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The Narcotic Evil

The Nation's Nightmare

The Narcotic Evil 

Jul 19 1951



HERBERT O'CONOR, U. S. senator

BILL DOWNS, CBS newsman; the narrator

DISPATCHER, Southern accent


GIRL, age 21

BOY, age 19

HARRY J. ANSLINGER, Federal Bureau of Narcotics commissioner










MABEL, an addict



"SKEE" WOLFE, reporter


CHARLES SIRAGUSA (seer-a-goose-uh)

DAVID BLATT, assistant D. A.

ADMISSIONS CLERK, Southern accent

ADDICT, age 26, Southern accent








ADAM CLAYTON POWELL, U. S. congressman

IRVING SLONIM, assistant D. A.



ANNOUNCER: This is an alarm sounding in a police station somewhere in the United States. The alarm is meant for you. It's a warning to wake up -- to shake loose from the grip of "The Nation's Nightmare" -- the nightmare described by Senator Herbert O'Conor.

O'CONOR: Our Senate Crime Investigating Committee has found alarming instances of syndicated crime, and of unhealthy alliances with law enforcement officials. The remedy is in the hands of the people who must act before it is too late.



ANNOUNCER: "The Nation's Nightmare"! CBS and its affiliated stations, in cooperation with law enforcement agencies throughout the country, present a new documentary series on the pattern of organized crime in America -- its shape, its form, who runs it, and what can be done about it. Every voice and sound you will hear has been recorded from real life. No actors are used. Now, here to report to you on "The Nation's Nightmare" is the noted CBS newsman Bill Downs. 

DOWNS: A nightmare is a bad dream. You can wake up in the morning and it's over. You can forget it. But the nation's nightmare of organized crime does not disappear the morning after. It's still there -- harder, sharper, and more tortured than any dream. We start our series of six programs on the Nation's Nightmare with the stuff dreams are made of: marijuana, heroin, cocaine -- commonly known as dope. This, our first program, deals with the narcotics traffic and drug addiction.

DISPATCHER: (ON RADIO) Car One-Oh-Six or One-Oh-Seven, go to the first district right away. (CONTINUES INDECIPHERABLY IN BG, OUT AT [X])

DOWNS: You've heard a lot about dope the last few weeks, but here is a sound you have not heard before. CBS reporter Dave Moore was patrolling with a New Orleans police car when a call came through about a commotion just off Rampart Street. A man, hopped up on marijuana, had gone berserk. Our reporter recorded the sounds of that man, the crying of his mother, the screams of the neighbors. [X] You won't like this sound, but it's important that you hear it. It expresses -- more than any words can do -- the savagery, the terror, the torture of the victims of dope. The inhuman growling you're about to hear is -- a man.


DOWNS: There's a body of opinion that holds to the idea that marijuana causes no ill effects. Anyone who has heard that sound knows better. And that sound can be heard across the country wherever the marijuana plant grows, and it grows in open fields almost everywhere. It can be heard where the plant does not grow, but where the peddlers do. Marijuana and the more dangerous drugs, heroin and cocaine -- the deadly triumvirate of dope! Where can you buy them? Well, listen to this beautiful twenty-one-year-old girl addict as she gives Senator O'Conor and the Crime Investigating Committee the "word" about prevailing prices and the state of the market.

GIRL: In Cincinnati, my hometown, uh, you can buy a capsule of heroin there for three dollars or four dollars. It all depends how well you know the people. In Cleveland -- the last time I was there was sometime last year -- I paid two and a half dollars for a capsule of heroin. In New York, it's a dollar. In Chicago, it's two and a half dollars a capsule.

DOWNS: Add to that list Philadelphia, Washington, Baltimore, Detroit, New Orleans, or any crowded metropolitan city -- your city -- and you have the centers of dope addiction. It's not hard to find a dope addict and record his story. All you need is a contact and a portable tape recording machine. This boy is nineteen years old, married, and has two children. We interviewed him in the slum area where he lives.

