Deprived of “Dope” – Crime Wave Begins (1915)

(From the Ogden Standard – May 22, 1915)

Government Secret Service Agents in Desperate Battle with Drug Users Since Harrison Act Went Into Effect – Frightful Conditions Reported by U.S. Officers in Making Numerous Raids

opium_denIs the Harrison anti-drug act recently passed by congress and in effect since March causing a crime wave to sweep through the country? Will the more than a million drug-users in the United States eventually turn desperate criminals to win the money that will buy drugs at the present increased rate of the peddlers? There are indications of such a wave already.

While the government has been slow in the enforcement of this law because of a lack of deputy internal revenue agents, whose duty it is to ferret out violations of law, the effect of a partial enforcement has been felt throughout the country.

In New York a number of people have committed crimes to obtain money for drugs at an increased rate.

Several drug users have killed themselves because of the deprivation while others have gone insane.

Practically the same results have been felt in Chicago, St. Louis and other large cities.

In St. Louis several women have attempted suicide because they could not obtain the drugs and in Chicago a number of crimes have been traced to drug users.

The law, many complain, has placed an absolute ban on the sale of drugs to those addicted, but it has made no provision for the cure of the drug fiends.

In the larger cities the hospitals established special wards where these people might undergo a cure, but the method itself was such a crude and cruel one that even physicians of repute themselves complained. The enforcement of the law threw these new patients on their hands and they could not treat them without giving them some drugs. To break a man or woman in a day of a habit contracted in years might cause a fatal reaction of the heart, they said, and many of them went on record in opposition to the Harrison law.

In several hospitals the Lambert-Towne treatment was used but with no great success, according to reports. It was too severe and caused many patients, willing to be cured, to leave the institution and go back to their old habits. It was based mostly on hyosciamine, a derivative of opium, but left the patient in anguish for more than 48 hours in the time the new drugs were battling the habit-forming alkaloids in his or her system.

The few who underwent this treatment are said to have returned to their old haunts and to have renewed the use of drugs.

Effects of Treatment

The first effects of the Lambert-Towne method was a dreadful nausea in which they were given practically no drugs and in which their systems were depended upon to fight out the battle. It was an experiment on the part of doctors. They had used the same cure in cases of delirium treatments with more or less success and thought it might conquer the drug habit.

When the Lambert-Towne method was objected to they restored the old treatment of giving gradually reducing quantities of drugs. Two bottles were arranged – one with a solution of the drugs to which the patient was addicted and the other of a cure. As the patient took from the bottle containing the narcotic, the amount was refilled from the bottle containing a cure until the drug bottle contained practically nothing but the cure.

Drug users, however, complained that when the reduction method started they were not given anywhere near the amount to which they were accustomed. Many of the patients took as high as 60 tablets of heroin a day while other fiends took 16 to 20 “shots” of morphine. When the amount was reduced they abandoned the hospitals in desperation and went back to their old haunts. Hospital doctors were sent out at night to go through the Tenderloin and Hop Alley districts to investigate and found practically all of their patients back in their old environment and all showing evidence of being under the influence of narcotics – although with the glibness and unreliability of chronic users of drugs, they denied it.

Despite the lack of cures for the habit the great machinery of the government has been set in motion toward the enforcement of the anti-drug act and between the activity of a limited number of internal revenue agents and the fear of the law violators have of the federal laws.

Farces in the Courts

In several courts men and women found guilty of selling cocaine have been given six months in jail, while under the state laws they received no more than a $50 fine for their offense. The $50 was paid by the politician or drug-vendor and all was over as far as the courts were concerned, although the person arrested – man or woman – was beaten almost into insensibility by the drug-vendor and other friends when he or she returned to the colony.

The terrible stress under which these people live – where they almost worship the one man who can supply them with drugs and are cruelly beaten by him when they are caught by private investigators – has been revealed to Federal investigators in recent raids. In fact, it is the intention of the United States government to go more deeply into these matters and ferret out not the poor unfortunates who sell cocaine for commission of the drug itself, but the real persons who make the profit.

The Federal courts are meting out jail sentences to the small offenders, but when the internal revenue agents get to the real sellers of cocaine – the men who make a great profit from the misfortunes of their brothers – there will be sentences of not less than five years in the Federal penitentiary, it is said.

