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Drugs in Vietnam

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by

Joshua Blockstein

on 12 October 2012

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Transcript of Drugs in Vietnam

by Joshua Blockstein and
Charley Marshall Drugs in Vietnam Vietnam was not the first war with lots of drug use, but this drug use was much more pervasive than in any war that had preceded it. One study done by the Department of Defense found that " around 50% of military in Vietnam had used drugs by 1968 and around 60% by 1970". (The American Experience in Vietnam, Grace Sevy).
Clearly drug use was a huge problem, but what caused this?
There were two main factors. What made drug use
so widespread? The first factor was the availability
of drugs to soldiers The lack of enforcement by the Vietnamese meant that, for soldiers, marijuana and other drugs were widely available throughout the country. Soldiers would have joints thrown into their conveys as they passed or solicited to them by townspeople. Those stationed at camps or outposts often grew their own marijuana plants with seeds they bought. Military officials soon begin to realize that marijuana use was a serious problem. U.S. pressure led the Vietnamese government to condemn the use or sale of marijuana in 1968, which unfortunately had no real impact on the availability and use by soldiers. The Marines attempted to crack down on marijuana by punishing anyone in possession with a court-martial however complications, such as the lack of a lab to test drug samples, hindered these efforts. The Army at first denied any problems, but began a vigorous campaign to eradicate the problem, with arrests for marijuana possession reaching as many as 1,000 a week.

picture from (http://www.drugwar.com/ciasyndicate.shtm) Marijuana to Other Drugs Vietnam was notorious for drug use and availability. Laws and enforcement by the government were circumspect, as there was no central enforcement agency, and no government control over the use of drugs like marijuana and opiates (drugs derived from the poppy plant, including opium, heroin, and morphine) While marijuana use decreased, soldiers began using other drugs
like opiates that were just as easily accessible. "In 1967, opium was
available for $1.00 and morphine for $5.00 a vial". After 1970, heroin use became rampant as well and became a problem. This continued until the end of the war despite efforts to prevent this. Thousands of soldiers were arrested and sent home for use of heroin or other drugs during the war but this did not slow the widespread use of heroin and other drugs. The 2nd Factor: Stress Aside from the easy accessibility, servicemen would rely on drugs to relieve them from their feelings of stress, anxiety and boredom More Access Narcotics, especially Opium and Heroin became popular for their purity, and low price, thus making them abundant and very easily accessible "Soldiers could buy a gram of 95% pure heroin for 2 dollars, the same quantity would cost over 100 dollars in the USA, and was rarely over 10% pure"
(Dubberly)) Opium was even more accessible, but less common for it produced longer lasting addictions, and led some veterans to crime in Vietnam, and upon return to the USA Amphetamines were popular, especially for staying alert on patrols, but soldiers said coming down from an amphetamine high made them "edgy and extremely irritable, so much that they felt like shooting children in the streets" Tet Offensive After the death of Vietnamese general Nguyen Chi Thanh, Vitnam politburo considered ways to bring the war to a fast conclusion The "plan" was designed to achieve three main points: Drugs in TTTC 1. The Army of the Republic of Vietnam would collapse under the general offensive The use of drugs in Vietnam is seen in The Things They Carried through the character of Ted Lavander. When introducing the characters, the author O'Brien says "Ted Lavender, who was scared, carried tranquilizers until he was shot in the head outside the village of Than Khe." . For some soldiers, it was necessary to use drugs to cope with the incredible stress and anxiety caused by combat. In Vietnam, more than any other war, soldiers turned to drugs to deal with these emotions. After Lavender is shot and dies "They told stories about Ted Lavender's supply of tranquilizers, how the poor guy didn't feel a thing, how incredibly tranquil he was.". The soldier's stories about Ted show how his drug use was accepted by them, a situation that was common across squadrons in Vietnam who understood that some needed to use drugs to get through the war. 2. People of South Vietnam would follow through with the general uprising 3. The USA would crack militarily when faced with the shock The Tet Offensive let to "gross amounts of drug consumption amongst US soldiers to cope with dramatic emotions", total drug use rose by over 12% afterwards.
This sharp increases shows how soldiers used drugs as a way to alleviate their fear and anxiety over the war and the increase in these intense emotions that the Tet Offensive caused (Dubberly) (Peter Bush, "HIGHER AND HIGHER: AMERICAN DRUG USE IN VIETNAM")
(Peter Bush "HIGHER AND HIGHER: AMERICAN DRUG USE IN VIETNAM") (David G, "Vietnam War Anniversary: Has Anything Changed")
(Dubberly) (O'brien)
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