Treating America’s Opioid Addiction

Part 1: The Narcotic Farm and the Promise of Salvation.

Treating America’s Opioid Addiction: Part 1: The Narcotic Farm and the Promise of Salvation by Distillations: Science + Culture + History

Our current devastating opioid crisis is unprecedented in its reach and deadliness, but it’s not the first such epidemic the United States has experienced or tried to treat. In fact, it’s the third. 

Treating America’s Opioid Addiction is a three-part series that investigates how we’ve understood and treated opioid addiction over more than a century. Through the years we’ve categorized opioid addiction as some combination of a moral failure, a mental illness, a biological disease, or a crime. And though we’ve desperately wanted the problem to be something science alone can solve, the more we look, the more complicated we learn it is. 

Part 1  focuses on a government-run prison-hospital, the Narcotic Farm, just for people addicted to opioids. When it opened in 1935, it promised to find a cure for drug addiction. 

Credits

Hosts: Alexis Pedrick and Elisabeth Berry Drago
Reporter: Mariel Carr with additional reporting by Meir Rinde
Senior ProducerMariel Carr
ProducerRigoberto Hernandez
Audio Engineer: James Morrison 
Photo illustration by
Jay Muhlin

Music

Our theme music was composed by Zach Young. 
Additional music courtesy of the Audio Network

Research Notes

Interviews:

Claire Clark, author of The Recovery Revolution: The Battle Over Addiction Treatment in the United States
Nancy Campbell, historian and the head of Science and Technology Studies at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
John Stallone, former Narcotic Farm patient.

Sources: 

Claire Clark, The Recovery Revolution: The Battle Over Addiction Treatment in the United States
The Habit, Opioid Addiction in AmericaBackstory.  
Inside the Story of America’s 19th-Century Opiate Addiction, Smithsonian Magazine

Films: 

The Distant Drummer: Flower of Darkness 
The Distant Drummer: Bridge From No Place
The Narcotic Farm