GI Junkies: The Forgotten Veterans – Richard Kotuk (1971)


GI Junkies: The Forgotten Veterans

“In the summer of 1971, when United States involvement in the Vietnam war was near its peak, Richard Nixon’s government commissioned a research project. The Pentagon knew that, confronted by the trauma of losing a war and limitless cheap narcotics, tens of thousands of American troops had become addicted to heroin. Nixon and his advisers feared this flood of returning junkies would cause havoc back home, overwhelming drug treatment services and triggering a crime wave. So they commissioned a study of almost 14,000 troops approaching the end of their tours of duty, and asked a team led by Professor Lee N. Robins of the Washington medical school to monitor them. The results were extraordinary. First, the Pentagon had massively underestimated the scale of hard drug use. Almost half had taken opium or heroin in Vietnam, while at least 20 per cent were physiologically addicted to heroin, dependent on multiple shots of the drug each day and prone to withdrawal symptoms if their supply was interrupted. The second major finding has lasting relevance for the debate about addictive drugs today. Twelve months after their return to America, only 5 per cent of those who left Vietnam as addicts were still using heroin. Almost all the GI junkies simply came home and stopped taking it: less than 2 per cent of the soldier addicts had had any kind of drug treatment. Even those who admitted they had been exposed to the drug subsequently and taken an occasional ‘hit’ had not been re-addicted. As Robins commented, these findings sharply challenged conventional wisdom about heroin and its ‘uniquely addictive’ qualities – so much so that the New York Times assumed the study must have been some kind of whitewash and spent months trying to discredit it. The story was never published. If we want to try to understand heroin addiction, and to find means of reducing the chaos and harm it wreaks, Robins’s study is the place to start. We need to look not only at the drug but at the people who take it and cannot stop; at those who might, in other circumstances, have been among the 5 per cent of former addicts who were still dependent a year after leaving Vietnam. …”
Guardian: Battle begins in junkies’ very personal war zone (July 2001)
NY Times: G.I. Heroin Addiction Epidemic in Vietnam (May 16, 1971)
W – Richard Kotuk
GI Junkie (1971)
YouTube: GI Junkies: The Forgotten Veterans (1971) 18:35


GI Junkies: The Forgotten Veterans

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This entry was posted in Documentary, Henry Kissinger, Lyn. Johnson, Marijuana, Nixon, R. McNamara, Vietnam War and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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