Young Danny had an abscessed ear, and to ease the pain a doctor in St. Joseph, Missouri gave him morphine. Danny had been an insecure, troubled child longer than he could remember, both his mother & father died before he was five. At 16, Danny knew nothing about psychology, but he knew that the "shot" gave him a lift. From a peddler he got morphine regularly for six months: then he lost his contact and could get no more. He became weak, nauseated, sweaty, shaky and depressed. Danny was sent to a state hospital.
"No Such Thing as a Cure." Danny learned a lot in the hospital. Veteran gowsters taught him how to get a ration of white stuff. When he got out, Danny did not go home. He bummed around the country, doing odd jobs, lying, stealing, forging prescriptions - anything for a bang. Time & again he was picked up and convicted, usually to serve his sentence in the U.S. Public Health Service's hospital for narcotics addicts at Lexington, Ky. "They can withdraw you" says Danny, "but there is no such thing as a cure. You just have to stay away from the stuff."
Between terms, when Danny seemed to be away from the habit, he got married. Before the baby was a year old, Danny was shot up again. When his wife left him he tried to commit suicide. And so back to Lexington.
Eleven out of 80. Last week, Danny stood up in a Y.M.C.A. auditorium in Manhattan and told what had happened to him during his last stint at Lexington, and how this might help other victims. Danny had started listening to members of Alcoholics Anonymous. "It seemed religious," he says, "and like most addicts I didn't care anything about God. It might work for those drunks but not for us. But after a while I began to feel that this group had the answer." Danny studied the A.A. code, saw how it could be applied to discharged dope victims, and founded Narcotics Anonymous.
Now, on the first anniversary of Narcotics Anonymous, Danny could report on about 80 addicts who had tried mutual-aid, group therapy. Six had stayed drug-free for a year of more, five more have been free for a shorter time. Ten are known to have slipped back into the habit; so, probably, have most of the 60 who cannot be traced.
Numerically, it was a small beginning. But the group in Manhattan (and others being formed in Chicago, Los Angeles and Vancouver) offered new hope to men who had suffered the agonies of withdrawal at Lexington or at the similar P.H.S. hospital at Fort Worth, only to fall into the habit again.* Says Danny, whose downfall began with an earache 25 years ago: "I've been a burden to the Government most of my life. Now I can repay my debt."