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November 14, 1986

Control, Treatment of Drug Abuse Have Challenged Nation and Its Physicians for Much of History

JAMA. 1986;256(18):2465-2469. doi:10.1001/jama.1986.03380180027003

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THE RECENT FOCUS on drug use sometimes obscures the fact that narcotics control and the treatment of drug addiction are not new topics in the United States, which has been struggling with these issues for more than 100 years.

The American Medical Association has a long history of concern with unregulated public use of drugs, beginning with a 1906 editorial by editor of The Journal George H. Simmons, MD, opposing any provision in the Pure Food and Drug Act that would permit the manufacture of medicines containing small amounts of opium, morphine, heroin, chloral hydrate, or other narcotics (JAMA 1906;46:1208-1209).

Its concern was timely. Cocaine, which produces euphoria and hyperactivity and is similar in many respects to amphetamines, has a long history of use in the United States, as does opium. In his book The American Disease (New Haven, Yale University Press, 1973), David Musto, MD, recalls that a relatively