BOY: Been takin' dope since I was thirteen. Every day that I go to work. And I think that, when I come back home, I could walk by the guy with it, and he wouldn't try to tell me nothin', and every time I try to pass him, he tells me, "You don't want anything today?" What'd I say? "Yeah, give me a couple." And I think I can make it with that. And I end up back right - right there again, buyin' some more, spendin' the money that I just made. Every time I get paid, I owe him enough money that I can't even give my wife enough money to support the family. I mean, the kids go hungry sometimes. And I figure I'm real wrong, and if anybody could actually do something for me, I would gladly appreciate it because I can't live the rest of my life foolin' around with this dope.

DOWNS: How many drug addicts are there? Well, no one really knows, but the man best equipped to pin down that elusive figure is Harry J. Anslinger, commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. He gave us this estimate.

ANSLINGER: We can say with fair accuracy that there are fifty thousand drug addicts over the age of twenty-one in the United States. The increase in the younger age group would be certainly not more than ten thousand, and this agrees with Army rejections of age groups under twenty-one.

DOWNS: A hard core of sixty thousand addicts -- an immediate potential of three hundred thousand -- and this does not include the uncounted number addicted to sleeping pills or using marijuana. Where do they come from? Why haven't we heard about them before? It seems that the adult of the species has gotten a little out of touch with things. The kids seem to have known about it for some time. 


DOWNS: We went up to Central Park in New York City. A carousel was playing. We questioned some kids about dope and came up with a lexicon of narcotic language. Do you know these words? Junk, pusher, reefer, deck, mainliner?

1ST BOY: Junk is the stuff -- the dope -- that they sell.

2ND BOY: Well, a dope pusher is a guy that go around tryin' sellin' narcotics to young kids.

3RD BOY: A reefer is a marijuana cigarette.

4TH BOY: A deck is a package of marijuana cigarettes. Same as you buy a pack of cigarettes, they buy a deck.

5TH BOY: Well, the mainline is when you-- Is the big dope and you shoot it right into the vein with a hypo syringe.


DOWNS: Ask the kids. If you want to know about dope, they'll tell you. How 'bout it, kids? Do you know anyone who's died from taking dope?

1ST GIRL: I know a lot of people around my-- I know a lot of people around a Hundred and Thirty-Eighth-- A Hundred and Thirty-Eighth Street where I live and a Hundred and Thirty-Ninth. Well, uh, I know a lot of-- Uh, uh, several different boys that-- They took dope and they died from it.

2ND GIRL: [?] took a needle and she's dead now. She died.

3RD GIRL: I know one. I know she was going with a boy in our block.

DOWNS: Can you tell an addict by lookin' at him? How about it, kids? 

4TH GIRL: You can tell. You can look at a person and tell if they take it. Some people-- Some people-- Some people you can look-- Some of them lose weight and they eyes begin to close on 'em; they got that glassy look. You can tell if some people takes it.

DOWNS: Well, now, tell us, kids. Why do people start taking dope? The psychologists say it's emotional maladjustment, but we grown-ups are pretty dumb about these things. Explain it to us simple-like, won't ya?

1ST GIRL: Well, sir, a lot of people take dope because they have a lot of worries and want to ec-scape them, so they hear that dope makes ya feel good and fergit your worries; that's why a lot of people take it. Lot of people do it for, like, for the thrill of it.

2ND GIRL: Our teacher-- Our teacher told us in school that teenagers-- Lot of them take dope because one of the crowd starts and they afraid to be called a sissy or chicken. And then they all go in and start-- See, a lot of teenagers have very weak minds.

3RD GIRL: I tell you-- I'm a-tell you somethin'. New York will take somethin' of anything that's new. I'm a-tell you. It's the satisfaction of something exciting, something adventurous. You know, anything-- If you-- If you developed, uh, a new kind of food, everybody would try it. Everybody would try it.

4TH GIRL: Curiosity, that's all.

3RD GIRL: Curiosity, that's the only-- That's what starts it all.

4TH GIRL: Curiosity.

