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Drug use in Nam: Myth or True?

dolfandolfan Member Posts: 4,159
edited January 2011 in US Military Veteran Forum
Hollywood flicks about Nam always seem to have a scene with troops getting high on illegal drugs. There is a video on the net of troops using a 12ga to smoke dope. Rumor is that is where the phrase "shotgun" originated in the drug culture. As a teen, I had a neighbor that was a Nam vet and a real pot head. He would tell me stories about the war and bragged about how he was always high in Nam. The Mujahadeen in Afghanistan were known to be higher than a kite while fighting the Soviets. Various rebel groups in Africa were also known to consume drugs.

Was drug use pervasive in Nam? Did any of you vets see your fellow soldiers getting high?


  • prangleprangle Member Posts: 1,462 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    Pot was prevailant,and the army supplied the beer(3%),so not being a smoker or drinker, I had to stay awake a lot.
  • DancesWithSheepDancesWithSheep Member Posts: 12,938 ✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    I was in two different Marine regiments (9th and 4th) over two tours (1965-1966, 1967-1968). I never knew of or saw anyone smoking pot.
  • dheffleydheffley Member Posts: 25,000
    edited November -1
    Heck, we were too hung over to notice anyone smoking pot![}:)]
  • 41 nut41 nut Member Posts: 3,016
    edited November -1
    I knew a lot of guys who smoked pot. Heck a carton of cigaretts ($1.80) would buy you a 10lb bag of pot on the black market. Knew one guy in my outfit that would send a bunch of pot home every week to his brother who was selling it. Don't know if they ever got caught or not - he was still doing it when I came home. Had another guy that served 6 months in the stockade for doing drugs. When he got out he was high every day on pot.
  • Laredo LeftyLaredo Lefty Member Posts: 13,452 ✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    I recall sitting on the perimeter one evening at the "Oasis" firebase west of Pleiku about 15 miles.

    It was pretty common to see the same 2 guys sharing a joint at the same spot regularly.
  • Tiger6Tiger6 Member Posts: 1,707 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    We saw "illegal drug" use in the "line units", but not within our teams... However, when a team was in for rotation, abusive use of alcohol was pretty prevalent..
  • HAIRYHAIRY Member Posts: 23,606
    edited November -1
    Tiger6: quote:... but not within our teams... However, when a team was in for rotation, abusive use of alcohol was pretty prevalent.. During Tet we had our case officers brought into our office and the Det Commander found/stole/traded for some T-bone steaks and a whole lot of beer for all 9 of us.

    He wanted us to enjoy the meal and get drunk; thinking that would help relieve the tension.

    He was right. Good man.[;)][;)]
  • dolfandolfan Member Posts: 4,159
    edited November -1
    Interesting. Thanks for the replies.
  • 101AIRBORNE101AIRBORNE Member Posts: 1,262 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    I did not allow the use of drugs in my squad. One time only,
    I caught one of my men smoking pot. A swift whack over his head
    and it never happened-to my knowledge-again. I did see many of the REMF using drugs. Thus the reason I preferred the boonies to any fire support base. Yes, it was there for the picking or whatever but I would be damned if it was going to put myself or my men in harms way.
  • MIKE WISKEYMIKE WISKEY Member, Moderator Posts: 9,832 ******
    edited November -1

