Prevention of narcotics offences


The Federal Criminal Bureau, Wiesbaden, held a conference on "The Prevention of Narcotics Offences" from 21 to 26 November 1955. Invitations to the conference were sent to representatives of all districts engaged either in the prevention of narcotic offences (Special Duty Officers of the Criminal Department) or in the supervision of the legal trade in drugs (Federal Opium Bureau, Boards of Health).


Author: Dr. H. Danner
Pages: 35 to 37
Creation Date: 1958/01/01

Prevention of narcotics offences

Dr. H. Danner
Regierungsdirektor, Ministry of Interior, Federal Republic of Germany

The Federal Criminal Bureau, Wiesbaden, held a conference on "The Prevention of Narcotics Offences" from 21 to 26 November 1955. Invitations to the conference were sent to representatives of all districts engaged either in the prevention of narcotic offences (Special Duty Officers of the Criminal Department) or in the supervision of the legal trade in drugs (Federal Opium Bureau, Boards of Health).

Statements dealing with the whole problem of narcotics traffic and addiction were delivered by experts in each of the various aspects. These statements have been published by the Federal Criminal Bureau in a volume with the title "Bekämpfung von Rauschgiftdelikten" * (Fight against Narcotics Offences). They are summarized below.

In his introductory paper, Dr. Niggemeyer (Regierungsdirektor in the Federal Criminal Bureau) refers briefly to the nexus of problems bound up with drug addiction and the criminal offences to which it gives rise. He lays special stress on prevention- i.e., protection of the citizen against addiction- and goes on to point out that what is wanted is not so much fresh legislation as the full enforcement of existing possibilities. The prevention of narcotics addiction spells the prevention of crime. The strict observance of the regulations for the prescription and supply of narcotics, as contained in the German opium law, impedes the spread of addiction and so of a grave danger to the life of the individual citizen, a danger which the latter is unable to recognize. It also safeguards the State against serious social evils.

Mr. Leichtweiss (Kriminalrat in the Federal Criminal Bureau) offers a historical survey of the use of narcotics for religious and medical purposes from the earliest times. He states that narcotics were used to cause or prevent certain physical conditions (to increase energy, or overcome hunger, thirst or fatigue).

Particular mention is made of the historical development of the enjoyment and use of opium, hashish and coca leaves.

  1. The use of opium as an analgesic drug was known to the Sumerians from about 3000 B.C. onwards. The smoking of opium (with or without tobacco) was introduced in the seventeenth century.

  2. Hashish was also known in the pre-Christian era in Mesopotamia as a vehicle of visionary dreams. Its medical use is not mentioned. Indian hemp first reached South and Central America in 1545, and became known there as a narcotic under the name of marihuana.

  3. Cocaine leaves were used by the Incas as a stimulant in prehistoric times.

Bekämpfung von Rauschgiftdelikten; Bundeskriminalamt, Wiesbaden, 1956, 200 pp.

Among narcotics - e.g., betel and peyotl - reference is made to "wake-amine ".

In his last paragraph, the author quotes from Baudelaire's Les paradis artificiels :

"Were there a Government minded to destroy its subjects, it would only need to encourage them to take to hashish" and he continues:

"We can go further and say without any exaggeration that a Government exposes its people to the gravest dangers if it does not do its utmost to check the abuse of narcotics or at least to restrict it to an unavoidable minimum."

Dr. A. Spaich (Board of Health, Stuttgart) takes for his theme "The Task of the Board of Health in the Prevention of Narcotics Addiction and Treatment of Addicts ".

Under the official regulations the care of addicts is the responsibility of the boards of health. Accordingly, the medical officers' duties, where the prevention of narcotics addiction is concerned, include the detection, treatment and after-care of addicts.

The detection of each and every addict is difficult enough in itself. It demands the co-operation of pharmacists, local practitioners, hospital doctors, sickness funds and the special duty criminal police officers engaged on drug-addiction.

According to the findings of the Stuttgart Board of Health, about 20% of addicts are doctors, and 33.2% belong to one branch or another of the medical profession.

As regards the total number of addicts, the author draws attention to the following important facts:

"It cannot be denied that some doctors are unfortunately very liberal in supplying drugs, particularly when they themselves are addicts."

Many examples are then given of the doings and treatment of addicts. Voluntary withdrawal cures are described as highly problematical and ephemeral; most of them too short. The treatment of medical addicts is referred to as a special case.

One valuable point made by the author is "that the origin of the addiction may often be accompanied by adverse material circumstances and difficulties which act as a stimulus. Special care should therefore be taken to see that on discharge from the withdrawal cure the addict returns to suitable conditions at home and is immediately re-integrated into employment ".

Dr. Becker, a pharmacist of Wiesbaden, explains the regulations governing the dispensing of narcotics in pharmacies. The pharmacist must check the prescription as to both form and content. He must only dispense it if correct. A pharmacist cannot often come to a decision as to whether a pre scription is "medically justified ", but he will expose himself to prosecution" if he dispenses narcotics although aware that the doctor has committed a breach of the rules of medical practice by prescribing improperly or without due care ".

