earlier generations of heroin users, many of these newer addicts were young and relatively affluent.The sudden rise in the addict population has spawned a crime wave that has turned America's inner citiesinto concrete jungles. Addicts are forced to steal in order to maintain their habits, and they now account formore than 75 percent of America's urban crime.(5)After opinion polls began to show massive publicconcern over the heroin problem, President Nixon declared a "war on drugs" in a June 1971 statement toCongress. He urged passage of a $370 million emergency appropriation to fight the heroin menace.However, despite politically motivated claims of success in succeeding months by administrationspokesmen, heroin continues to flood into the country in unprecedented quantities, and there is everyindication that the number of hard-core addicts is increasing daily.
The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia
 
Heroin: The History of a "Miracle Drug"
Heroin, a relatively recent arrival on the drug scene, was regarded, like morphine beforeit, and opium before morphine, as a "miracle drug" that had the ability to "kill all painand anger and bring relief to every sorrow." A single dose sends the average user into adeep, euphoric reverie. Repeated use, however, creates an intense physical craving in thehuman body chemistry and changes the average person into a slavish addict whose entireexistence revolves around his daily dosage. Sudden withdrawal can produce vomiting,violent convulsions, or fatal respiratory failure. An overdose cripples the body's centralnervous system, plunges the victim into a, deep coma, and usually produces death withina matter of minutes. Heroin addiction destroys man's normal social instincts, includingsexual desire, and turns the addict into a lone predator who willingly resorts to any crime-burglary, armed robbery, armed assault, prostitution, or shoplifting-for money to maintainhis habit. The average addict spends $8,000 a year on heroin, and experts believe thatNew York State's addicts alone steal
at least half a billion dollars annually
to maintain theirhabits.(6) 
 
Heroin is a chemically bonded synthesis of acetic anhydride, a common industrial acid,and morphine, a natural organic pain killer extracted from the opium poppy. Morphine isthe key ingredient. Its unique pharmaceutical properties are what make heroin so potent apain killer and such a dangerously addicting narcotic. The acidic bond simply fortifies themorphine, making it at least ten times more powerful than ordinary medical morphineand strengthening its addictive characteristics. Although almost every hospital in theworld uses some form of morphine as a post-operative pain killer, modern medicineknows little more about its mysterious soothing properties than did the ancients whodiscovered opium.Scholars believe that man first discovered the opium poppy growing wild in mountainsbordering the eastern Mediterranean sometime in the Neolithic Age. Ancient medicalchronicles show that raw opium was . highly regarded by early physicians hundreds of years before the coming of Christ. It was known to Hippocrates in Greece and in Romantimes to the great physician Galen. From its original home in the eastern Mediterraneanregion, opium spread westward through Europe in the Neolithic Age and eastward towardIndia and China in the early centuries of the first millennium after Christ. Down throughthe ages, opium continued to merit the admiration of physicians and gained in popularity;in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century England, for example, opium-based medicineswere among the most popular drugstore remedies for such ordinary ailments as headachesand the common cold.Although physicians had used various forms of opium for three or four thousand years, itwas not until 1805 that medical science finally extracted pure morphine from raw opium.Orally taken, morphine soon became an important medical anesthetic, but it was not until1858 that two American doctors first experimented with the use of the hypodermic needleto inject morphine directly into the bloodstream.(7)These discoveries were importantmedical breakthroughs, and they greatly improved the quality of medical treatment in thenineteenth century.However, widespread use of morphine and opium-based medicines such as codeine soonproduced a serious drug addiction problem. In 1821 the English writer Thomas DeQuincey first drew attention to the problem of post-treatment addiction when hepublished an essay entitled,
Confessions of an English OpiumEater.
De Quincey hadbecome addicted during his student days at Oxford University, and remained an addictfor the rest of his life. Finally recognizing the seriousness of the addiction problem,medical science devoted considerable pharmacological research to finding a nonaddictingpain killer-a search that eventually led to the discovery and popularization of heroin. In1874 an English researcher, C. R. Wright, synthesized heroin, or diacetylmorphine, forthe first time when he boiled morphine and acetic anhydride over a stove for severalhours. After biological testing on dogs showed that diacetylmorphine induced "greatprostration, fear, sleepiness speedily following the administration and a slight tendency tovomiting," the English researcher wisely decided to discontinue his experiments.(8)Lessthan twenty years later, however, German scientists who tested diacetylmorphineconcluded that it was an excellent treatment for such respiratory ailments as bronchitis,chronic coughing, asthma, and tuberculosis. Most importantly, these scientists claimed

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