  • divecopdivecop Member Posts: 778 ✭✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    Had the duggies and the boozers. Pot was everywhere and easy to get.
    every once and a while some idiot would O.D. on heroin.
    Like Mike Whiskey said, the boozers were dependable but the druggies
    were questionable when the stuff hit the fan.
  • n/an/a Member Posts: 168,427
    edited November -1
    It was a time when all of america was in the drug craze. mid 60s to the mid 70s.. Love , peace and all that BS..[:(]
  • acdoddacdodd Member Posts: 1,314 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    On the USS Constellation you could put a sample of your drugs in an envelope and write a code on it like xxxxxxx and drop it in a mail slot.
    A few days later you could read the lab results of what you had.
    The Navy was trying to keep the OD rate down.
    In the early 70s the Navy had a real drug and alcohol problem.
    CNO Zumwalt almost destroyed the Navy.
    But we sure did have fun.
  • AdironduckAdironduck Member Posts: 314 ✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    I served 13.5 months in Nam.The only drug I saw used was alchohol.
  • FrogbertFrogbert Member Posts: 2,380 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    When the Ranger would hit port in Yokosuka or Olongapo, Hong Kong or Sasebo, every Mother's son would have two days drinking to one day duty, for it was our duty to sober up for the next two days of drinking![:D]
    But, then, after 5 or 7 days, it would be back out to sea for 45 or 60 days of nothing but work and watches. Though we did have a few minor infractions with on-board drinking occasionally, (not me personally, of course![:o)])and though I do know of twice, during my whole tour aboard (three cruises), of guys smoking reefer in the voids, there mostly just wasn't time for that kind of bullsh_t! [:D]
    I was invited into the void once, but when I went in some guy had a Teac Tape recorder so damn loud I couldn't stand the pain, so I excused myself to a poker game on the 8th deck where I won $11.00 and a box of Butterfingers.[8D]
  • saltysquidsaltysquid Member Posts: 10 ✭✭
    edited November -1
    On the USS Prairie you could see the fantail and forecastle (focsel for the ex navy guys) glowing at night with pot smokers, they were there during the day also. The motto was "We don't care what you do at home as long as you don't do it here", but that didn't happen. There was always someone watching and if a MAA went that way they would just toss it over the side only having that with them. During that time there was nothing they could do if they didn't actually catch them with it and have it as evidence. Just around 1980 or so they really started cracking down and it mostly disappeared, the 70's were pretty wild though. People were OD'ing on Hong Kong Rock (called China white heroine here) in Hong Kong because it was so pure. Everyone was told that when hitting port, but someone always had to be an idiot.
  • hicap47hicap47 Member Posts: 516 ✭✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    I drank a good bit of warm PBR from rusty steel cans......
  • jocko007jocko007 Member Posts: 81 ✭✭
    edited November -1
    I was in a CAP Unit from Dec of 69 until March of 72. The unit was made up of 6 Marines and one Navy Corpsman. I was the sergeant in charge of the unit from late 1970 until 1972, had I known of anyone using anything, he'd have been in LBJ so quick he wouldn't have known what hit him. You needed your wits and had to be sharp at all times. There was no down time, except when you were gone on R&R. You let your guard down and your poop was in the wind. We had a hard job to do and you couldn't do it by getting all cranked up on booze or dope.
  • Ray BRay B Member Posts: 11,822
    edited November -1
    Hey 007, I knew some guys in CAC, aka CAP units; where were you at?
  • Maddog26Maddog26 Member Posts: 4 ✭✭
    edited November -1
    Many of the Thai units even provided dope to its troops. As an aviation unit, we drank our fair share, but while I was there drugs never played into any of our missions. Saw a many troop higher than the tree tops getting on our aircrafts.
  • Grunt2Grunt2 Member Posts: 2,527 ✭✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    Not in the bush.....But at the FSB or the rear...It was pretty bad! If you got caught "Whacked" while on a mission...You would be warned (providing it was pot or booze)..The second time around ( or you were caught using Junk) You would prob. have an "accident" with a frag or claymore....
    Retired LEO
    Combat Vet VN
    D.A.V Life Member
