In 1973 President Richard Nixon created the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) claiming there was a junkie explosion with eight times as many heroin addicts as two years earlier (a lie), and that drugs were “decimating a generation of Americans.” At the time, far more Americans were dying from choking on food or falling down stairs. (Baum, pp. 12, 28)
In reality, Nixon saw the DEA as a jurisdiction-free police force that would indirectly target blacks saying, “You have to face the fact that the whole problem is really the blacks. The key is to devise a system that recognizes this all while not appearing to.” (Baum, p. 13)
An assistant to Egil Krogh, a member of Nixon’s administration imprisoned in the Watergate scandal, explained, “If we hyped the drug problem into a national crisis, we knew that Congress would give us anything we asked for.” (Epstein, p. 140)
While president, Nixon would get drunk and pop pills from his private stash. He never had himself arrested.
Nixon’s statistical deceit regarding heroin addict numbers is explained in Agency of Fear: Opiates and Political Power in America. (pp. 174-177) When Nixon later wanted to show his War on Drugs was working the addict population was magically sliced by 25%.
The Nixon quotes are from Dan Baum’s Smoke and Mirrors: The War on Drugs and the Politics of Failure. Baum took the “blacks” quote from the diary of Nixon’s Chief of Staff, H.R. Haldeman. Another quote in Haldeman’s diary was that Nixon wanted to know “why all the Jews seem to be the ones that are for liberalizing the regulations on marijuana.” (p. 54)
Nixon’s generous use of drugs – prescribed and not prescribed (Dilantin) – and alcohol is detailed in Anthony Summers’ The Arrogance of Power: The Secret World of Richard Nixon.
* This post was updated on May 30, 2012.
1. Robert Arthur, You Will Die: The Burden of Modern Taboos (2008).
2. Dan Baum, Smoke and Mirrors: The War on Drugs and the Politics of Failure (1996).
3. Edward Jay Epstein, Agency of Fear: Opiates and Political Power in America (1977).
4. Anthony Summers, The Arrogance of Power: The Secret World of Richard Nixon (2000).