Preventing and Treating Narcotic Addiction — A Century of Federal Drug Control
Just over a century ago, in March 1915, the Harrison Narcotic Act took effect, requiring anyone who imported, produced, sold, or dispensed “narcotics” (at that time meaning coca- as well as opium-based drugs) to register, pay a nominal tax, and keep detailed records (see figure Harrison Narcotic Act Tax Stamp.). With such records, officials could better enforce existing laws, such as those requiring sale by prescription only. They could also prosecute unregistered narcotics distributors such as saloonkeepers and street peddlers. The intent was to keep narcotic transactions within legitimate medical channels. For more than a decade, U.S. reformers and diplomats had been urging this course on other nations. In 1915, they belatedly put their own house in order.
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Listen to the interview with Dr. David Courtwright on a 19th-century epidemic of opiate addiction and its lessons for the current crisis