Heroin and cocaine in pharmacies fueled Detroit’s drug problem in 1912

Editor’s Note: Pharmacies openly selling heroin and cocaine were readily available in Detroit 110 years ago, according to a Free Press investigation that took place on August 11, 1912. There was no no signature for the journalist, which was usual at the time. The following excerpt has been edited for style and clarity.

Here’s what the ex-junkie has to say: “There’s a lot of ‘dope’ of all kinds being sold in Detroit right now. A snorter has no trouble getting all the coke he wants as long as he has the price, and he will get the price if he has to bargain for his soul.

“Morphine is easily obtained from a number of city center pharmacies using fake prescriptions.

“But the biggest danger is the rapid increase in heroin use. Once you get it, it’s over, because the habit is twice as hard to break as cocaine, in my observations. Cocaine stimulates. Heroin gets people down and there’s nothing I’ve ever come across – and tried them all – that leaves such a miserable feeling. You want to take it again right away to ease your pain, and the more you take, the worse your condition becomes.

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“It’s just as dangerous as morphine – that’s what it really is – easier to take, and you can get a handful of heroin tablets for pennies at almost any drugstore, no questions asked. The heroine beat them all when it comes to putting a guy on the ass.

Rivard and Macomb

Three o’clock in the afternoon. Two men were standing in Rivard and Macomb streets, apparently passing their time doing nothing.

From top to bottom flowed a tide of humanity, embracing many races and colors. Sometimes acquaintances stopped to chat. A woman whose garish outfit did not suit the locality dangled in the street. A bit of taunting from a group of slackers on the opposite side prompted a retort as elegant as it was punchy, and which provoked a chorus of laughter.

And from this tide from time to time we would slip into a small shop, only to reappear a few minutes later, still with a guilty look, to see if anyone was watching.

So it was all the time the two men watched. Every few minutes, a man or woman whose inclinations were undeniable would come to the pharmacy. Their reappearance was usually the signal for a hasty jaunt, sometimes around the corner, again down a convenient alley. They weren’t all disreputable in appearance by any means. Some were dressed fashionably. Two women in particular, still young, with traces of youthful beauty perceptible through the paint and powder used so literally, testified to having been accustomed to refinement.

A large number of Detroiters are addicted to drug addiction in one form or another and their ranks are growing at an alarming rate, according to those familiar with the situation.

“Sniffers, every one of them,” said the man who had been through the mill and talked to almost everyone who entered the place.

Cass and Michigan

That same evening, on Cass and Michigan avenues, two well-dressed men, clearly experiencing the sensations of a “coker” as he recovers from one of his debaucheries, were arguing, while crowds of pedestrians poured in, careless the full importance of what was happening before their eyes.

“There’s Eddie now,” said one of the men, staring at where a man in a straw hat and dark clothes was moving in the shade of a building across the street. . “Come on, he has it.”

Arm in arm, they crossed Michigan Avenue, calling out “Eddie,” who stopped in the dark. As if by magic, three other men appeared, and all surrounded the object of their quest. He walked up Cass Avenue to an alley in northern Michigan, into whose darkness the group plunged.

“He’s loaded with junk,” said one of the men, increasingly talkative when he reappeared a little later, stepping tall, shoulders thrown back, a conqueror of the world – in his own mind. .

A Detroit Free Press illustration that accompanied the original article.

The reformatory

It was two typical events, hours apart, that served to lend weight to the claim of a man whose job puts him in constant contact with the underworld that “dope” is sold openly to Detroit, and anyone with the price and a slight familiarity with strings can buy as much as they want.

In one case, it was a pharmacy, whose owner was repeatedly arrested for selling cocaine and other drugs and fined, only to return to practice. The other officer was an ex-con, well known in law enforcement circles, who uses a messaging service as a blind through which to operate.

There were further disclosures as a result of the investigation. One was that a former convict, whose hangout was a notorious saloon in the heart of the net, makes a lot of money selling “junk,” as cocaine is known among his victims, to neighborhood residents. hot, having established a clientele that he serves on call, usually making deliveries in person.

It has been learned, on no less authority than the word of the victims themselves, and from the testimony of those who are interested in eradicating the evil, that the man who, on the expiration of his sentence in the house of correction , leaves the institution, has to travel only a short distance before having the possibility of resuming his drug use; that almost in the shadow of the establishment, cocaine, morphine and heroin are sold to released prisoners who may have the price and the desire.

It has also been made clear that when a policeman or any other individual tells you that it is the hardest job in the world to attach guilt to a distributor of these drugs unless he is caught with the goods on him, he knows what he is talking about. This may partly explain the prevalence of the habit and the apparent immunity enjoyed by its promoters.

A large number of Detroiters are addicted to drug addiction in one form or another and their ranks are growing at an alarming rate, according to those familiar with the situation.

Two factors are major contributors to this business situation. One is the ease with which these drugs can be obtained. The other is that because of the huge profits they are able to make by preying on their victims, dope distributors are constantly on high alert.

Heroin can be purchased by almost anyone at a number of Detroit pharmacies no questions asked. Heroin is really salts of morphine, and its effects are said by those who have formed both habits to be quite as bad as those who follow the use of morphine. Doctors agree that it poses the greatest threat of all harmful drugs, due to the ease with which it can be obtained.

“I am convinced by my own observations and my own experience that there are thousands of Detroitans addicted to heroin use,” said a well-known doctor. “The worst thing about all of this is that many of the victims are children of school age, schoolboys and schoolgirls, factory workers, employees.”

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