The following is an essay prepared by The Lincoln Detox Acupuncture Program and distributed by The Black Acupuncture Advisory Association of North America, Inc. (directed by Dr. Mutulu Shakur), prior to the National Hearings on The Heroin Epidemic Washington, D.C. on June 29, 1976
A heroin epidemic is ravaging the American people. According to law enforcement officials and community drug abuse workers, the epidemic is growing rapidly. Heroin use is approaching the levels of 1969-70, which were the most desperate years in the history of drug abuse in America. Street sales of other dangerous drugs, such as cocaine, barbiturates and methadone are also at a maximum.
More Americans are destroying themselves with alcohol than ever before. There are a half a million heroin addicts, nine million alcoholics, millions of people who suffer because of the economic crimes associated with heroin sales, and millions more who are injured or killed by traffic accidents due to alcoholism, robberies, street fights and other drug-related incidents. The very survival of the American people depends on finding solutions to the epidemic of drug abuse.
Dr Mutulu Shakur Full Interview New Afrikan Political Prisoners/Prisoners of War
I The heroin epidemic depends upon the existence of two fundamental realities:
(1) Deteriorating social conditions, and
(2) Easy supply of drugs. Most solutions to the Heroin epidemic have failed to take both of these realities into account.
Desperate Social Conditions
Drug addicts are victims of the society in which they became addicted. The people most likely to turn to drugs are the people at the bottom of the ladder — who live in the worst housing, who attend the worst schools, and who get the worst jobs (if any at all). They seek some pleasure, a kick, a high, anything that will make them oblivious in a world of too much pain.
Drugs cause poor people to destroy each other. Heroin is so expensive that victims of the drug degrade their families and friends to almost any degree to get money. Most heroin addicts are basically low paid thieves for organized crime. Most of the people he or she robs are from their own poor neighborhood. Drugs are one of the main reasons women and young boys sell themselves into prostitution.
Many jobs encourage people to use heroin. In many work places…whether in a large automobile factory in Detroit or a small factory in the South Bronx…heroin is sold on the plant floor by workers and supervisory personnel. The more harsh and degrading the job is, the more workers use drugs and the more disturbed their lives become. Many unemployed workers are heavy users of narcotics or alcohol.
In periods of high unemployment, such as the 1870’s in California, the 1910’s in New York, the 1930’s and today’s depression times, narcotic and alcohol use dramatically increased. The heroin epidemic is one of the major unpublicized results of poverty and joblessness.
Many professional experts have put forth theories that heroin addiction is caused by a chemical disease or character disorder that each individual addict has acquired. No proof is given for these claims. Addiction rates have been highest in poor Black and Latin communities and among GIs in Vietnam—because of the desperate social conditions a person faces in these settings. As John Maher testified in the Winter Soldier Hearings on drugs and the military, “They told me I had a character disorder, O.K. I went for it. But now that I think about it—this is just GI’s now, how can 700,000 GI’s have character disorders all of a sudden? That seems insane to me and kind of stupid.” 
Similar theories of psychological and genetic imbalance have been used by American intellectuals for generations to justify racist social policies. Blaming the victims of poverty and discrimination has only increased the toll of suffering of Black people in America. Blaming the victims of the heroin epidemic only increases the virulence of the plague.
Who is the Pusherman?
The pusherman is not a drug user from Harlem who makes it big for a few months before he falls back into slavery. The pusherman stays on top all the time. The pusherman does not wear “superfly” clothes; he wears a business suit. Many billions of dollars worth of heroin are imported into U.S. every year. The heroin business has the highest rate of profit of any enterprise in human history. Those foreign countries with the highest rates of addiction are Hong Kong, Thailand, Iran–which all have unusually close ties to the American business community. Heroin businesses were the first multi-national corporations and they still are the most successful ones.
Dr Mutulu Shakur Interview on Revolutionary Health Work, Drug Addicts/Addiction, Acupuncturist, Acupuncture, Healing Bringing The Dead Back to Life
It is completely absurd to believe that the billion-dollar heroin industry can be affected significantly by the actions of poor farmers in Turkey, Southeast Asia or Mexico. The laws of these countries are undoubtedly just as susceptible to influence peddling by wealthy persons as the laws are in this country. Bribery has always been the keynote of success in the heroin industry. You cannot blame the heroin epidemic on anyone who isn’t a millionaire.
