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May 1, 1996

Drugs and Narcotics in History

Author Affiliations

University of Florida Gainesville

JAMA. 1996;275(17):1364-1365. doi:10.1001/jama.1996.03530410078039

We have recently reported increased use of illicit drugs by our youth, reversing the extremely positive trends and continuing decreases in use that occurred from 1985 to 1992.1 Tobacco, marijuana, and other illicit drug use is now increasing again among all adolescents from sixth graders through the high school class of 1995.

In a country where cocaine, heroin, marijuana, alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs continue to have multiple detrimental effects on the lives and health of Americans, physicians are often asked for advice. While researchers seek new, comprehensive explanations for the persistence of illicit drug use and the problems inherent in addiction treatments, many advocate a more intrusive, harsher, criminal justice involvement. Others push for education and still others for medical treatment. A broader historical perspective can help us understand drugs of abuse and addiction.

Clearly, heeding the historical lesson of earlier cocaine use and study could have prevented