The New York Times June 13, 1926
Conference on Narcotic Education at Philadelphia Next Month Will Be First of Its Kind -- Campaign Will Warn Public of The Disastrous Effects of Addiction
The first World Conference on Narcotic Education will be held in Philadelphia from July 5 to 10. Its purpose will be to organize social agencies to fight the menace of narcotic drugs. The names on the Conference Committee are an indication of the importance of the gathering.
Included in the list are such nationally known persons as Robert Lansing, Senator Royal S. Copeland, Speaker Nicholas Longworth, Governor Gifford Pinchot, General John J. Pershing and Mabel Boardman of the American Red Cross. The conference is to be held in connection with the Sesquicentennial International Exposition. It has been called under the auspices of the Narcotic Education Association, whose founder and President is Richmond Pearson Hobson.
It is believed that the United States Government may give official approval to the aims of the conference. A joint resolution has been introduced in Congress recognizing the need of combating the ravages of narcotic drug addiction, accepting education as a possibly effective force in suppressing the evil and providing for the Government's participation in the Philadelphia meeting. The resolution has passed the House and is now pending in the Senate, where it has been referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.
A World Effort.
The passage of the resolution would make it possible to invite representatives of various nations throughout the world to a meeting officially endorsed by the Government of the United States. Those who urge the cooperation of the Government believe that this would help in insuring a large attendance of world experts and would give America a position of leadership on the question. While it is not deemed desirable for governments to control narcotic education, it is pointed out as desirable that they should cooperate and lend their resources and facilities, particularly in collecting reliable data.
It has been said that the human race has a "long-lived, deep seated instinct for intoxication." The most deadly form is doubtless that resulting from the use of narcotic drugs. In a report made some time ago by the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives these words were used:
"The overgrowth and resultant overproduction of the opium-producing poppy and coca leaves have made possible vast quantities reaching the hands of unscrupulous traffickers, who, by reasons of the smallness of bulk of these products and the large financial gains obtained from their illicit handling, easily transport, without fear of detection, and are enabled to smuggle large quantities of morphia, codeine, heroin, cocaine and other preparations into the United States and other countries, where they are disposed of to those who engage in the nefarious trade of selling them to the unfortunate addicted to their use."
The extent of drug addiction in the United States is impossible to determine. Estimates range from a few thousand to a million victims. The platforms of both major political parties made specific reference to the subject in 1924. The Republican platform referred to the production and distribution of narcotics drugs as a subject of universal concern. The Democratic platform said:
"Recognizing in narcotic addiction, especially the spreading of heroin addiction among the youth, a grave peril to America and to the human race, we pledge ourselves vigorously to take against it all legitimate and proper measures for education, for control and for suppression at home and abroad."
Narcotics and Crime.
Not long ago the press presented sensational facts concerning the alarming increase in the use of drugs in the United States. The matter was brought dramatically before the public by the sudden death under tragic circumstances of a popular moving-picture star. Time has crowded the narcotic question from the front pages and the agitation has subsided, leaving many of the problems unsolved.
Some authorities believe that there is a connection between the increase of of the drug habit and the increase of crime in the United States. On this there is a difference of opinion. The New York State Commission of Prisons has said:
"Every drug addict who is unable to buy or secure the drug is a potential criminal because of his suffering. Many addicts who are able to obtain the drug and control the dosage live respectable and useful lives. The addict who has no money to buy becomes a menace to society. Addict after addict interviewed in the State prisons and jails said they committed highway robbery, burglary, forgery and larceny so they could obtain the drug. Even if their drug craving was only partly responsible for the felonies tabulated,it is certainly contributing to a dangerous condition of lawlessness in the community."
The usual American answer to such a distressing picture has been, "Pass a law." The Philadelphia conference, however, differs from many others in that it will centre its attention on education rather than legislation. Some of the difficulties encountered by opium conferences of the League of Nations may be traced to the fact that the delegates have focused their efforts on legislation and International agreements on which it has been impossible to secure unanimity of opinion. From these conferences, after considerable controversy, have come conventions looking toward the eventual control of opium and other habit-forming drugs. But the powerful opium interests of some of the members of the League make it improbable that any international agreement can be reached immediately.