Research about the heroin industry in Southeast Asia has revealed heavy and prolonged involvement of U.S. diplomatic, military and intelligence officials in narcotics trafficking. Nationalist Chinese, Laotians and South Vietnamese generals were leading heroin dealers. A Pepsi Cola bottling plant in Vientiane, Laos, which Richard Nixon helped set up while a private lawyer, was used exclusively to import chemical supplies for the manufacture of heroin. The major allies of the CIA—the Meo tribesmen and the Nationalist Chinese troops—were the leading growers and transporters of opium in Asia. Therefore, it is not surprising that the CIA’s private airline, Air America, regularly shipped opium on its flights out of Laos. The U.S. government has supported the heroin business in Southeast Asia just as it has supported other powerful U.S. owned enterprises in Chile and the Middle East.
In addition to the ranks of organized crime, international speculators, war profiteers, and various government and law enforcement officials all share involvement and control of the heroin industry. The heroin industry has no “code of ethics.” Heroin will inevitably be used to destroy those people and groups in American society that the leaders of the heroin industry perceive as their enemies. Clearly, political repression and social control are important factors in determining where and when heroin is made available.
In the last 7 years, as heroin addiction and drug related robberies became widespread in middle income white communities, the drug abuse treatment industry has grown enormously. Most of the billions of dollars of federal and local support have gone to methadone maintenance treatment programs.
Methadone is an addictive narcotic that is administered in daily high doses in an attempt to prevent heroin use. Kicking a methadone habit takes 2 to 3 months. No other drug has withdrawal symptoms that are in any way as prolonged or severe as methadone. In a recent Bronx research study involving 187 pregnant methadone maintenance clients, 22% of the babies born to methadone-addicted mothers had seizures and brainwave changes. Eight of the methadone babies died of “crib-death”– this is 17 times the normal incidence of crib death.
Yet the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) continues to approve of methadone usage, even for pregnant women. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, in New York City in early 1975, methadone overdose deaths outnumbered heroin overdose deaths by five-to-one. Would the FDA be so careless if methadone were used in primarily white middle class communities?
Over 100,000 people are in methadone maintenance programs that are almost totally financed by federal grants and Medicaid payments. An equal number of people buy methadone illegally on the street. Law enforcement agencies have been advised by the Presidential Special Advisor on Drug Law Enforcement not to crack down hard on illegal methadone sales. When the large pharmaceutical company, Eli Lilly, claimed that it had “lost” 12,000 methadone pills on the streets of New York, no penalties were assessed. Apparently agencies of the federal government are passively encouraging illegal methadone sales.
The point of methadone maintenance is to control people. In the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration’s Methadone Treatment Manual, Dr. Peter Bourne states, “The fact that methadone is addictive is essential to allow this (relationship which can evolve into one of trust and intimacy with considerable therapeutic potential) to occur.” Many people with radical political views, feminists, and gay people have been routinely harassed in maintenance programs. A few programs even have dress codes and regulate the length of their clients’ hair. Since the methadone clients are addicted to the therapeutic situation as Bourne points out, a considerable amount of coercion–in the name of medical treatment–can occur. No safeguards exist to protect clients against these types of situations.
Judges, parole boards, and welfare departments encourage clients to enter methadone programs in general preference to drug-free programs. These actions are taken even for many clients who are not presently addicted to heroin. Virtually the only treatment offered by the Veterans’ Administration is methadone maintenance. The overwhelming net effect of this public policy is to channel heroin addicts into treatment programs that presume that each of them has a chemical and psychological disease of a more-or-less permanent nature. The reality of deteriorating social conditions as a fundamental cause of the heroin epidemic is completely ignored by methadone maintenance programs. Therefore, it is not surprising that so many methadone clients abuse barbiturates and alcohol, and that recent reports show a 41% yearly dropout rate from maintenance programs.
Community groups in all parts of New York City have protested against methadone maintenance clinics. As a consequence, no new clinics have opened there in the last two years. Dole and Nyswander, the founders of methadone maintenance, recently admitted, “(there was) a nearly universal reaction against the concept of substituting one drug for another.” Federal and local drug abuse treatment agencies have ignored these popular concerns. They continue to funnel virtually all their money into methadone maintenance.
