Jul 7

Let’s Talk about Goofballs and Pep Pills

Thursday, July 7, 2016 12:01 AM

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Facing a rising epidemic of drug abuse in the 1960s, the U.S. Navy responded forcefully and dramatically. In addition to opening treatment and rehabilitation centers — even one on a converted barracks ship in Vietnam — the Bureau of Naval Personnel (NavPers) produced a variety of informational pamphlets to combat the terrible toll drug use and addiction were having on service members.

Some of these booklets have found their way into the Naval Institute’s archive, and a selection are shown in this post.

U.S. Naval Institute

U.S. Naval Institute

Let’s Talk about Goofballs and Pep Pills (Including Tranquilizers and LSD) by Lindsay R. Curtis, M.D. was published by NavPers in 1967. This booklet details the physical and psychotropic effects of these types of drugs and features illustrations by Dean Hurst.

This was soon followed that year by Dr. Curtis’ Glue- Sniffing: Big Trouble in a Tube, illustrated by Paul Farber.

U.S. Naval Institute

U.S. Naval Institute

Other parts of the series like LSD: Trip or Trap? arrived in 1968.

U.S. Naval Institute

U.S. Naval Institute

Service members also had access to other agencies’ publications like the Department of Health, Education and Welfare’s Marihuana: Some Questions and Answers from 1969.

U.S. Naval Institute

U.S. Naval Institute

Though a 1972 amnesty program allowed service members to seek treatment and rehabilitation for their drug addictions, by the late 1970s the Navy took a much harder stance on drug use. This intolerance intensified after a May 1981 mishap and fire on USS Nimitz (CVN-68) killed 14 sailors; drugs were said to be a contributing factor in the accident. The investigation prompted Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Admiral Thomas Hayward to enact a new drug-screening program. The new Zero-Tolerance policy towards drugs came with a new message, “Not on my watch, not on my ship, not in my navy.” The slogan found its way to posters aboard ship, like the one seen below.

U.S. Naval Institute

U.S. Naval Institute

One may look back on these somewhat campy efforts now with more than a little bemusement, they belied a very serious need to explain, inform, and combat the deadly serious concern of drug addiction which had never before taken such national precedence. The costs of addictions and drug abuse are measured in lives and ruined families, and mental health and drug abuse are issues that can be addressed in their entirely, and certainly not by slogans and informational booklets alone. But over the years sailors and civilians alike have stood up to educate, inform, and raise awareness of the scourge of drug abuse and to aid those caught in the grips of its deadly effects.

U.S. Naval Institute

A huge crowd participates in an anti-drug march at the USS Okinawa (LPH-3) in San Diego, ca. 1986. U.S. Naval Institute