DOWNS: Thanks, kids. Just wanted to know. (BEAT) Once you're hooked by heroin, you start paying a terrible price for your slavery. The addict doesn't get the original high feeling that probably sucked him in when he first started on dope. Now, as a confirmed user, he must take larger and larger shots just to keep feeling near normal. But the experts say addiction is a double problem, physical and psychological. An addict we shall call "Mabel" gives us some picture of the mental factors. Mabel is twenty-one years old, a remarkably beautiful girl with glossy black hair and striking dark eyes. She sits in a sheriff's office in Seattle and explains why she took up dope.

MABEL: During that last part of the seventh grade, I had a girlfriend and we had all of our classes together, and, uh, through her, I started going with her brother. And I - got pregnant. And my mother found out about it and I had an abortion. Well, through that, I had slightly hard feelings toward my mother and we never did get along too well after that. I mean, face-to-face, yes, but I mean, there was always something there and nothing that I could ever discuss with my mother. And I would keep running away from home because I was - bitter, I guess, toward my mother, and I wanted to hurt her, it seemed. At least, that - could have been the only explanation I could think of.

DOWNS: Well, it's pretty fashionable these days to blame the world's troubles on the parents and no one can deny that disrupted family life, broken homes, insecurity - all lead to emotional problems. But here's the other side of the story. A Los Angeles mother who spent five heartbreaking years and twenty-five thousand dollars in an unsuccessful fight to break her teenaged son's addiction. A highly intelligent woman, she realized that she had to understand what was happening to her boy, had to get inside his thoughts and feelings. She accompanied him on his trips to buy dope from the peddlers on the P. E. line, the rapid transit system between Los Angeles and Long Beach. Here's her story.

MOTHER: Every time I hear that whistle of that P. E. train, that - that's something that'll haunt me the rest of my days. He just told me of jumpin' on the P. E. and makin' a connection here, a connection there. There's, easy, fifty between the P. E. station in Los Angeles and downtown Long Beach. I've seen him lay on the bed -- doubled up, sweatin', eyes dilated -- every muscle in his body just - just bent double -- stomach cramps, yawning, nose running -- just absolutely beat his head against the wall -- for want of stuff. It isn't put on; it's real.

DOWN: Why don't the police stop this? Why don't they lock up the peddlers? Former New York police commissioner Thomas F. Murphy, now a federal district court judge, explains why.

MURPHY: I wish that I could have a hundred men in the narcotic bureau. That might be some solution. Frankly, we don't have the men. I'm quite sure the federal people do not have enough men.

DOWN: And the federal men agree. There are one hundred and eighty federal narcotics agents for the entire United States. Too few narcotics agents. And police say their hands are tied by the laws. They must catch the peddler in the actual transaction before he can be convicted. But we tried an experiment. Is it really so hard to detect an actual sale of narcotics? Or do some police officials look the other way now and then? CBS reporter Skee Wolfe, out at Station WBBM in Chicago, wired his automobile for sound, made a contact with a peddler, and bought a half a can of "pot" -- that's marijuana -- and ten capsules of "horse," which is heroin. The scene: a street in Chicago. Tape recorders don't work too well in automobiles, but the conversation you are about to hear is worth straining for. Here is an actual dope purchase as made by CBS station WBBM in Chicago.


SKEE: Hey, listen, you know, uh-- Can you, uh, get some pot also?

PEDDLER: How much do you want?

SKEE: Well, I'd like to do about half a can, if I could. But I can't pay any more than ten dollars. 

PEDDLER: Well-- Listen, you know, uh--

SKEE: Do you want the money now?

PEDDLER: Yeah, you better give it to me now.

SKEE: Okay, just a second.

PEDDLER: I'm givin' ya a package -- about ten -- for, uh, ten dollars. Have you got--? You got the rest of it now?

SKEE: I have that with me now, yeah.

PEDDLER: Oh, solid, boy. Just give me the bread then.

SKEE: How much is in here now?