Where the Drug Treatment Money Goes
Methadone maintenance has always been an extremely profitable and steady business. The average private clinic in Manhattan reports a gross income of half a million dollars per year. Each of these clinics has a doctor as a front man, but the real owners include construction contractors, wholesale jewelers, real estate agents—businessmen who are often known in the community to have connections to organized crime.
Eli Lilly & Co. has always been the major manufacturer of methadone. It also makes Seconals and Tunials – the largest selling barbiturates on the streets of America. Each one of these three drugs has killed or maimed more people than other “legally” produced drug. Lilly is a large Indiana-based corporation with profits of $178 million, which increases 20% each year. The management of Lilly has had close ties with the John Birch Society and the Christian Anti-Communist Crusade. For twenty years, many federal legislators have complained about Lilly’s gross overproduction of deadly barbiturates to the pharmaceutical and medical professions and to public regulatory agencies. The complaints have fallen on deaf ears. Now another of Lilly’s deadly products—Methadone –is being widely sold on the streets. Still no regulatory action has been contemplated. The cozy relationship between public officials and traffickers in deadly addictive drugs remains intact.
Aside from claiming a sizable share of the profits from methadone maintenance programs, the medical profession has shown very little interest in treating victims of the heroin epidemic. Many doctors help spread the epidemic by writing countless unnecessary prescriptions for narcotics, tranquilizers, pep pills and the like. Only rarely will physicians provide supportive healthcare for heroin victims and refer them to appropriate detoxification facilities.
There is a popular misconception that large amounts of money have been spent on drug-free drug abuse treatment programs and that these programs have “tried and failed.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Virtually no money has ever been spent on drugs abuse treatment programs that recognize the fundamental importance of deteriorating social conditions as a primary cause of addiction. Limited funding is available for those drug-free programs that emphasize individual psychotherapy, but no support is offered for job training or community improvement programs. In a similar vein, community-based programs received much less support than hospital or institution-based programs.
Drug abuse treatment agencies seem to be afraid of social change. The roots of the heroin epidemic extend throughout American society. Only widespread social change can eradicate those roots and give all of the American people a good chance for survival and growth.
Non-Western systems of health care, such as acupuncture and herbology, offer great promise in the treatment of the physical manifestations of heroin addiction and narcotic withdrawal. The record of methadone and other pharmacological agents is quite bleak and self-limited. Acupuncture stimulates the body’s natural healing processes. In two years of research at Lincoln Detox, it has proven to be an excellent means for detoxifying victims and a promising method for reducing narcotic craving. The possibility of a safe alternative to methadone, a non-chemical treatment for drug abuse, should encourage everyone who is seeking constructive answers to the heroin epidemic.
Lincoln Detox is a People’s Program. We began on November 10, 1970 when a group of drug victims in the South Bronx took over space in Lincoln Hospital. At that time there were almost no drug abuse treatment programs in the South Bronx, which had the highest rate of addiction in the country. Ninety percent of our staff are ex-drug victims themselves. More than 40,000 people have been served by our program. We understand why sisters and brothers turn to drugs as an alternative to the stench and decrepitude of their lives. We understand how drugs are killing our people. The program aims at the exposure, explanation, and creation of alternatives to this deadly plague. We have challenged all traditional therapies offered drug victims. Lincoln Detox is the only program in New York where brothers and sisters addicted to methadone can be detoxed whenever they want to be. To us any therapy not aimed at the root causes of addiction perpetuates the problem rather than solves it. We have grown to be scientists of the street in relation to drug addiction.
We know that doctors and other professionals do not understand the problems of our communities and cannot develop solutions to those problems. Despite opposition from organized medicine and pharmaceutical interests, we have developed methods of acupuncture to detoxify and physically rehabilitate drug victims. Lincoln Detox has been recognized by several large national drug abuse organizations and international acupuncture societies as being the best and largest acupuncture program in the country. Even though we have never received any funds for the treatment phase of our acupuncture program, we have helped more than 1000 people become drug-free and have taught a dozen community people the basic understanding of acupuncture. Acupuncture can only relieve the physical tensions that cause drug use. The basic social and political realities must be dealt with by other means.
We at Lincoln Detox strongly believe that we as Black and Puerto Rican people are involved in very serious chemical warfare. We are sure that this chemical warfare is premeditated. A great deal of material is presented in this paper and elsewhere to prove this assertion. The fact that heroin is the number one killer in San Francisco at the same time methadone is the number one killer in New York makes some people doubt that the overall chemical warfare is premeditated. The use of different drugs at different times and places is an important and consistent tactic in the chemical war. Our responsibility is to gather information, prepare documents, and be sure that people understand what chemical warfare is all about.
