The New York Times May 3, 1923
WASHINGTON, May 2.--- The spread of drug addiction in New York City formed a large part
of the discussion at the opening meeting today of the National Anti-Narcotic Conference.
James A. Hamilton, Secretary of State of New York and formerly Commissioner of Charities and Corrections, said he was convinced that the use of drugs was constantly increasing in the metropolis; Carlton Simon, Special Deputy Police Commissioner, said the problem required immediate attention, and Dr. Edward S. Cowles, medical director of the National Association for the Advancement of Scientific Healing, described the task before the New York City authorities.
This evening a propaganda film, "The Greatest Menace," was shown to the
delegates, and a reception was given to Mrs. Dorothy Davenport Reid, widow of Wallace
Reid, the motion picture star, whose death was said to have been due to the use if drugs.
Mrs. Reid said she had come from California to cooperate with the organization.
"If my efforts will aid in any way to awaken the public conscience to the peril now knocking at the door and already within, then I shall consider my life effort a success," she added.
Jules Jusserand, the French Ambassador, told the delegates this afternoon that France would be glad to aid in trying to suppress the drug traffic, and indeed had undertaken steps in this direction as long as six years ago.
Mr. Hamilton said that during his five years as head of the Department of Correction he studied more than 10,000 drug addicts committed to Riker's Island for treatment.
"There is no question in my mind," he declared, "that drug addiction is on the increase in the larger centres of population in this country, as well as others. I know this to be true in New York City. What is most important is that the drug addicts are generally between the ages of 20 and 25 years, which means that the use of habit-forming drugs is sapping our young manhood and womanhood, for many of the drug addicts are young women.
"How are we going to fight this drug addiction? We know that it exists and, what is more important, we know that it is on the increase. Something must be done. I believe that the only way that we can ever successfully fight this latest of vices is through some sort of agreement, with all nations participating, which would bring about the control of the situation from its very start. By that I mean that only sufficient opium, cocaine and other drugs be produced through growth and manufacture to meet the really legitimate requirements of the medical world."
Referring to the work being done in New York City toward reclaiming drug addicts, Mr. Hamilton said that about 52 per cent. of those treated at Riker's Island were "cured," leaving 48 per cent. who return sooner or later and generally because of environment. He declared that out of 2,187 drug addicts who came under his observation in New York City in 1921 approximately 10 per cent. were women.
Striking at the source of supply of drugs even though it affected their legitimate use, would be necessary in the solution of the problem, Mr. Simon told the delegates. He advised institutional care for addicts.
"In a police department such as we have in the city of New York," said Mr. Simon, "which has protective supervision over 6,000,000 of people and a floating population of another million and with a kaleidoscopic foreign element representing about 39 per cent. of its total population, we are forced to the necessity of immediate action and practical activity instead of more theoretical musings and protracted discussions. For that reason it is my belief that an interchange of thought based purely upon practical control of the situation which is confronting the American people is a most valuable salutory and commendable step.
"We in the Police Department of the City of New York are solving the question largely for the entire country, at least as to the police aspect, by the establishment of the only clearing house on narcotic drug addiction in the world, co-operating effectually with all nations and with 700 cities in the United States and the principal seaports of the world. In doing this we have collected data, fingerprints, photographs and records and a tremendous mass of information, some of which is of immediate benefit and some of great promise for the future.
"It is our opinion, based upon exact statistics, that the narcotic question has ceased to be a medical one and that it is an underworld problem. There can be no question that there are borderline cases, whose lack of frequency, however, does not deter the police from handling the great preponderance of narcotic addicts springing from vice."
Secretary Hughes announced today the personnel of the American delegation to the International Opium Conference which will convene in Geneva on May 24. The American delegates, who will sail on May 12, are Representative Stephen G. Porter, Dr. Rupert Blue, former Surgeon General of the Public Health Service, and Bishop Charles E. Brent of New York, Edwin L. Neville of the Far Eastern Division of the State Department and Representative of Secretary Hughes on the Federal Narcotic Control Board, will accompany the delegation in an advisory capacity.
The delegates will follow closely the policy outlined in the Porter resolution, which demanded an international convention governing the production and distribution of narcotics. They will be prepared to co operate in every way possible with the conference, although it is essentially a meeting of a committee of the League of Nations, operating under the direction of the League.
While the official announcement that the American delegation would participate merely
in a "consultive" capacity, it is known that the American Government has a
definite program for an international convention governing traffic in narcotics and will
be prepared to submit its ideas to the conference in detail.