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Perception and Regulation of Drug Use: The Rise and Fall of the Tide

David F. Musto, MD
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Yale University School of Medicine New Haven, CT 06520-7900 Requests for Reprints: David F. Musto, MD, Professor of Child Psychiatry and the History of Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine, P.O. Box 207900, New Haven, CT 06520-7900.

Copyright ©2004 by the American College of Physicians

Ann Intern Med. 1995;123(6):468-469. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-123-6-199509150-00013
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The eventful but generally unknown history of America's drug problem provides an essential perspective on current drug policy alternatives. As DuPont and Voth [1] point out in this issue, it is useful to recall that our original antidrug laws—those enacted in the late 19th and early 20th centuries—came about only after decades of easy drug availability. It was unrestricted access to opium, morphine, cocaine, and heroin—and popular revulsion at the results—that led first to city and state laws and finally to the Harrison Narcotic Act of 1914. In the midst of that movement toward domestic regulation, the United States initiated the international control of habit-forming drugs by convening the International Opium Commission at Shanghai in 1909. Although opiates were the first target of the nations that convened in China, a more recent drug problem, that of cocaine, was also discussed and then included in the first international treaty concerning drugs, the Hague Opium Convention of 1912 [2].

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