We are not saying that lower level people who are involved in methadone maintenance necessarily have negative intentions. We’re not here to make you our enemies or to label you whatever. We ask you to take our information and evaluate it seriously. Don’t allow the poverty pimps and the like to pit us against each other if both of our intentions are sincere.
In the nineteenth century Britain and France insisted on selling opium in China, while at the same time they refused to sell opium in their own lands. When Commissioner Lin attempted to prevent the killing and maiming of the Chinese people by burning several tons of opium, the Opium War resulted. In Europe it was called “The war of free trade.” The colonists gained huge profits from opium sales and, in the process, pacified the Chinese people for generations. At the same time, parallel events occurred in the United States. The Indians were moved on with alcohol for the purpose of obtaining land and weakening the spirit of the soldiers of those people. These historical analyses have never been put together as part of the effort to understand the nature of drugs in U.S. society.
Chiang Kai-shek allied himself with Chinese opium dealers, the Green Gang, in order to gain control of China in 1925. In 1927, he legalized opium to gain tax revenues. In 1934 he began an “Opium Suppression Campaign” in order to defeat certain warlords. The results were that the government sold 500 million dollars worth of opium; addiction and starvation were worst than ever, and the Green Gang continued to flourish. In the United States, similar maneuvers have occurred. Morphine was promoted to cure opium addiction. Heroin clinics were legalized to cure morphine addiction. A prolonged heroin suppression campaign has only resulted in increased addiction and increased drug revenues being channeled into the pockets of government officials. Methadone clinics were legalized to cure heroin addiction. And now, in a recent interview in US News & World Report, top government officials are proposing worldwide legalization of heroin once again.
Legalization of drugs only means that drug moneys are being channeled differently for political purposes.
It took 27 years for heroin to be declared dangerous. In that 27 years how many lives were ruined? Twenty-seven years after federal researchers at Lexington declared methadone to be an addictive and dangerous drug, methadone overdose deaths became the biggest U.S. drug problem. Methadone is still supported by billions of tax dollars. How many lives have been lost?
What kind of information went out on methadone to allow it to hit the streets? Compare that information with the same information and the style and tactics used to put Darvon N on the streets. Darvon N, which is chemically very similar to methadone, was said to be non-addicting and called “The hottest drug of the century” by one doctor. Darvon maintenance is already partially discredited; but how much money has gone into LAAM—long acting methadone? The alternating cycle of poisons continues.
The Black and Puerto Rican community has been critically affected by these “scientific” trials and errors. It is something that will stick with our heritage and our children for many many years to come. Look at the chemical warfare that has been waged upon us. The international transportation of heroin is an international crime by the Geneva Convention. We claim genocide.
There is no scientific human being that can rationalize the use of methadone based on the information available. No concerned human being would allow legal methadone or heroin to hit the streets even if it was to save dollars and stop crime. Because one crime is replaced by another crime. Petty crime is replaced by genocide.
1. Helmer, John & Thomas Zietorisz, Drug Use: The Labor Market & Class Conflict Drug Abuse Council, May 1974.
2. Winter Soldier Hearings on Drugs in the Military, sponsored by Vietnam Veterans Against the War, held at Baruch College, New York City, August 1972
3. McCoy, Alfred, Politics of Heron in Southeast Asia, Harper Row, 1973
4. Abstract and Presentation by Dr. Raje Gowda. Lincoln Hospital & Dr. Stephen Kandall, Jacobi Hospital — at National Drug abuse Conference, New Orleans. April 1975
5. Drug Enforcement Administration Statistics obtained from telephone interview and printed report
6. Myles Ambrose cited in Andy Tully, “Methadone: Maintaining a Bad Habit” Crawdaddy, April 1973 and in many other articles
7. Bazell, Bob, New Work Posts, March 6, 1976
8. Dole, Vincent & Marie Nyswander, “Methadone Maintenance Treatment: A Ten Year Perspective,” Journal of the American Medical Association, Vol. 235: 19, May 10, 1976
9. Village Voice, April 18, 1974
10. Drug Enforcement Administration Statistics
11. Nielsen, Waldemar, Big Foundations, Columbia Press, 1972
12. Further information on request write: Lincoln Detox Acupuncture Program
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