The 1980’s in Drugs

In the 1980’s there was practically nothing impossible for a person. The most modern achievements in science and technology were available for the mankind. However, the more civilization developed, the more science learned about the nature and the phenomena occurring in a human body and the more creative became the means for murder for the purpose of enrichment.

I have already known some information about the Medellin cartel, the largest organized criminal community in Colombia. It related to the category “drug cartel” which was an association of producers and suppliers of drugs and other substances of this type. The cartel received its name from the one of the town in which the operational center was situated. It was the town Medellin. The number of the members of cartel, including those involved in production, transport and technical facilities reached fifteen thousand people.


Moreover, it was not a surprise for me that it was the most powerful financial and cocaine empire in the history of the drug traffic. Not any other drug mafia of the world could even have dreamed about such power. For the cocaine distribution there were planes and even submarines at the disposal of the cartel. Pablo Escobar became the most indisputable authority in the world of cocaine and became the absolute leader of the Medellin cartel; he easily bribed police officers, judges and politicians. If bribes did not work, the blackmail was used so that people who were no longer in need often were simply murdered.

At the time of his prosperity, Escobar’s narcocartel supervised the four fifth of the cocaine market of the whole world. It was estimated approximately at thirty billion dollars annually. According to the Forbes magazine of 1989, Pablo Escobar took the seventh place among the richest people of the world (Goode 12). By the age of thirty, he made a fortune that had been estimated in a billion dollars.

I would like to reveal more about the revival of methamphetamine that became a serious public problem in the USA in the late 1980’s. Having read the information from the articles, books and websites, I found out that the United States faced serious problems concerning this powerful substance that causes a strong dependence of a person. Besides, not all modern researches speak about the prevalence methamphetamine among the youth. Though methamphetamine was used by a small percent of American population, its serious physical, behavioral and social consequences caused a gigantic problem in many societies.

For the first time, methamphetamine like an epidemic was revealed in the State of Oregon in the early 1980’s. Then it began to expand to the western states. In many respects it was connected with the fact that historically the biggest part of illegal production and drug trafficking fell on Mexico.

In comparison with other narcotic substances, methamphetamine causes an irreparable damage to intellectual and physical processes. Besides, methamphetamine makes teeth rot and causes damage of blood vessels of a brain. The person, using methamphetamine, has a high risk of anorexia, stroke, heart attack, experiences tremor and spasms as well as diseases of kidneys, liver and lungs. It is revealed that people using methamphetamine more often appear in the first aid department than those using any other substance. Methamphetamine also encourages the person in his or her risky behavior such as violence or crime.

The western states fought against the consequences of methamphetamine. The results of the researches that were published are as follows (Halloran 18):

  • 22% of teenagers noticed that the substance made them happy;
  • 25% of teenagers spoke about the fact that the substance helped them to grow thin;
  • 20% of teenagers considered drugs as those of no danger for the human being;
  • 41% of teenagers did not try to dissuade friends from the use methamphetamine;
  • 22% of teenagers believed that their friends would not allow them to use a heavy preparation (Halloran 18). In other areas the statistics given by various researches was similar and remained quite threatening in the 1980’s.

In my research “The 1980’s in Drugs”, I am going to provide the information about the difficult situation in the whole world concerning drugs consumption and drugs trafficking. I am going to consider the Medellin Cartel and its power in the cocaine market, new synthetic and extremely dangerous drug called “design drugs” and their mass distribution, MDMA or “ecstasy”, the discovery of which was compared to an ideal psychotherapeutic medicine as well as the drug ban policy of the 1980’s.

The consumption of drugs in the USA reached its peak in 1979 when every tenth inhabitant of the USA mentioned about the habit of regular use of drugs. It was in the early 1980’s that the cocaine consumption sharply increased in the country. Earlier it was very expensive and inaccessible to the majority of addicts. However, by this time mafia structures in Colombia could have understood the prospects of the cocaine market, sharply increasing the production of this drug. Medellin Cartel, the most powerful structure which was engaged in the production and sale of drugs in the world was formed as a result of it. In 1976-1979, the Colombians from the town Medellin, who were earlier limited to a role of intermediaries, forced out the Cubans and took 50-80% of the American cocaine market (Robison). The era of Medellin narcocartel which lasted for about two decades began.

