High Times, April 1984, "Highwitness News," pp. 19 & 27
Fed Dope Bureau Censors Drug Info
NIDA Director Purges Objective Materials As 'Outdated'
[photo caption:] NIDA director Dr. William Pollin
WASHINGTON, D.C. - "Can Drug Abuse Be Prevented In The Black Community?" "Drug Abuse Prevention for Older Americans." "Why Evaluate Drug Education?" "Neonatal Narcotic Dependence." "Diagnosis and Treatment of Adverse Reactions to Sedative-Hypnotics."
These are just a few of the resolutely uninteresting government documents which Dr. William Pollin, administrator of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, managed to render instantly fascinating last autumn - by the simple expedient of banning them forever from circulation, and urging that they be "purged" so thoroughly from libraries that no one henceforward would know they had ever existed.
"I strongly suggest that you purge your collection of these old materials," Dr. Pollin admonished librarians all over the country last year, in a circular letter that went out from NIDA headquarters in Rockville, Maryland. "These old materials" comprised 62 titles published by NIDA over just the last 12 years; half of them were, in fact, published within the last five years. All were officially classed as "Outdated or Scientifically Inaccurate," and librarians were openly summoned to expunge them from their card catalogs.
While most of the banned titles were admittedly of dubious worth to anyone except devoted drug-abuse historians, a dozen of them - numbered inconspicuously in the very midst of this boring index prohibitorum - were quite special indeed. These were the dozen titles compiled for NIDA in the early '70s by STASH, the Student Association for the Study of Hallucinogens, in Wisconsin. Leif Zerkin of STASH, who is currently the editor of the ultra-academic Journal of Psychotropic Drugs, oversaw the compiling of these booklets for NIDA between 1972 and 1974. Many of them deal with hallucinogenic drugs such as psilocybin, MDA, DOM/STP, PCP and so on. "You can't very well call them outdated," Zerkin tells High Times. "The government hasn't allowed any research with any of these drugs since the 1960s, so the information can't possibly be out of date."
In fact, the purge of STASH literature from the NIDA archives - its permanent erasure from the government record - is plain censorship. The STASH booklets merely describe the effects of the drugs under review, and the medical consequences of their misuse, in a scientific, nonjudgmental fashion. This material is cur-
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NIDA Chief Censors Drugs Literature
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rently being replaced in NIDA's inventory by strident, pseudoscientific "drug prevention" material tailored to the dogmatic anti-drug ideology of the Reagan administration. If such garbage is to float at all, it'll be necessary for NIDA to permanently suppress any genuine scientific information about drugs, and keep it suppressed forever.
"Pulling these titles reminds me of George Orwell's 1984, where they changed history by going back and pulling things out," Dr. Ruth Engs of Indiana University told Pollin at a drug-abuse conference after his hit list was circulated. "I'm disturbed as a professor, because I think having librarians take these off the shelves is censorship. We should look at them for their historical value."
Dr. Don Otternburg of Pennsylvania also voiced concern: "What a lot of us are feeling is that a decision was made to try to rewrite history," he told Pollin. "When you start messing around with what's in the library, the issue has to do with far more than drug abuse." Connecticut drug-abuse chief Donald McConnell asked Pollin exactly who had drawn up the book-burning list, and why, but got no concrete answers.
"Clearly this could have been more appropriately worded," Pollin temporized. However, "failure to actively disown some earlier publications" had put NIDA in "some very unfortunate circumstances," he confessed. In fact, NIDA has repeatedly been charged with "promoting drug abuse among youth" by activists for the National Federation of Parents for Drug-Free Youth - a cryptoconservative Capitol Hill political pressure group which lobbies for right-wing legislation in the guise of "drug prevention." The National Federation receives copious federal funding to generate its own strident drug-prevention literature, and it's this literature which will shortly supplant the STASH titles as the government's official word on hallucinogens.
Pollin was called "a man of our times" (the time being, in fact, 1984) by his superior, William Mayer of the Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Health Administration, for his censor list. The purge of 1970s NIDA titles had to be undertaken, Mayer says, because back then there existed "people who worked for NIDA who were actually advocating normalizations involved with marijuana laws."
This snide allusion was obviously to the much-missed founding administrator of NIDA, Dr. Robert DuPont. Dr. DuPont was a vocal supporter of marijuana decriminalization and a frequent fixture at meetings of NORML, before his forced resignation in 1978. Dr. DuPont is currently chairman at a Washington drug lobby called the National Council on Drug Education.