PEDDLER: Well, that's about, uh-- Roughly, about ten. Ten capsules.

SKEE: You sure that's ten tabs?

PEDDLER: Oh, yeah, yeah. The man I buy it from, he's honest. He's all right.


DOWNS: (MILDLY SARCASTIC) "The man I buy it from, he's honest. He's all right." (BEAT) In case the police are interested, the transaction occurred near the corner of Thirty-First and State Street in Chicago. (BEAT) The peddling of dope is a business, and business methods are used, including the "free sample" to bring in the new customer. The take is fantastic. An estimated two thousand peddlers in New York City alone gross at least one hundred million dollars annually. Federal narcotics agents agree that there are people behind the drug traffic, that an international dope network exists, and that one of the leaders is the notorious gangster Lucky Luciano, panderer, white slaver, currently dope salesman. The Senate Crime Committee implicated Luciano. Here, Senator O'Conor queries Charles Siragusa, an undercover federal narcotics agent who frequently makes trips to Italy to gather firsthand information.

O'CONOR: Based upon your study of this entire situation and your close-up contact, are you prepared to say that Luciano -- Lucky Luciano -- is the kingpin of the narcotic traffic in the United States?

SIRAGUSA: From what I have seen -- and I have spoken to some members of his gang there, in an undercover capacity -- I would say, if he's not the king, then he's one of the royal family and the fact that he receives these large sums of money from these American gangsters indicates to me that he has definite word in policy matters and that he is still deriving an income from American rackets.

DOWNS: And the addict. The addict is the tortured slave on whose back this complex international dope structure rests. What can be done for him? Well, Assistant District Attorney David Blatt of Bronx County told the American Legion Crisis Conference on Narcotics about facilities for treatment in New York and the plans to treat addicts in outpatient clinics.

BLATT: (LOUD, NOO YAWK ACCENT) I tell ya, from that case -- and I can tell you from at least twenty other cases that I have followed -- that you can't cure an addict by ambulatory treatment! A ten-day or a fourteen-day program cannot cure an addict! I'll go a step further! I'll tell you that it is hard to even get an addict who wants to be cured into Bellevue or Kings County for their twelve or fourteen-day period! Gawd forbid that the addict be over twenty-one years of age! And you can stand on your head and Bellevue won't take them in for their detoxification program!

DOWNS: What can be done about those unfortunates who are now addicted to drugs and those who may become addicted despite all our efforts? What about them? The fact is that outside of the U. S. Public Health Service narcotics hospitals at Lexington, Kentucky, and Fort Worth, Texas, there is no adequate place they can go for treatment.


DOWNS: We went down to Lexington, Kentucky to see how an addict is treated -- to see the best that can be done for him. The hospital is a large place; capacity: fifteen hundred beds. But in spite of the lack of facilities throughout the country, there is room for two hundred more patients at the Lexington hospital today. Local authorities are not sending addicts to Lexington and most addicts do not have or won't spare the money for the train fare. We got off the train with a twenty-six-year-old addict and followed him as he entered the hospital and turned himself in as a voluntary patient for treatment. We were seated in a cheerful-looking office and the first of several interviews took place. The admissions clerk reads him the power-of-attorney statement.

CLERK: Your number will be Twenty-Five Nine-Thirty-Three. It's the next number on the list.

ADDICT: Yes, sir.

CLERK: I have some questions here I'd like to ask you. But first I'll read to you the power-of-attorney. (BEAT, READS MECHANICALLY) "I hereby authorize the medical officer in charge of this Public Health Service hospital, Lexington, Kentucky, or his duly authorized representative, to open, examine, and dispose of all mail matter in express or other packages which may be directed to me."

DOWNS: He signs the statement.

CLERK: You're to sign this. Do you understand what it means?

ADDICT: Yes, sir. Where do I sign at?

CLERK: Bottom line.


DOWNS: He turns in his personal belongings.


CLERK: One key ring, two keys. Cigarette lighter. Two dollars in cash. Any change?