It was the Medellin cocaine cartel who first showed that in the countries of “the third world” mafia could become one of the leading forces not only in economy but also in policy (Marcy 2). In 1982 its activity compelled the government of the USA to declare “the war” with drug dealers, the most important problem of the foreign policy. The antagonism of the Medellin narcocartel with the law enforcement agencies had reached its peak by the end of the 1980’s. In the early 1990’s this “war” ended with the defeat of Medellin. However, justice did not win. Some heads of Medellin Cartel were killed (Rodriguez Gacha, Pablo Escobar) the others were arrested and imprisoned (Carlos Leder, brothers Ochoa). After the defeat of the Medellin cartel its place was taken by Cali Cartel. As a result, the amount of illegally exported cocaine was not reduced at all.

In the 1980’s new synthetic and extremely dangerous drugs appeared in the world. These substances were the drugs of a new era, called “design drugs” (Goode & Ben-Yehuda). These were psychoactive substances which changed the perception of the surrounding reality, influencing the consciousness of a person. Their formula was changed in order to bypass the current legislation and to be not included in the list of the forbidden preparations and their precursors (the substances referring to raw materials for production).

These were synthetic, artificial substitutes of the natural active substance reproducing completely or partially its properties, close to its structure and properties and possessing or not possessing pharmaceutical effects of the known natural drugs. They were created as a result of the change in a chemical structure or, that happens very seldom, by the creation of the new substances possessing the properties of the known drugs.

This term appeared at the beginning of the 1980’s and was used for the designation of the synthetic opiates which had appeared alternatively to heroin in the black market. One of such preparations was called “the White Chinese”. It carried away the lives of many drug consumers as its dosage was counted not in grams but in tenth shares of a gram or the match head.

Design drugs were created in many main groups of drugs, such as the group of anabolic steroids, cannabinoids, psychodelics and opiates. In these main groups of drugs there was a set of divisions on other more various groups. In each group there were changes at a molecular level that resulted in a great variety of drugs to check them, which made it almost impossible.

Any competent chemist could produce officially not forbidden drugs having just slightly changed the known formula. The typical example of the design drugs of the group of cannabinoids are various smoking mixes on the basis of synthetic cannabiols known in public under the name “Spices” (Clymer 4).

The concept “design drugs” found its wide popularity after the Ecstasy drug (another name MDMA) had rushed into the life of the punters of the night clubs in the 1980’s. It became the first drug that entered the list of the top drugs of the American management on drug trafficking control.

At the same time, the strengthened consumption of methamphetamine in the USA caused the necessity of the supervisory authorities to toughen the control of precursors to reduce the production of this drug in house conditions that led to the emergence of the new stimulators, the most known of which was metcatinon.

Thanks to the Internet, the distribution of design drugs became global. The producers of such drugs introduced the term “substances for researches” that excluded the possibility of prosecution under the law (Halloran 18). On packing with narcotic preparations there was even an inscription “Not for the use by a person”. However, these measures did not save the producers of drugs from the arrests during the large operation of the American narcopolice officers (Robison).

As a result of that operation, the suppliers and distributors were caught. Moreover, two companies making drugs on the territory of India and China were liquidated. After the operation was carried out that, many Internet shops stopped the activity despite the legal status of their goods in many countries of the world. At that time, the substances on their structure reminding psilocybin (acid) and a mescaline were off-loaded under the marking “substances for researches” (Marcy 2).

The works of private chemists, universities and corporations, carried out throughout the 20th century, became a huge theoretical base for researches and discovery of new formulas of the substances, capable of changing the consciousness of a person. The substances, produced by the drug companies, were delivered in the form of powder or the form of capsules or tablets which provoked the use by a person. The doses of consumption of the preparation varied that sometimes led to deadly outcomes. Such cases caused a resonance in the society, so the majority of design drugs had to be banned.

