Heroin Addiction Treatment Help-Line: 1-866-851-1619
Heroin: The Great Depression and World War II

With established smuggling pipelines and a comprehensive heroin distribution system in place in American cities, dealers began doing a brisk heroin business in the early 1930s. They likely would have expanded their sales substantially throughout the decade if the Great Depression—a worldwide economic slump—hadn't interrupted their plans. The economic hardship of the depression postponed further spread of heroin use in the inner city, since money for the purchase of the drug was largely unobtainable by any means.

Further, World War II brought international drug traffic to a complete halt. McCoy explains: Wartime border security measures and a shortage of ordinary commercial shipping made it nearly impossible for traffickers to smuggle heroin into the United States. Distributors augmented dwindling supplies by "cutting" [mixing] heroin with increasingly greater proportions of sugar or quinine; while most packets of heroin sold in the United States [in 1938] were 28 percent pure, only three years later they were less than 3 percent pure. As a result of all this, many American addicts were forced to undergo involuntary withdrawal from their habits, and by the end of World War II the American addict population had dropped to less than twenty thousand. In fact, as the war drew to a close, there was every reason to believe that the scourge of heroin had finally been purged from the United States. By the time the war ended in 1945, consumer demand for the drug was the lowest it had been in fifty years. Supplies were nonexistent, and international criminal syndicates had fallen into disarray.

Within several years, however, criminal syndicates had regrouped, the poppy fields had begun to flourish once again in Southeast Asia, and new heroin refineries began to appear both in Marseilles and Hong Kong. In the United States, the heroin trade quickly and quietly resumed as the Mafia, still led by Lucky Luciano, flooded the American inner city with inexpensive, high-purity heroin. Despite their forced withdrawal during the war, America's addicts quickly resumed their use of the drug, and the estimated twentythousand active addicts at the war's close in 1945 nearly tripled by the decade's end.

This abundance of heroin in the streets of the destitute inner city after the war also created new addicts among the influx of primarily minority and immigrant workers who had flooded there in search of employment during the war. Author Jara A. Krivanek notes that heroin was introduced by longtime users to the African-American and Puerto Rican communities who had come to the cities looking for work: Like all new immigrants, they worked at the lowest economic levels, settled in slum neighborhoods, and endured unemployment, poverty and discrimination. From 1947 to 1951 the use of heroin spread steadily among these and other lower class, slum-dwelling people. . . . The increase was gradual, and did not attract much attention. Most of the users were in their twenties and thirties. By the mid-1950s, heroin abuse began to spread to the teenagers of the inner city and was particularly popular among street gangs.

Unlike many of the drug's older users, whose wartime jobs had provided them with the skills needed to obtain gainful employment after the war, these teens relied for the most part on crime to support their habits. As a result, the crime rate and associated arrests in the inner city began to rise, and the nation's assumptions that the drug could affect only the inner-city poor were further reinforced.

  • heroin overdose deaths on the rise
  • BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Police and doctors believe a local resurgence ...

  • Read More...
  • Man Gets Prison Time For Selling Sugar As Heroin
  • LEBANON, Pa. -- A Lebanon County man was stunned Wednesday ...

  • Read More...
  • Heroin Problem Is Not New To Drug Culture Insiders
  • It has been in the headlines. Last month three Newtown ...

  • Read More...
  • Cops bust heroin dealers
  • JEWETT CITY -- Borough warden Cynthia Kata readily admits she ...

  • Read More...
  • Man sentenced on heroin charge
  • Darryl Winkfield was just looking for someone to give him ...

  • Read More...
  • Pakistan warns of surging heroin supply
  • ISLAMABAD : A senior Pakistan official on Monday claimed that ...

  • Read More...
  • Cops: Heroin, cocaine seized in 2 busts
  • In separate drug busts, Jersey City East and West District ...

  • Read More...
 Fugitive accused of driving with kids in car after taking cocaine.
MIDDLESEX COUNTY,New Jersey —A man charged with child endangerment and possession of cocaine after allegedly ...
 WC meth lab busted
On Saturday, July 19, 2008, Washington County Sheriff’s Office deputies and investigators, as part of ...
 Home meth lab explodes
BROKEN ARROW - Two Broken Arrowans have been arrested in connection with the fire; a ...
 Indictments returned against neighborhood’s meth-making suspects
A Palo Pinto County Grand Jury indicted 10 individuals Wednesday on 10 charges, including five ...
 Couple in prison for meth lab
CASSOPOLIS - Two methamphetamine lab operators were put behind prison bars on Friday morning in ...
 Young man stole stereos to pay for his methadone habit
SOMERSWORTH - The thought of getting arrested for shoplifting didnt enter 22-year-old Chriss mind when ...
 Front line in the fight against heroin addiction
SEABROOK - Paramedic Kevin Janvrin has found them parked in cars outside local stores, in ...
 Escaping the clutches of heroin addiction
SOMERSWORTH - Terri Provencher, a 39-year-old mother and recovering heroin addict from Seabrook, has tried ...
 Drugs Heroin
Mexico Drug Growers Switching to Heroin Monday April 21, 2003 6:49 AM TLAPA DE COMONFORT, Mexico ...
 Parents confront heroin nightmare
By David Wecker Post staff reporter In an extraordinary meeting marked with heated accusations, frustration and ...
 Heroin Addiction
She was the hardest worker they knew. Melissa Lockovitch toiled the 2-10 p.m. shift as ...
 DEA Dismantels Heroin Traffic
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - Guillermo Gil, U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico ...