Medicine: Dope

  • The U. S. this week observed the first of the year's widely noted special sennights —Narcotic Education Week. A very small percentage, so far, of the U. S. population sniff cocaine and heroin, inject morphine, or smoke hashish* or opium. But despite unreliable statistics it is certain that drug habits are increasing.

    Before the War a comparatively small number of low-grade Egyptians smoked hashish and opium, with little appreciable social harm. At the War's end a Greek chemist introduced cocaine to high Egyptian society. The middle classes took up the fad. Then came heroin. Now, it is estimated, one out of 28 Egyptians is a dope addict, and one out of 56 dazzles himself with heroin.

    The League of Nations is trying desultorily and ineffectively to restrict the growth of the particular poppy from which opium, morphine and heroin is manufactured and the manufacture of narcotics. Persia will not stop poppy culture because a large part of its population depends on the business and other nations are competing. China's imperfect government cannot control the production. And because China and Persia do practically nothing, Great Britain has difficulty in forcing India to restrict its poppy crops by 10% each year.

    Most civilized European countries manufacture opium, morphine and heroin. All. save the U. S. and Soviet Russia, export it in large quantities and thus supply U. S. smugglers of the drugs. Turkey and Switzerland (seat of the drug-fighting League of Nations) have been the worst offenders. However, Turkey upon the insistence of U. S. Ambassador Joseph Clark Grew last week forced Istanbul's narcotic factories to close until they complied with export restrictions. Medicine needs some 350 tons of opium yearly. Manufacturers produce something over 8,000 tons yearly.

    Joshua of the world fight against the narcotic trade is Captain Richmond Pearson Hobson, who sat in Manhattan last week with dope-haters of 21 countries. They were whipping up interest in Narcotic Education Week and preparing agenda for a World Conference at Geneva this May.

    Captain Hobson is an almost forgotten hero. When he was young and in the U. S. Navy, the U. S. went to war with Spain. Just before Roosevelt rode up San Juan Hill in Cuba, Captain Hobson rode boats around the island. The Spanish fleet cowered in Santiago Harbor. Captain Hobson took command of the coal-carrier Merrimac and sank her at the harbor's entrance in a vain attempt to bottle up the Spanish fleet. Spanish sailors caught Captain Hobson. They courteously offered him a swig of liquor. He refused it, took a gulp of coffee. The Spaniards kept him jailed for a month. Then Spanish-American fighting ended. Captain Hobson, 28, "handsome, tall and moral," returned to the U. S. a Hero, some four years be fore a later Hero (Lindbergh) was born. Girls kissed Hero Hobson in cities from one end of the country to the other. Candy makers produced the "Hobson Kiss," a block of chewy confection.

    A few years later Captain Hobson re tired from the Navy and went into the politics of Alabama, where he was born. He was in Congress as a Representative from 1907 to 1915. He was the first Congressman to introduce a bill for a Prohibition Amendment to the Constitution. From alcohol he leaped to narcotics. Now, 60, a confirmed zealot, he has homes in Los Angeles and Manhattan, communities salty with drugs. Last week he was in Manhattan to blow a large blast against the Jericho of dope.

    Of all activities against the narcotic evil those of the Universities of Virginia and Michigan seem to be most scientific. Two years ago the Bureau of Social Hygiene gave the National Research Council funds for a study of drug addiction and the invention of a drug which would do for medicine everything which the habit-forming drugs do, yet not cause habit itself. Such a harmless, beneficial drug would make the manufacture of the bane ful drugs needless. Then they could be completely suppressed.

    The Council discovered Dr. Lyndon Frederick Small, just returned from two years of study in Europe, at the University of Virginia and financed a special laboratory for him. Out of a coal tar product called phenanthrene he has synthesized several drugs which closely resemble the chemical structure and physiological action of morphine. He sends them to Professor Charles Wallis Edmunds of the University of Michigan who tests them on animals. The two are confident that within perhaps a few months they will have an authentic drug which will not make, as morphine, heroin and opium do, pasty-faced, emaciated, depraved liars, out of its users.

    *Cigarets containing hashish or Indian hemp are called "muggles" in the U. S. South, are considered by police a major incitement to crime in New Orleans.