CLERK: Two dollars and twenty-- Let me see. That'd be three dollars and twenty-four cents total.

DOWNS: He listens to the clerk read his agreement to accept treatment and he agrees that he cannot leave until staff feels he is cured.

CLERK: Do you understand?

ADDICT: Yes, sir. How long is that cure?

CLERK: The cure - is until that time as the doctor agrees that you've - had sufficient time to withdraw from narcotics. The usual time is a hundred and thirty-five days.

DOWNS: Physical examination. He's weighed.

CLERK: Five-ten - in height. Weight: one thirty-five.

DOWNS: His dope history is taken.

DOCTOR: Sit down here.

ADDICT: All right, sir.

DOCTOR: How long have you been using narcotics?

ADDICT: Oh, about three years.

DOCTOR: What drugs have you been using?

ADDICT: Well, I've been using heroin mostly.

DOCTOR: When did you have your last shot?

ADDICT: Comin' up on the train, about six hours ago. Doctor, how soon will it be before I get my next shot?

DOCTOR: You'll get a shot after you come up in the ward.

DOWNS: The withdrawal ward. Unlike the "cold turkey" withdrawal practiced in jails throughout the country, at Lexington, the patient is given smaller and smaller shots of dope at longer and longer intervals. This cuts down the shock somewhat, but an addict is still very sick when he withdraws. 

2ND DOCTOR: Good morning. How're ya feeling this morning?

ADDICT: (MISERABLE) Not so good.

2ND DOCTOR: Er, when did you arrive here?

ADDICT: Yesterday afternoon, 'bout three o'clock.

2ND DOCTOR: Where'd you come from?

ADDICT: Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

2ND DOCTOR: You think you're feeling pretty rough right now?

ADDICT: Yes, sir. Sufferin' a little withdrawal symptoms.

DOWNS: The rehabilitation program rolls on. Some men work in the kitchen.

KITCHEN: (AN ANNOUNCEMENT) The afternoon meal will consist of tuna noodle casserole, green beans, dill pickles, and canned peaches.

DOWNS: Some men learn tailoring.

TAILOR: Well, that's put on mostly on the invisible stitch machine -- so it'll be shown from the inside and not on the outside. Ah, looka here, daddy-o. I mean, now, if you go out-- When you go out, if you just stick to the needle trade instead of that other needle, I think you'll be all right. 

DOWNS: And the meeting of A. A. -- Addicts Anonymous -- patterned after Alcoholics Anonymous.

WOMAN: I had-- Did get help -- and with the A. A., since I've been connected with it, I been gettin' more results all the time, and I feel sure - that I can -- and anyone else can -- if they'll practice this program and try when they're out in the free world -- that they can stay free of drug addiction.

DOWNS: The treatment moves on for an average of one hundred and thirty-five days. Psychiatric rehabilitation, the finest in medical know-how and facilities converge on the addict -- a gift from the American people. But how many are permanently cured in this, the finest narcotics hospital in the world? Dr. Victor Vogel, medical director of the hospital, told us.

VOGEL: Unfortunately, we have no accurate idea. I can give you some opinions and thoughts and perhaps hopeful guesses. The one definite figure I can give you: that, of about twenty thousand individual addicts who've been treated at the Lexington hospital since Nineteen Thirty-Eight, sixty percent have been treated once only. Forty percent have been treated more than once. 

DOWNS: Forty percent -- two out of five -- must return for further treatment. The percentage who go back to dope and do not return to Lexington is unknown. In this day of medical miracles -- of wonder drugs and overnight cures -- it comes as a shock that there is no easy cure for addiction. No easy cure for addiction, not enough narcotics officers, evidence of apathetic politicians -- or worse. All this adds up to a grim picture. But the picture is not hopeless. There are signs that the American public is getting aroused. And when they do, you can expect action, but quick!


DOWNS: Up at the Golden Gate Ballroom in New York's Harlem district, you can generally hear the sounds of the sweetest and hottest music ever to rattle an airwave. 


DOWNS: On a night a few weeks ago, the bands were silent, even though the ballroom was jammed to the doors.

