Drug Epidemic in United States

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In the history of the United Stated the drug epidemic has been increasing at an alarming rate. The United States imported opium legally for hundreds of years. During the Civil War the most common used drug was Morphine. In the nineteenth century Heroin was manufactured. Cocaine was very popular and was marketed as a cure for drug addiction. The United States main focus was on alcohol addiction, while there was very little concern for narcotic usage. In the early years, people could purchase drugs without a prescription from drugstores or grocery stores. Mail orders allowed for a widespread of narcotic distributions. The United States created different laws that were directed to narcotics. The Harrison Narcotic Act, Volstead Act, The Narcotic Drugs Import and Export Act, The Narcotic Farm Act, The Marihuana Act, The Opium Poppy Control Act, The Boggs Act, Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, Narcotic Addict Rehabilitation Act, Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act, Controlled Substance Act, and Drug abuse Office and Treatment Act were all laws created to combat and control narcotics and focused on treatment for drug users.

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The Harrison Narcotic Act

On December 17, 1914 The Harrison Narcotic Act became a law and was signed by President Woodrow Wilson. This was a tax law that was left for the Treasury Department to enforce. It was up to the U.S. Coast Guard and the Bureau of Internal Revenue were the first two agencies in charge of smuggling at the United States Border. Most of the items which were smuggled included: oleomargarine, flour, cheese, cotton, playing cars, and narcotics. This act created the first federal narcotic agent on March 1, 1915. There quickly became 162 agents within this specialized unit. This specialized unit designed their own uniforms and badges. Some uniforms and badges looked like the wild west while others designed off the current military uniform. (XXX)

In the early stages of the unit, the unit began to arrest physicians and those who were supplying narcotics to addicts. World War I (WWI)was approaching and opium was the new big thing. With the WWI new products, Morphine and Heroin, were used by many soldiers. These drugs were used to aid in pain relief and allowed the men fighting to stay awake for days without sleep. (XXX)

The Volstead Act

In October 1919 the Volstead Act was passed by President Woodrow Wilson’s veto, which meant the legislation set forth by the 18th Amendment would be enforced. The 18th Amendment states, Section 1: After one year from the ratification of this article the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, ot the exportation thereof from the United states and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited. Section 2: The Congress and the several States shall have concurrent power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation. (XXX) There were still more debates about alcohol which meant there was little talk about narcotics. The only conversations in relation to narcotics was the thought of usage being a vice or an illness.

After the passing of the Volstead Act there was more of a push to pursue liquor violations. This left the Bureau of Revenue no choice but to create a specific unit to combat liquor violations. The Prohibition Unit was created to find those violating the 18th Amendment. During the roaring twenties, the Prohibition Unit was called the Dry Agents. The Dry Agents was mostly made up from ranks of disenchanted war veterans who part of the political patronage. From the beginning they were faced with the task set by the 18th Amendment, which they received no thanks for doing. While the Prohibition Unit was enforcing the law, a 170-man Narcotic Division was created by a former Pharmacist. This Narcotic unit was great at what they with their convictions. In 1921 this division had 1,583 convictions, with 119 acquittals. The Narcotic Division seized 1,417 pounds of Opium, 373 pounds of morphine, 32 pounds of heroin, and 286 pounds of cocaine. Though there were great results in locating the narcotics trade they was still a problem. They were unsure on what to do with addicts. (XXX)

The Narcotic Drugs Import and Export Act

By May 1922 The Narcotic Drugs Import and Export Act was passed by Congress. The Narcotic Drugs Import and Export Act is also known as the Jones-Miller Act, which was the start of the monitoring of international commerce of opiates. The Narcotic Drugs Import and Export Act created the Federal Narcotics Control Board which was made up of Secretaries of State, Treasury, and Commerce who all monitored opiate imports for uses other than medical. They also were to limit the exports to nations with adequate licensing systems, and to outlaw the manufacture of heroin.


On February 19, 1925 the Second Geneva Convention was signed, but it was three years later that it adopted an international licensing system, record keeping, export regulations, statistical reporting, and a supervision department who was maned by a Permanent Central Board designed by the League of Nations.


  • The Narcotic Farm Act of 1929
  • The Marihuana Act of 1937
  • The Opium Poppy Control Act of 1942
  • The Boggs Act 1951
  • Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act 1965
  • Narcotic Addict Rehabilitation Act 1966
  • Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act October 27, 1970
  • Controlled Substance Act 1970


President Richard Nixon realized the number of drug users were increasing rapidly. President Nixon needed to find a solution to combat drug sales and usage. President Nixon realized there needed to be increased penalties, stronger enforcement, and incarceration for drug offenders. Some considerations were made classify each drug offender. President Richard Nixon declared a ?War on Drug’ in June 1971. President Nixon declared drug offenders to be public enemy number one. Nixon also granted an increase in funding for drug-control agencies and drug-treatment efforts. There were several different agencies which were created to combat the war on drugs. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) was created in 1973. The DEA is a federal law enforcement agency who specializes in drug manufacturing, drug trafficking, and drug growing. The DEA’s main mission has been to enforce the controlled substance laws and regulations of the United States. The DEA also wants to bring the people who violate these controlled substance laws to the criminal and civil justice system of the United States.

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Drug Epidemic In United States. (2019, Oct 30). Retrieved November 26, 2022 , from

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