Alcoholism Research Paper

Submitted By amendris
Words: 3631
Pages: 15

By the mid-19th century, alcoholism was a rampant epidemic in the working-class population (1). It afflicted sweeping portions of the male working class, many of whom were recent immigrants, crushed by the false promises of their new homeland and struggling to feed their families. This vice had a rippling effect on the families of these men, perpetuating the cycle of poverty in homes where the breadwinner drank his merger salary away. An even worse result of the drinking problem was the extensive domestic violence, a socially acceptable occurrence in these downtrodden communities.
These factors lead the consumption of alcoholic beverages to be a controversial social issue of the era. In the late 1800’s, a political movement known as the Temperance movement arose, lead largely by women who had experienced life in a household with an alcoholic and sponsored by many different sectors of the Christian church(2). In the tail end of the century, the temperance movement eventually influenced the introduction of formal drug education into the public school system. Although this education was mainly alcohol-focused, they also spoke out against the use of other intoxicants, including tobacco and opium. (3)
The temperance movement had their great victory in 1920, when the 18th amendment legitimized the prohibition of alcoholic beverages (4). While this furthered anti-alcohol education both in schools and the community, it led to the rise of organized crime. Infamous criminals like Al Capone saw opportunity in this new regulation, and so he and others like him smuggled large quantities of alcohol and opened illegal bars. These establishments were commonly known as “speakeasies”, because a password was traditionally required to gain admittance. It was clear that, rather than preventing criminal behavior, the 18th amendment helped to create a thriving underworld, similar to the one that exists in our modern era due to the prohibition of various narcotics.
Prohibition came to an end in 1933, with the addition of the 19th amendment to the constitution. This led to a decline in the popularity of pro-abstinence education in the school system. However, in the thirties, a new “devil” was waiting to devour the youth of America. This dastardly threat to the young people of our nation was Marijuana, which is derived from the buds of an at-the-time common wild plant. The hemp plant had for centuries been cultivated and utilized for multiple purposes, including spiritual ceremonies, by the Native Americans who previously occupied the land(5). However, the uses of this plant were not solely psychotropic. One product that could be derived from the hemp plant was a low-cost, high-quality paper.
This was disastrous news for a man named William Randolph Hearst, a media mogul who, in addition to owning and managing some of the most popular newspapers of the time, also owned a lumber company known as The Hearst Corporation(6). Using his control of the media, Hearst ran a smear campaign with the intention of initiating the prohibition of hemp production. The innocuous little plant had one flaw that would prevent it from ever being fully utilized; its buds contain a naturally-occurring compound known as THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol). When heated and ingested, THC produces a relaxing and mildly psychoactive effect on the human body. Hearst did not get where he was by being an unintelligent man; he knew that, if he could use his position as the head of one of the most popular newspapers (which, because it was harder for common people to investigate the validity of what was being printed at the time, was full of blatant racism and practically spearheaded the rise of yellow journalism) to convince the population that the intoxicating effects of THC were a danger to society, he could illegalize the cultivation and mass farming of hemp plants. In accomplishing this, he would save his stock in the lumber-based paper industry by