ORATOR: (PORTENTOUS) This meeting is for the purpose of arousing and informing and mobilizing public opinion to prevent the destruction of youth.


DOWNS: Here was a sign of progress: an educational meeting to make every citizen aware of the dangers of dope -- an open meeting with questions from the floor. They ran a film on teenage addiction. They handed out comic books with simplified explanations of narcotics. And Congressman Adam Clayton Powell had a few words to say.

POWELL: (FIERY) We want to know who is high up in this town that's got millions of dollars in cash, able to bring this dope into America! We want to know that!


POWELL: And it does not matter -- doesn't matter! doesn't matter! -- who this individual is. We want to know who it is. Somebody's getting rich. One man here in this community alone -- we know! -- handles two hundred thousand dollars worth of heroin just as you and I would buy a loaf of bread. One man in Harlem, two hundred thousand dollars! And he's not walking the streets -- he's riding the streets in his fleetwing Cadillac tonight. 


POWELL: (TAPS THE LECTERN) Somebody somewhere is paying off in this town! And it's time we brought it out! And if necessary we should stage a march downtown on City Hall and let this community know! Let this town know that we're roused!


DOWNS: Assistant District Attorney Slonim called for help.

SLONIM: This is something you've got to stop! You've got to help stop! This is not a job that a police officer alone can go out and accomplish! Nor a thousand of them! If you people would help -- by keeping your eyes open, by keeping your ears open, by realizing that this is a war in which you must participate! You're fighting a war against the people who are out to destroy you! You're fighting for defense of your children, and your brothers and sisters! Thank you.

DOWNS: This, then, is the picture of drugs and dope addiction. The narcotics problem is a social disease -- a world disease. It's a big problem and no simple remedies will suffice to clear it up. But it's not hopeless. There are things you can do -- directly or through your elected representatives. We need immediately an international agreement to limit world narcotics production to world medical needs. We need vigorous police action to break up the international drug cartel, the Mafia, the Lucianos. We need laws giving stiffer penalties to peddlers. We need active clubs and organizations to educate youngsters about the perils of dope. We need parents who will impress their youngsters about the dangers of the road that leads from marijuana to heroin to death. We need sympathetic neighbors and friends who will understand and get behind the addict returning from the hospital. Above all, we need an alert public who will not tolerate political corruption or apathy that permits peddlers to roam the streets unmolested. The problem is a big one, part of the Nation's Nightmare. But it's your problem. It can be licked if you will wake up and face up to it and do something about it. (LESS FORCEFUL) Remember the Los Angeles mother whose son rode the P. E. line to get dope? Her boy is getting out of the hospital now. Do something -- for her, for her boy, and for all of us.

MOTHER: I don't know just what course I'm gonna pursue when he does come out. He's in a pretty good mental frame of mind now. But that's not fooling me. And before, I've had peddlers -- and users -- come to my house. He owes 'em money. Anything to find out where he is. They know where he is now. The word was out for a while that he was dead.


MOTHER: He hasn't had a chance here before. I mean, actually. Because he's known all these people. Naturally, they're going to come back into the picture. They're gonna force their way back into it. Even if he was strong enough to keep away from it, they're gonna make a darn good try to get him back on it again: wave the stuff under his nose, and that's temptation.


ANNOUNCER: You have just heard "The Nation's Nightmare," narrated by Bill Downs, the first in a special series of six documentaries on the pattern of organized crime in America.


ANNOUNCER: "The Nation's Nightmare" was written and produced by Irving Gitlin. All sounds and voices you heard were recorded in real life by staff reporters Dave Moore and Av Weston, and by CBS affiliates WBBM-Chicago, WTOP-Washington, WWL-New Orleans, KNX-Los Angeles, and KIRO-Seattle. Fred Geraghis assisted. Next week, the inside story of gambling casinos, slot machines, and organized crime -- on the second program of "The Nation's Nightmare."

CBS ANNCR: This is the CBS Radio Network.