DRUGS AND MINORITY OPPRESSION by John Helmer

DRUGS AND MINORITY OPPRESSION

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Helmer begins by questioning both the popular wisdom and psychological theories about addiction, but this is not a wide open polemic like Szasz' Ceremonial Chemistry. Instead this sociological analysis focuses on Helmer's contention that narcotics use has for the most part been concentrated among the working class, and that the war on drugs is and always has been a form of class warfare. The second half of this argument is the most convincing. Tracing the rise of public concern over Chinese opium indulging, Mexican-American marijuana smoking, and Black cocaine and heroin addiction, Helmet levels a barrage of statistics to demonstrate a connection between campaigns to stamp out the drug menace and downturns in the business cycle and/or minority group inroads on a limited job market. Helmet isn't as clear about why narcotics should be a primarily working class phenomenon. There are hypotheses--such as the frustration of unemployment and the flooding of the market by drug speculators (Chinese businessmen paid wages in opium during the mid 19th century), but the lack of information on hidden narcotics habits among the upper and middle classes makes the argument problematic. While he is an apparently prodigious researcher, the author doesn't always define the exact scope of his argument and he extrapolates rather freely from his data. Obviously he is on to something, but his model of the dynamic interaction among economic conditions, drug use and law enforcement policy remains fuzzy.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1975
Publisher: Seabury