The pharmacist must enter in the register every sale showing the description and amount of the drug and must keep for five years all prescriptions not made out for the account of a recognized sickness fund. The delivery of supplies to pharmacists by a manufacturer or wholesaler requires a permit from the Federal Opium Bureau.

The Head of the Federal Opium Bureau, Dr. Gewehr, of Coblenz, dealing with "The Legal Basis of the Federal Opium Board and its Task" states:

"No operation of any kind connected with narcotic drugs (import, export, manufacture, wholesale distribution) is lawful unless authorized by the Federal Opium Bureau and every transaction in narcotic drugs requires a separate permit, valid for that transaction only. The Federal Opium Bureau is kept constantly informed of the total consumption of narcotic drugs by means of regular returns made by all permit-holders and pharmacists who dispense the drugs to consumers on medical prescription."

Mr. Eschenbach (Kriminalrat in the Federal Criminal Bureau, Wiesbaden) has a particularly interesting contribution on "Types of Narcotic Delinquency ". The author gives many examples of typical narcotic offences drawn from actual cases. Without going into these in detail, we may summarise some of his basic arguments as follows:

"Persons who have fallen a prey to narcotics or similar drugs are bound,sooner or later, to lead a life outside the law, since they can only procure the addiction-forming drugs illegally. Understandably, therefore, the police officer is bound to adopt towards the addict who has turned to crime and whom the officer encounters as swindler, forger and thief, constantly on the move and always relapsing into wrongdoing, a more stringent and ruthless attitude than does the doctor, who regards the addict, even when he is acting against the law, merely as a patient in need of help and protection.

"But the doctor and the police officer are united in their aim, for there is the ever-present danger that where the law is not enforced and the regulations as to supervision are not strictly applied addiction will lead to a flood of delinquency.

"The causes which make an addict a criminal and an habitual offender are in part different from and more compelling than those affecting other groups of wrong-doers.

"Addicts become listless and unstable, unreliable, conceited, shallow and indifferent to family and job. Their whole thought centres on obtaining the drug. Their powers of restraint and of decision are so weakened that they become unpredictable and potentially dangerous.

"The change brought about by the poisoning of the addict's mental and spiritual make-up leads inevitably to the complete subordination of all social and moral considerations to the anxiety to procure the drugs. The sense of social responsibility disappears; the addict becomes asocial.

"A high percentage of addicts are doctors and nurses. This is an alarming fact, since medical personnel are responsible for the welfare of the patients committed to their care. Addicts have a considerably diminished moral sense, capacity for judgment, power of decision and sense of responsibility. The neglect of due professional care in the treatment of patients, especially in surgical cases, is a grave danger to the community. Medical a "There is therefore every reason for demanding that a close watch be kept on medical personnel. Leniency and indulgence are out of place in the case of medical addicts.

ddicts are more prone than practitioners who have not succumbed to addiction to prescribe drugs in unsuitable cases.

Mr. Eschenbach concludes as follows:

"Thus addicts, until finally cured, represent a constant danger to the community. It is a danger which forces the legislator to pass stringent laws and causes those concerned with the prevention of addiction and crimes of addiction - doctors and pharmacists, the courts, the administrative authorities and the criminal police - to make sure by close co-operation that the laws and regulations are observed with strict exactitude and that all transgressors are detected and duly sentenced for their own safety and reformation."

Another important and interesting subject is the legal position with regard to the institutionalization of convicted addicts. Mr. Asbrock, Kriminal Kommissar in the Land Criminal Bureau, Lower Saxony, deals with the possibility of placing convicted addicts in institutions practising the withdrawal cure or sanatoria.

Penal Institutionalization

Institutionalization is of two kinds: penal and administrative.

Under section 42 b of the Penal Code persons, whether completely irresponsible or of diminished responsibility, can be placed in a sanatorium.

This section can only be applied when a punishable offence has been committed. Convicted addicts who have been sentenced for a crime or misdemeanour committed under the influence of drugs, can, under section 42 c of the Penal Code, be placed in an institution practising the withdrawal cure.

Administrative Institutionalization

In Lower Saxony, the compulsory institutionalization of mentally affected addicts is made possible by the Law on Public Safety and Order of 21 March 1951. Under section 9 of this law, both the administrative and the police authorities can take persons into custody if this is necessary: (1) for their own protection; or (2) in order to quell a disturbance of public safety and order or prevent an imminent danger to public safety and order.

The words "prevent an imminent danger" may be taken as including prevention of a criminal offence. Every narcotic addict whether or not under the influence of a narcotic drug constitutes a danger in this sense.

The titles of the other statements delivered at the conference are:

The chemistry and pharmacology of narcotic and similar drugs

Psycho-pathology of addiction with particular reference to drug addiction

The work of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs of the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations

Experiments by the police in dealing with criminal drug addicts in Berlin

Narcotic drugs criminal law

The institutionalization of drug addicts outside the purview of the criminal prosecution authorities

Co-operation of the Court doctor with the police, public prosecutor and Court in the prevention of narcotic offences

Narcotics offences in the international field (the legal position, organizations, conventions, the illegal narcotic drugs traffic) International narcotics smugglers

Narcotics delinquency as reflected in the police statistics -general rules for the treatment of reports of narcotics offences (police registration)

Current problems of the prevention of drug addiction in medical practice.