233838 Looking for Addicts and Finding Methadone: Pre-History of a Controversy in New York City

Tuesday, November 9, 2010 : 5:10 PM - 5:30 PM

Samuel Roberts, PhD , Department of History, Columbia University, New York City, NY
Between 1963 and 1967, New York became the first U.S. city to offer methadone therapy for heroin addiction, a treatment which would be become one of the more controversial of the late twentieth century. Upon methadone's introduction in New York, its most hyperbolic opponents quickly labeled it state-enforced drug dependency. In terms nearly as simplistic, overzealous converts hailed it as a “cure” not only for addiction but also for crime and social dysfunction. As with many scientific controversies, the conflict arose from the political circumstances surrounding narcotic use generally. In fact, on each side of the divide were individuals who otherwise might have been allied had it not been for the politics of stigma, class, and race which had dominated drug policy for two decades before methadone. This paper explores how New York took on a national problem which was larger than the term “addiction” could have captured.

Learning Areas:
Ethics, professional and legal requirements
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
1. Describe the history of methadone therapy in New York City 1963-1967 2. Analyze the way that the politics of stigma, class, and race influenced these events.

Keywords: Drug Abuse, Ethnic Minorities

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: PhD in history
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.