Sara Rachel Perez
24 April 2013
American History pd. 7
Effects from Drug Use During the Vietnam War
“When you get up there in those early hours, you want the klunck you’re flying with to be able to snap to. He’s a lot more likely to be fresh if he smokes grass the night before than if he was juiced,” said one Air Force Officer. Although many officials didn’t authorize the use of marijuana, most saw around the soldiers getting high. Since the military officials understood the circumstances, they didn’t want to look at the facts because it would allow their soldiers to keep fighting. The Vietnam War lead many soldiers to rely on the high they experienced from multiple drugs like opium, marijuana and heroin. Lower-ranking military personnel in Vietnam had one goal, and that goal was to stay alive for one year and then return home. Men would smoke easily accessible and cheap drugs to have their surroundings numb around them the higher they got. Many of the soldiers were young boys that grew up on farms; they were lonely making it easy to turn to drugs. They would medicate themselves with the luxuries of highs that various toxin drugs offered them.
At the beginning of the war opium was the top drug in Vietnam. Opium is defined as a reddish brown heavy scented addictive drug prepared from the opium poppy, used as a narcotic and in medicine as an analgese (Dictionary.com). Soon after the young soldiers arrival they began to experiment with opium. Average cost of opium was $1.00 during the year 1967. Young and naïve soldiers accommodated a nickname to opium; “O.J.” was used to reference “opium joints”. But soon enough the marijuana stole the popularity of opium.
Soldiers were aware that in Vietnam marijuana was a common thing and was used openly. Marijuana was so well known in Vietnam that you could see fields and fields of the plant growing in the wild. They began using marijuana in Vietnam in 1963 before it became well known in the United States. Marijuana was accessible rather easily. Although smoking marijuana was a punishable offense, it didn’t stop most of the soldiers. Some leaders even encouraged their soldiers to smoke to help them cope with their surroundings. In 1968 United States cracked down on Vietnam; the United States bullied Vietnam into illegalizing marijuana. Vietnam made marijuana hard to get, therefore many soldiers switched to heroin.
After Vietnam was pressured by the United States, they stopped selling marijuana, which lead many soldiers to flee towards the heavier drugs such as heroin. In 1970 a huge supply of heroin was swarming around Vietnam. Soldiers relied on heroin to pass time, deal with the danger, and help with boredom and purposelessness of life. Since heroin became so popular it minimized all the other drug problems. It was so well spread and popular you could even buy it at local laundry mats. 34% of American soldiers admit to have used heroin commonly during the war. In the United States heroin was most commonly injected with needles, but in Vietnam heroin was 97% pure, making it easy to receive the dose many ways such as: being smoked, snorted and/or taken orally. After abusing such pure heroin in Vietnam, soldiers became sick from the lack of the drug once they returned home. Although heroin was used immensely there was no deaths caused from over dosage.
Opium, marijuana, and heroin were not the only drugs being abused by the soldiers fighting for our country; many other drugs helped deal with the emotional stress they dealt with on a daily bases. Morphine, for example, provided numbness, relaxation and a good feeling. It was an easy accessible drug being sold for $5.00 per vial. Bionoctal is another addictive drug consisting of amytal and seconal. Bionoctal is available over the counter at Vietnamese pharmacy’s for eight paisters for twenty tablets. Vietnamese children would sale the tablets to American soldiers from $1.00 to about $5.00 for only 20...
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