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Dealing with Drug Abuse

A Report to the Ford Foundation


by McGeorge Bundy


This report grew out of an effort by the Ford Foundation to understand the massive and complex problem of drug abuse in the United States and to determine the most effective ways in which the Foundation might contribute to efforts to deal with the problem.

Like many institutions working in such fields as education and poverty, we encountered the growing blight of drug abuse increasingly in the 1960's. The Foundation made a number of grants to projects that dealt with drug abuse as an aspect of a larger problem, as in work with high school students, faculty, and parents to understand and overcome the alienation of youth. As drug abuse increased, however, the Foundation considered whether it might undertake a larger program. The study that led to this report, undertaken in mid-1970, was the first step in that consideration.

The second important step was to join with three other foundations that have shared our concern with drug abuse-the Carnegie Corporation, the Commonwealth Fund, and the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation-in financing one of the principal recommendations of the report, namely, the establishment of an independent national Drug Abuse Council. The four foundations have now committed substantial funds for the first several years of the Council's work.

The functions of the Drug Abuse Council will include:

Details of the Council's composition and plans are expected to be announced shortly after this manuscript goes to press.

The report leading to the establishment of the Council-the work of an outstanding independent task force of lawyers, scientists, and other investigators-identified four major problem areas in the drug-abuse field: heroin addiction in urban ghettoes; drug experimentation by the young; overuse of legal stimulants and tranquilizers; and the use of drugs to control deviant behavior, especially among children.

The task-force report was intended principally for the Ford Foundation's guidance. Yet, the scope and quality of the work were such that the Foundation shared the first draft, in December, 1970, with legal, scientific, and governmental authorities active in efforts to control and prevent drug abuse. The reaction to the report was strongly affirmative. The report was praised for its thorough, clear, and sober analysis, and a number of authorities urged the Foundation to make it available to a wider audience. Accordingly, the Foundation asked the staff of the developing Drug Abuse Council. to bring up to date those sections dealing with aspects of the problem in which there had been substantial change since the first draft was prepared. We believe that this revised, expanded, and updated report is both a forerunner and the first product of the Drug Abuse Council. As such, we believe it is a promising harbinger of other contributions the Council may make, both in understanding this spreading danger to American society and in helping to curb it.

We hope that the report will be useful to the public at large as well as to specialists, for the drug-abuse problem is so broad and complex that effective efforts to overcome it will demand the understanding and support of as many Americans as possible.


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