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Sober Nation

Putting Recovery On The Map

07-12-13 | By

Drug Addiction Through the Decades – Focus: 70’s

Drug addiction  in America’s youth population evolved substantially during the 1970’s.  As the hippie movement began to fade from the popularity enjoyed during the 60’s, recreational drug usage took on new forms. Marijuana was in a steady source of supply from Mexico until the mid 70’s, when a decline began in response to the beginning of the “war on drugs”, by the Reagan Administration. Cannabis crops in Mexico were systematically eradicated by the government using Paraquat, an herbicide with toxic side effects. Stiff drug penalties affecting marijuana importation arose in the 70’s, resulting in new methods of cultivating the drug in the U.S.

The popularity of LSD expanded during the early 70’s, with a strong nod of approval from the entertainment industry, who helped foster the youth drug culture through imagery of rock music legends caught in the throes of drug addiction. As drug use began to take on an increasingly experimental context, American youth began to indulge in other, more dangerous drugs. These included cocaine, heroin, and the resurgence of “ups and downs”, the common street name for amphetamines and barbiturates, which had enjoyed wide popularity during the 50’s, along with alcohol, by this generation’s parents.

During the 70’s spiritual movements incorporating alternative religious belief systems from other cultures gained tremendous popularity. LSD or “acid”, played a part in many of these subculture groups, who purported using the hallucinogen to achieve mind-expansion by raising consciousness, as a spiritual practice. There were strong cultural symbols utilized to back support for acid and other psychoactive hallucinogenic drug use. Popularity for “acid” rose proportionally with the canonization of luminaries, including rock stars Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Who, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Grateful Dead and The Jefferson Airplane, to name the most notorious artists to incorporate heavy drug use with their persona, mesmerizing youth during the 70’s.

As the decade reached a midway point,  LSD drug use began to decline among users. Media stories of tragic deaths and insanity associated with acid drug use became widely publicized, deterring popularity and diminishing use by the drug culture.

By the late 1970’s LSD drug use had dropped off considerably from its heightened usage of 10 years earlier. This was the impact of tougher government laws attacking the increasing LSD and other drug usage by American youth. Besides stepping up arrests, government applied stiffer conviction sentences, successfully curtailing the use of the hallucinogen during this time. Sealing the diminished usage of LSD was the restricted access of base chemicals to manufacture the drug, which served to bring it off of the larger market.

As a response. during the 70’s the public’s recreational drug use began to take on a different shape with the shift to more dangerous illegal substances, including heroin and Quaaludes.  These opiates, with dramatically addictive properties, caught many by surprise, and launched a fresh wave of chronic drug addiction and substance abuse by American youth.  The ravages of drug addiction had not been previously experienced by the 70’s youth population. It was not until the advent of the cocaine epidemic during the 80’s that the disastrous effects of the slowly evolving recreational drug addiction plague began to rear its ugly head.

The introduction of cocaine, soon to become the blight of generations of drug addicts, began enjoying ever increasing popularity during the late 70’s. During this time we witnessed the beginnings of the mass marketing of the allure of the cocaine culture. Urban youth became especially vulnerable to the slick marketing of the cocaine drug culture, which was perpetrated via film, media and the promotion of iconic cultural figures, embodying the new cocaine lifestyle imagery.


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