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Important US Acts Governing Drugs and Substance Abuse

There have been a number of important Acts in the United States that have sought to regulate and control the use of narcotic substances. The first official Act in this regard was passed more than a century ago, but local and state laws concerning the use and sale of alcohol and some drugs have permeated American history. The following are six Acts that were successfully passed in an effort to control drug use in this country:

Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906

The Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 required labeling of most consumable products. Prior to this act medicines and food items could be sold with no labeling – including products made with cocaine, heroin, morphine and other opiates. However, it was still legal to possess these drugs and medicines containing them were available without a prescription.

Harrison Act of 1914

This Act sought to rein in control of tax revenue from the sale of drugs like cocaine and heroin. Sellers of these drugs were required to obtain a license in order to do so, but licensing organizations were reluctant to grant them and eventually stopped providing them altogether. This effectively made possession of these drugs illegal-by-proxy.

Marijuana Tax Act 1937

Although it’s not clear why, the federal government began to make strong moves against marijuana in 1936. This included a worldwide campaign aimed at pressuring other governments into taking similar action, and a propaganda campaign in the States featuring inaccurate claims about marijuana in brochures, flyers, commercials and even films like Reefer Madness.

Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act of 1938

Prior to this Act drugs were marketed and sold all over the country with very little regulation as to their safety and effectiveness. The Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act was passed to correct this problem by requiring trials and other safety and control methods designed to prevent illness and death as a result of taking medications, ingesting food or using cosmetics.

Comprehensive Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Prevention, Treatment and Rehabilitation Act of 1970

This Act was passed in response to America’s growing problem with alcohol. The Act sought to establish community support and treatment for alcoholics, among a number of other provisions designed to help problem drinkers:

“(2) the development of methods for diverting problem drinkers from criminal justice systems into prevention and treatment programs;

(3) the development and encouragement of prevention programs designed to combat the spread of alcoholism, alcohol abuse, and abuse of other legal and illegal drugs;” (1)

Anti Drug Abuse Act of 1986

This was a particularly aggressive Act passed under the Regan administration. This Act penalized nations that did not cooperate with the US War on Drugs, made it easier for offenders to lose their property and belongings if involved in drug trafficking, and reinstated mandatory minimum sentences for drugs crimes that had been repealed under the CAAAPTR Act of 1970.

A lot has changed since 1986 and a number of recent Acts have passed that have relaxed or eliminated mandatory sentences and made federal funding for treatment more widely available, But if you’re struggling with a drug problem right now, all the laws in the world can’t save you – only you can, and the way to start is by picking up the phone and calling the number at the top of your screen now. We can help you save your own life, but we can’t do anything if you don’t call.

(1) US House Code 42 USC CHAPTER 60 – COMPREHENSIVE ALCOHOL ABUSE AND ALCOHOLISM PREVENTION, TREATMENT, AND REHABILITATION PROGRAM 01/03/2012 (112-90)
http://uscode.house.gov/download/pls/42C60.txt
Accessed 06/13/2012

About The Contributor
The editorial staff of Recovery First is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers. Our editors and medical reviewers have over a decade of cumulative experience in medical content editing and have reviewed thousands... Read More