The smaller offenders are the men and women who sell the drugs for their master, the man in control of the supply, for a commission on drugs. They work and slave for him and he owns them body and soul by his payment of a small box of cocaine or a few morphine tablets. The man in control is all the more heartless in that he is not a user of the drugs himself (such a man might be in sympathy with other stricken creatures), but is wise enough to let it alone and profit by their experiences.

In a recent raid of opium joints and lairs of the users of morphine and cocaine, Col. L.G. Nutt, in charge of the eastern division of Missouri and one of the most efficient and experienced internal revenue agents in the country, found hundreds of unfortunates under the influence of drugs.

A Case in Point

In St. Louis his men under his direction arrested Henry Wilsman, the so-called “Cocaine King.” This man, known as “Big Henry,” and having served a penitentiary sentence for slaying “Red” Tremaine, the last “cocaine king,” is alleged to have been selling the drugs to a colony of cocaine and morphine users in a miserable row of tenements nearby – a structure known as Filipino Row, and so filthy and foul that no human being, unless under the influence of drugs, would live there.

There were men and women of all types found there. Sturdy men who worked hard in the daytime so that in the night they might supply themselves with drugs, and women who sacrificed everything so that they, too, might satisfy this craving. There were women still showing marks of refinement – women who in their day had been of more or less social prominence in the city. One woman in particular was noted for her utter degradation. She is a member of a prominent family. She is wealthy, and owns a row of buildings valued at about $100,000. She rents these buildings to drug users and from the high rent she charges, more than derives enough money to well supply herself with the drug she craves.

While living another life she might be prominent socially and financially, but now she is known as the “snow bird.” She lives in a basement hovel of one of her own buildings and is in fear of the death that she knows the cocaine-fiends will mete out to her someday. She has money and she thinks that some night some maddened drug user will come to her miserable dwelling and murder her for her money.

In all of the misery and filth that surrounds her, she is not more miserable than the unfortunates who pay her for the rent of their squalid one-room dwellings, and pay gladly so that they may be near their source of supply of the drugs.

How They Exist

Col. Nutt and other revenue officers searching the building in which she resides, found men and women living in the most unsanitary of quarters and working hard at their tasks so that they might get enough money to buy drugs. A negress was found laboring over the washboard late at night, working hard so that her efforts might earn for her the drug she would crave in the morning. Her energy then, excited under the influence of drugs, was at such a pitch that she easily could earn enough money for tomorrow’s cocaine.

She and others lived this same life day after day – working far into the night to buy cocaine and then spending the greater part of the day in recovering from its effects.

These and many other surprising things were found by Col. Nutt and his daring crew of raiders that has been putting the terror of the inexorable United States government in the hearts of “dope” sellers in the west.

He and his men have found that the majority of opium users, strange to say, are negroes. While in every Chinese place a revenue officer entered there was an odor of opium, the faint odor of which is always susceptible to the detection of men trained in the suppression of the drug habit, so far there has been no Chinese arrested charged with violating the Harrison act. Quantities of opium and material for smoking it have been found but no Chinese have been held in charge of a sale.

Officers Are Sanguine

Col. Nutt is positive that he and his men will succeed in enforcing the anti-drug act. He is a veteran in the service of the government in the departments concerned with the enforcement of the law. As an oleomargarine raider he won   enviable fame in the service, so much fame, in fact, that he has been called on to go to other cities to make raids on illicit oleo plants where the raw product was being colored.

He is a representative of the great secret organization of United States government that is now striking at the drug and other evils throughout the country. Silently and without ostentation this great body of government men go about the country enforcing the law and arresting and convicting violators. They are men trained to be circumspect and to do nothing until sufficient evidence is secured.

While detectives and police throughout the country are familiar with the drug traffic, they are depending on these intrepid, silent raiders to carry out the enforcement of this most drastic of recently passed laws.

The government through this small body of secret agents is accomplishing more than all the police forces put together. Whether people deprived of the drug are to be cured or must suffer, is one of the things that cannot enter into a federal officer’s judgment, for he is sworn to make those laws effective.