  • greystonegreystone Member Posts: 194 ✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    In 1971 the little FSB that was based out of-Dian-was turned over to the south vietnamiese. I spent the last 2 months at Long Binh. Drugs-pot and heroin-were common in both places. All you had to do was say to MamaSan "need some smoke-smoke" and she would scamper out and come back in with a Folgers coffe can full of it for 5 bucks. Heroin came in these little plastic containers with twist off lids. Don't know the price on this stuff but the empty containers littered the ground everywhere. We had a Monday morning police call in LB every week. The first sarge had everyone put these little containers in a empty 55 gal barrel cut off to about 2/3 height. It became a game for the junkies. In a matter of no time the barrel was full. These little containers were only about an inch tall and maybe 3/4 inch in diameter if memory seves me correctly. In Dian when I was on base I had to pull perimeter guard. As a buck sgt I was in the towers. Each tower had about 7 bunkers under its command. The guys in the bunkers were always whacked out on something and we had to rely on them for our first line of defense. My little group-except for JC- was pretty much drug free. However we did consume our fair share of beer when we were on base. My little unit in Dian reminds me so much of the original MASH. Yup-drugs were everywhere and I have always wondered how some the these people faired when their supply of almost pure haroin ran out
  • nc huntrnc huntr Member Posts: 11 ✭✭
    edited November -1
    I smoked my first joint in Nam! But it wasn't for me . I also saw my share of guys who got hooked on heroin, which was easler to get than a pack of cigarettes.
  • Dak To 68Dak To 68 Member Posts: 1,404 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    Lots of pot, some pills , but I think the heroin came after I left.
  • nearwolfnearwolf Member Posts: 9 ✭✭
    edited November -1
    I think that pot usage was not really considered abnormal, it was incredibly cheap and nearly everywhere. Each of us that didn't smoke typically knew someone who did. If a guy had the sense to only get high on stand down and maintain a low profile, it was pretty much blown off. Drinking was the same way, I traded my beer rations for scotch and when in I drank scotch and played chess a lot. It was a stress thing, I guess. I'm sure many of you will understand that we were pretty much feeling abandoned in late 69 and the early 70's. Everything seemed upside down.
    But during an operation, we had no tolerance at all for someone who was high, drunk or hungover. The worst was when heroin hit big time. I know of one instance where a heroin user went so far overboard he started getting boils all over himself. He soon had an accident and was shipped home. We had our own society and our own set of rules, I guess.
  • lbgent47lbgent47 Member Posts: 4 ✭✭
    edited November -1
    The only drug my platoon used was "beer" after a patrol, not during
  • divecopdivecop Member Posts: 778 ✭✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    Pot was prevelant and we had a few OD's on heroin. But alcohol was the main good time.
  • sirgknightsirgknight Member Posts: 109 ✭✭
    edited November -1
    Served at Tuy Hoa 1967-68 and Tam Ky 1968-69 with tactical air support squadrons. worked closely with 3rd Marines, 101st Airborne, 1st Air Cavalry, 25th ROK Korean Marine Division, K-9 units, and Army Arillery units. never witnessed usage of illegal drugs or even heard of such usage. lots of beer consumed by all elements - after duty hours, of course. probably witnessed the consuming of 4,000,000 cans during my two tours of duty......give or take a million or two.
  • Hot TunaHot Tuna Member Posts: 18 ✭✭
    edited November -1
    If you can still find it the movie, "Jacobs Ladder" is very informative
  • elubsmeelubsme Member Posts: 1,541 ✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    USN MCB 10 Navy Seabees. Chu Lai May '65- Dec '65. I don't recall anyone who used pot in my outfit during this time. We were not allowed to fraternize with the locals. I recall that we were allowed two cans of beer per day when available. My friend Paul Hoppe (from St. Louis) did not drink so sometimes I got 4 cans[:p]. April '66-Feb '67 Da Nang. Pot was easy to come by in Da Nang at this time as was local beer & whiskey. We mingled freely among the locals. We were using mpc's by this time which were accepted. But I know that some of the guys had real money sent to them from home. I filled in as Chaplains assistant for 4 months. Some of the younger men had serious drinking & drug problems. This sometimes lead to instability & mental problems as well. Chaplain Sheldon did a lot of counciling & I wrote letters to their families back home. I never did drugs or smoked dope, seeing how it screwed up the lives of those who did.[:(][V] Eddie life member VFW & NRA
  • Rocky RaabRocky Raab Member Posts: 13,203 ✭✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    I was a pilot and I never knew a pilot who'd touch the stuff. I can't say that absolutely for some of our ground troops, but they never failed to do their jobs and I never saw them visibly high. I flew with Vietnamese in my right seat who were obviously hammered - and one with terminal tuberculosis. It was indeed a war, you know.

