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May or June 1971

The release in May 1971 of a special Congressional study, The World Heroin Problem, proved explosive, particularly for its findings related to drug use by American servicemen in South Vietnam. Congressmen Morgan Murphy (D-Il) and Robert Steele (R-CT) estimated that “10 to 15 percent of all U.S. troops currently in South Vietnam are addicted to heroin in one form or another” and that five to ten percent injected it while the rest smoked or sniffed it. The report also found that as many as one quarter of the men in some units were addicted, many of them within the first 30 days of arriving in country. The report’s authors noted that “the drug culture in the Armed Forces reflects American society as a whole.”

This report likely influenced the actions that the Nixon Administration took to deal with America’s growing drug problem. At a June 1 press conference, the President described the problem of drug addiction in Vietnam as “not simply a problem of Vietnam veterans. It’s a national problem.” Later that month, his announcement of a “War on Drugs” included plans to test and rehabilitate servicemen in South Vietnam and upon their return to the United States.


GIs, Drug Addiction, War in Vietnam, Heroin


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