Charles B. Towns in the Atlanta Constitution, January 13, 1917

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Here is an editorial that appeared in the Atlanta Constitution editorial page on January 13, 1917 regarding “The Drug Problem.”

The article was written in response to a pamphlet written by Charles B. Towns regarding the “Federal Responsibility in the Solution of Habit-Forming Drug Problem.” The drug-addict was pictured as a victim. If was to be involuntarily to be separated from his drug without treatment, he was to be pitied. Note that the opinions of the times reflected the belief that the addict was involuntarily introduced to his addiction and that, in reality, he was begging to be relieved of his affliction.

Recognize also that Towns correctly identified that the illegal drug problem was borderless. Unless an international solution could be reached that would prohibit narcotic production internationally, the problem would remain unsolvable. In this case, Towns clearly perceived the future of the illegal drug industry and how, despite government efforts, the industry of drug smuggling would resist all efforts to combat it.

The Atlanta Constitution, January 13, 1917, Page 4, Editorial Page


“Federal Responsibility in the Solution of the Habit-Forming Drug Problem” is stressed in a recent pamphlet, by Charles B. Towns, of New York City.

The subject is considered “in its medical, pharmacal and sociological phases, as well as its state, national and international aspects, and the inadequacy of existing laws” dealing with it is pointed out.

The author says that he has “seen the various drug evils evolve and grow from small beginnings to their present gigantic proportions” until now when “an army of drug-takers” in the United States appeals to humanity for help.

It is maintained that the practical results of the operation of the Harrison narcotic law have shown convincingly that those responsible for the act were not familiar with the psychology of the drug addict, and that the key to the situation is in the legal and illegal channels through which he gets his drug.

The author of this notable pamphlet on federal responsibility in the drug problem sums up as follows:

“As a conclusion on this whole matter, I renew my suggestion that Congress empower the President to appoint a committee of able men to investigate this whole subject in all its phases, making such appropriation for this purpose as in the wisdom of Congress may be necessary. Such action of Congress would mean not only a solution of this subject as far as the Federal Government is concerned, it would mean also a solution for the States. And it would establish a legislative medical and sociological precedent that would give to this country for the first time the primacy it ought to have in asking other countries to join with us once and for all in terminating this evil—an evil which now has become not merely a series of isolated national problems but a united world problem.”

The point is well taken that Federal solution of the drug problem in the manner recommended would mean also a solution for the States.

While giving the Harrison law full credit for the good it has accomplished, The Constitution has time and again stressed the fact that it does not go far enough, and in this connection it is noteworthy that among the proposed amendments to the law is one of the United States commissioner of Internal Revenue, “that some provision be made for the treatment, either by the public health service or such other agency as may be designated of indigent persons unfortunately addicted the use of these drugs, where the operation of the law brings about conditions necessitating such treatment.”

If the law succeeds in preventing the drug addict from procuring his drug, he is in a pitiable plight, indeed, outside of an institution where he could find relief for his craving for it through proper treatment.

And there is an indigent army of them!

14 Responses to "Charles B. Towns in the Atlanta Constitution, January 13, 1917"
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  4. Thank you so much. Charles Towns is a complete mystery to people outside of recovery. But he’s almost a complete unknown within recovery as well. People don’t realize that he was the go-to guy nationally for narcotic addiction. The book can now be purchased through Westwood Books.using this link. It costs much less than what you can get on Amazon or through

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    • gary says:

      Thank you very much. As you might see in another reply I’ve made today, Charles Towns was one remarkable personality. Few have ever accomplished as much as he did with just an 8th grade education. Just over the weekend I found a paper that Towns presented to the Alienists and Neurologists of American in 1917. (An “Alienist” is not science fiction, it was a term for psychiatrist 100 years ago). There were all sorts of naive assertions being made about many subjects during the Woodrow Wilson era, but many of them don’t get publicity since World War I dwarfed many other news stories.

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    • gary says:

      I have underutilized this blog, which was designed professionally for me. Thank you very much for the kind remarks. Charles Towns is a remarkable story. He had tremendous strengths, but sometimes even worse weaknesses. I’m going to be updating this blog with information regarding some of his weaknesses. By viewing him, however, we may get revelations on events taking place in current events.

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