The traditional association with the Vietnam War is the widespread belief in mass drug addiction among US servicemen. In principle, this is not far from the truth, as according to statistics for September 1971, 45% of American soldiers in Vietnam used drugs or psychotropic substances (about 200,000 Americans served there that year). And since drug addiction has become one of the main social problems in the United States at that time, the question is, what will happen when these drug-addicted soldiers return to their homeland? – has become very relevant.

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Disappointing statistics with interesting background

The military use of drugs in Vietnam happened due to several factors. Virtually any drug there was readily available, high quality, and cost a penny. Also, no available free rehab centers. And the ease of satisfying this temptation was multiplied by individual factors. For some, it is the need to relieve stress after the battle, for others – long idleness at the rear bases and a lot of free time, for others – a sense of hopelessness and awareness of the futility of war, which has become more widespread since 1968.

Thus, according to research, as of September 1971, 45% of American soldiers in Vietnam had used drugs, amphetamines, or barbiturates at least once. Of these, 43% used drugs, 29% regularly, and 20% admitted to drug addiction in Vietnam. By type, marijuana was the most common (69%), followed by heavy drugs: opium (38%), heroin (34%), amphetamines (25%), and barbiturates (23%).

These data also take into account those who have used any of the heavy drugs at least once, ie it is not that all soldiers who were worth heroin, as a result, became heroin addicts. For example, further research has shown that only 20% of Vietnamese servicemen in Vietnam are addicted to heroin (approximately 2,600). And in this case, the most interesting is the method of use, because in contrast to the common practice in the United States, only 9% of soldiers injected heroin into a vein. The majority smoked heroin stocks (67%) and inhaled (24%). This was due to the fact that in Vietnam, heroin was of high quality, with 90 percent purification, while the US drug market offered only 10 percent. As a result, it was common in the United States to stab it instead of smoking it (there were still about 10 years before the crack was invented).

Research of the problem and its result

The spread of information about military addiction led to a quick reaction from the White House. In particular, under President Richard Nixon, the Office of Special Action for the Prevention of Drug Abuse was established. The department was headed by Jerome Jaffe, a well-known doctor in the United States, who also became the president’s first adviser on drug policy. However, he did not have to play a major role in later history. In his team, Jaffe invited a professional psychologist, Dr. Lee Robins, who turned out to be almost the only specialist in the United States who conducted sociological research among drug addicts in the late 1960s.

Of the soldiers who returned to the United States in September 1971, Robbins randomly identified 956 people, roughly equal to regular soldiers and those who had opiates found before returning. These people were not forcibly isolated or treated but simply watched their future, periodically giving each of them a confidential interview and planning free addiction help.

Studies have shown interesting results. First of all, it turned out that within 8-12 months after returning home, 96% of drug-addicted soldiers abruptly became addicted to illicit substances, or reduced their doses so much that even their relatives had no idea. Interestingly, in the first year after returning, only 1% remained addicted to heroin, despite the fact that 10% of veterans who used drugs in Vietnam had tried heroin at least once in the United States.

Three years later, the situation changed somewhat: 94% were either tied up or on the lowest doses. This is despite the fact that only 3% of these former soldiers went to special clinics for drug treatment, and the majority generally managed on their own, ie cured themselves. Thus, only 6% became persistent drug addicts – mostly homeless people, whose existence was reduced to petty theft for the next dose, and 2% fell to the very bottom of society.

Thus, studies have shown an incredible result – 94% of those who recovered, which in the vast majority was achieved at their own expense. The publication of these data caused both furor and surprise. Many experts could not understand how it is, “addicts healed themselves?”. Because in American practice at the time it was a rare phenomenon, and society perceived drug addiction as an incurable disease, with numerous relapses. The title of a drug addict was a stigma, a sentence, and a direct ticket to the social bottom. And here, unexpectedly, an impressive result, the self-healing of those who were immediately considered hopeless and lost. After all, as we know, the “lost generation” is a traditional favorite subject of philosophical and pseudo-philosophical considerations, manipulations, and speculations.

However, the cards were open, and arguing with the facts made no sense. So, traditionally, there was a large army of critics who initially claimed that this study was a lie and manipulation. However, a thorough journalistic investigation proved that the facts are true, confirmed, and must be accepted by society.