The harm from the use and the consequence of the design drugs usage is not completely studied yet. The researches concerning the effects of these substances on people are usually superficial and are limited to tests. The mechanism of influence of the majority of such drugs and sometimes even their formula remain not clear for commercial reasons as well as for the reason of their illegal status that makes the researches more complicated.

Some facts that reveal the results of the drug ban policy in the 1980’s are given below:

  • In the report of the Program of the UN on drugs control it was mentioned that in 1987 marihuana was smoked by 141 million people (about 3% of the whole population of the planet) (Goode & Ben-Yehuda). Thirty million of people used amphetamines, thirteen million experienced cocaine and eight million knew much about heroin (Goode & Ben-Yehuda).
  • For the period between 1985 and 1996, the world production of opium increased in three times, and the collection of the cocaine leaves doubled (Goode & Ben-Yehuda).
  • 10 — 15% of the heroin smuggling and 30% of cocaine were intercepted. The size of the profit of large drug dealers made up to 300%. To cause them any damage, it was necessary to intercept at least 75% of not lawful drug trafficking (Goode & Ben-Yehuda).

The 1980’s was the period of the mass distribution of MDMA (“ecstasy”). It was used in clinical practice by more than one thousand doctors. Doctor Zeph gave the name “Adam” to the substance that pointed to its “ability to return the subject in a condition of innocence until the moment when guiltiness, shame and own underestimation appeared” (Goode 12). A number of newspaper articles in the middle 1980’s enthusiastically eulogized this preparation, mentioning that it was capable of giving a result of “one year of therapy for two-hour session” and describing its discovery as an important achievement in search of chemicals for achievements of happiness (Clymer 3).

Some doctors considered that discovery of MDMA as the one close to the discovery of an ideal psychotherapeutic medicine. The use of MDMA began to extend its limits out of the doctors’ offices. Michael Klegg, the producer and the distributor of MDMA from Dallas, came up with the name “Ecstasy” to attract more clients. Klegg realized his vital mission the distribution of ecstasy to masses.

By the beginning of the 1980’s, the ecstasy had moved to a wider society. First of all it got into the night clubs in the State of Texas in the USA and in Great Britain. In 1983, MDMA started to actively extend the group which subsequently became known as the Texas Group. It was on sale in bars of Dallas and Austin and became the most popular from all the “drugs for relax”, widely known and winning the status of elite drugs among the psychotherapists (Halloran 17).

This drug became fashionable in the western countries in the second half of the 1980’s. According to some surveys, from 10 to 40% of the teenagers and young adults tried this substance at least once (Goode & Ben-Yehuda). During the 1980’s the use of MDMA was widespread in the USA and England. Ecstasy was usually accepted by some lonely persons or by a small group of people. In an American research, 90% of consumers reported that drug forced them to feel euphoria; they became more talkative and closer to other people (Goode & Ben-Yehuda). Some called it “a love drug”. At the end of the 1980’s the drug was redefined not in pharmacological but in cultural sense. The rave in England provided the “new formula” and new culture (Goode & Ben-Yehuda). Unfortunately, this new cultural context created conditions for previously unknown deadly potential, ecstasy. Before this “reformulation”, only some accidents connected, mainly, with cardiac arrhythmias at people with previous diseases were reported (Robison).

In 1984, the use of ecstasy in the USA became universal, and the next year the Fight Agency with Drugs forbade various “new” drugs, including ecstasy. In July 1985, the Foodstuff and Drugs Administration of the USA (FDA) placed this substance in the list of illegal drugs. All possible types of use of this substance in the scientific, recreational or medical purposes were forbidden in the USA in 1985 and in Great Britain in 1986. The Schedule I was created, known to unite the substances with a high potential of abuse and a lack of medical usefulness. It also included such substances as heroin, LSD, MDA.

I think, the USA made efforts in fighting against the production of drugs outside the country. In particular, the American help given to the authorities of Colombia greatly increased which could considerably reduce cocaine outputs. Similar efforts were undertaken in South East Asia and in Afghanistan but the success there was much more modest. Nowadays, the narcotic market of the USA supervises the Mexican and Colombian criminal groups.

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