Carl Mays: The illegal drug problem is far from new

Jun. 05, 2014 @ 01:29 PM

A few days ago I was telling The Mountain Press Community News Editor Kenneth Burns about some of my earlier columns in the 1970s and 1980s before my current series began in the late 1990s. (Yes, I’ll have to admit, I was a mere babe when I began.) One series was titled “Stories from the Smokies.”

The other series was “In Dialogue with Youth.” It sprang from the Creative Learning Labs I led weekly for Sevier County youth. Telling Kenneth about this series stirred my curiosity, so I pulled out a folder of clipped columns. The columns came from taped sessions in which the youth and I discussed various topics. The names printed were not their actual names. The first column I pulled ran in the Nov. 8, 1973, edition of the old Gatlinburg Press and Sevier County News-Record, forerunner of The Mountain Press. An edited version of that lengthy column appears below.

Carl: When did you first get into drugs? Sammy: ‘Bout two years ago. Carl: And you got out of the drug hospital last week? Sammy: Yeah. Jan: Are you cured now? Sammy: I don’t know. I haven’t had anything since I’ve been out, if that’s what you mean. Jack: You said earlier you started with marijuana. Then you said you progressed to the harder stuff. Does that mean you think marijuana is habit-forming? Does it lead to the LSD, heroin, and other things you mentioned?

Sammy: No, not really. I don’t think it’s habit-forming? I mean, I think a person can stop when he wants to. He can blow a little or a lot without getting hooked. The thing is though, I got to where I didn’t want to stop, even though I knew I could. Jan: I don’t understand saying you don’t get hooked, that’s it’s not habit-forming, and then saying you didn’t want to stop.

Sammy: Well, let’s say it’s kind of like salty peanuts. You’re watching a movie on TV and you’re munching on the peanuts, enjoying them. You don’t have to keep on, but you like them so much. Pete: Yeah, like people getting hooked on junk food and not wanting to quit even though they know they’re getting fatter. Jack: Did the marijuana really make you feel good? Sammy: Yeah, it did. Covers your mind and takes the sharp edge off things. Enough can dim any problems or hang-ups you might have,

Carl: So actually you used it to escape reality – or at least dull the blows of reality? Sammy: Yeah. Jan: Why did you get on the harder stuff? Didn’t marijuana get the job done? Sammy: I didn’t really get into marijuana to escape reality to start with. I did it to see what it was like. I’d heard so much about it. I wanted to find out for myself. After I started, that’s when I found the escape and dullness. Jan: What about the harder stuff? Sammy: Same thing. I was curious. I heard pills could pick you up when needed and take you down when needed.

Jack: Then you experimented with LSD? Sammy: Sometimes I mixed it. That’s what put me in the hospital. A couple of doctors thought I was dead. It was the pills and acid together. Jan: What about your friends? The ones that influenced you into this? Sammy: The night we mixed, one of them did die and one went blind. The other three of us got sick, started throwing up our guts and everything.

The dialogue continues, and then Carl wraps it up with: And so, Sammy, what can help steer people away from what you went through? Sammy: The best thing I could suggest is that people help people get turned on to life through something other than drugs.

© 2014 by Carl Mays, National Speakers Association Hall of Fame member and author of over a dozen books. Email or visit