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G.I.s’ Drug Use in Vietnam Soared—With Their Commanders’ Help

Substance abuse in the Vietnam War wasn’t just limited to the marijuana and heroin enlistees could buy on the black market. Military commanders also heavily prescribed pills to help improve soldiers’ performance.

Armed servicemen of the Vietnam War used drugs more heavily than any previous generation of enlisted U.S. troops. From heroin to amphetamines to marijuana, drugs were so commonplace among the troops that, in 1970, liaison to the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Egil Krogh told President Richard Nixon “you don’t have a drug problem in Vietnam; you have a condition. Problems are things we can get right on and solve.”

What drugs did soldiers use in the Vietnam War? According to a 1971 report by the Department of Defense, 51 percent of the armed forces had smoked marijuana, 31 percent had used psychedelics, such as LSD, mescaline and psilocybin mushrooms, and an additional 28 percent had taken hard drugs, such as cocaine and heroin. But drug usage wasn’t just limited by what enlistees could illicitly buy on the black market. Their military command also heavily prescribed pills to the troops under the auspices of improving performance… read more >

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