Indeed, it seems doubtful to some experts that legislation alone will ever solve the problem. Narcotics are comparatively easy to conceal and transport. The drug habit may be formed within a short time and from a small quantity of a narcotic. The victim finally becomes willing to go to any length to secure relief. Against such a powerful enemy legislation is not sufficient.
Education to the Rescue.
As to the best remedy for the narcotic menace authorities differ. There are distinguished leaders who believe that the best solution is "the limitation of the production of habit-forming narcotic drugs and the raw materials from which they are made to the amount actually required for strictly medicinal and scientific purposes." Others are turning to the education of the public as a necessary step.
To quote Dr. Harvey W. Wiley: "Early education is the greatest prophylactic against drug habits of all kinds. The best way to protect the youth of our country is not so much by restrictive legislation as by training and showing the character of these threats and teaching our young people to avoid them." The Association of Life Insurance Presidents has gone on record as "recommending to all life insurance companies that they support every wise movement or agency which will bring home to the people of this country, and particularly to the young, the dreadful results of narcotic drug addiction."
Until recently the text books in use in the schools have touched lightly, if at all, on the history and the character of narcotics. On this subject the report of the New York State Commission of Prisons says, "A careful educational program should be formulated which will present to the public the evils of narcotic drug addiction. School authorities should be advised to teach the facts in the schools and warn the young of the destructive nature of the disease."
In the United States the International Narcotic Education Association, which is sponsoring the Philadelphia conference, has distributed lesson leaflets on narcotics to a considerable number of classrooms throughout the country. But to reach the illiterate of other countries as well as of the United States other methods must be devised. The July conference will discuss various means of securing data and the distribution of such information throughout the world.
The gathering promises to be the largest and most representative conference on the subject ever held. More than eighteen thousand invitations have already been forwarded to individuals and organizations throughout the United States. It is estimated that in addition to thousands of private individuals interested in the narcotic problem, the delegates from national, State and city governments and from welfare organizations will number 5,000.
Such groups as the American Legion, the Rotary International Club, the American Chemical Society, the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Brown University and Cornell University have responded with acceptances.Invitations have been forwarded to the Governors of every State, to the Mayors of cities, to Judges, college Presidents and professors, chemists, business men, police officials, in short, to the leaders of all groups of citizens.
Data on Education.
The first two days of the conference will be given over to the presentation of data bearing on narcotic education. Three days will be devoted to the agencies and methods for such education. To stimulate national interest in the narcotic problem, plans will be perfected at Philadelphia for the awarding of prizes in educational institutions, in churches, and through the press and the screen for the most effective presentation of the dangers attendant on the use of narcotics.
Four principal committees will be in charge of the work. In addition to the usual Organization and Program Committee there will be a Committee on Data, one on methods, documents and pedagogy and one that will deal with the agencies planned for the educational program. Working under the Committee on Data will be committees on sociology, chemistry, medicine and psychology.On the Medical Committee will be experts in pharmacology, physiology, pathology and psychiatry. Seventeen distinguished physicians have accepted positions on this committee under the Chairmanship of Representative John J. Kindred of New York, a physician of experience.
The organization mapped out is not merely for the period of the conference. Permanent committees will seek to forward the narcotic education program, profiting by the information presented at the Philadelphia gathering and supplementing it as time goes on. Leaders of national reputation are interested in the work. On the Committee on Criminology, for example, will be John W. Davis, Robert Lansing and Representative John G. Tilson of Connecticut.
Gatherings in recent years held for the purpose of devising methods for decreasing the use of narcotic drugs include the Shanghai conference of 1900, several meetings at The Hague and the conference on the subject at Geneva. Those who are backing the Philadelphia conference hope it may be of equal historic importance. Other conferences of a similar nature are planned for 1930 and 1934.