    On the other hand, we had a VERY small unit of six pilots and a dozen or so enlisted. We all shared a tiny "Officers' Club" where all mixed drinks were 35 cents, you could buy unlimited beer at $2.40 a case (soda was $2.80!) and the Montagnards invited us to seemingly endless nam-pei parties where the local hootch and willing young things ran freely. We burned out a mixer a month making daiquiris.

    Me? I've never touched a joint, seldom drink more than two a day, and was a good nam-pei guest - except for the young honeys. Disgustingly straight arrow. And damn glad of it.
    I may be a bit crazy - but I didn't drive myself.
  • 70-10170-101 Member Posts: 1,006 ✭✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    The amount of drug use in Vietnam depended on job assignments, it appears. Pilots got high less, grunts more. The going rate for a Kilo of thai weed that was about 18-20 percent THC was a case of C rations in my AO. You could walk into any Vietnamese pharmacy and buy French made Obeasatol[speed] and Obnactal [barbiturates] of unbelievable strength. Opium was also rampant and exceptionally cheap.

    Fortunately LSD was rare and only sent in letters from home. With 80% pure Heroin sold by children on the street. This was done to protect the dealers because the White Mice[civilian police] would only beat the children before sending them home, but an adult smack dealer in Vietnam would be killed.
  • 70-10170-101 Member Posts: 1,006 ✭✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    quote:Originally posted by Rocky Raab
    I was a pilot and I never knew a pilot who'd touch the stuff. I can't say that absolutely for some of our ground troops, but they never failed to do their jobs and I never saw them visibly high. I flew with Vietnamese in my right seat who were obviously hammered - and one with terminal tuberculosis. It was indeed a war, you know.

    On the other hand, we had a VERY small unit of six pilots and a dozen or so enlisted. We all shared a tiny "Officers' Club" where all mixed drinks were 35 cents, you could buy unlimited beer at $2.40 a case (soda was $2.80!) and the Montagnards invited us to seemingly endless nam-pei parties where the local hootch and willing young things ran freely. We burned out a mixer a month making daiquiris.

    Me? I've never touched a joint, seldom drink more than two a day, and was a good nam-pei guest - except for the young honeys. Disgustingly straight arrow. And damn glad of it.

    The thing about grunts getting high is, you came down really fast when you had too.
  • StingSting Member Posts: 629 ✭✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    I could not even have recognized pot or drugs till well after Vietnam. In Vietnam, Marines that I knew, and we only knew other fellow average Marines in our local Company, had no personal contact with the Vietnamese people other than to engage them in fighting or watch the good civilians of them planting rice or walking past. We did not have the opportinity to do wrong. We fought night and day averaging sometimes 400 rounds. Heck, if we would have had the chance I think we would have chosen to wash ourselves.

    Our break was Subic Bay, and Olongapo, Philippines. Still no drugs or pot for us though. Movies are simply movies--to the average Marine like ones that I knew.
  • PaddiegruntPaddiegrunt Member Posts: 20 ✭✭
    edited November -1
    I never saw it in my tour in 1968 as a grunt for the 9th Infantry
  • 11E4011E40 Member Posts: 1 ✭✭
    edited November -1
    I served a 18 month tour with an army mechanized infantry unit from Aug. 68 to Mar. 70. When we were in our fire support bases marijuana and speed (meth) was readily purchased from the Vietnamese. Those who did not partake had access to beer and/or liquor supplied by the military. I looked forward to getting out of the FSB's and into the boonies to get the guys away from all of the dope and alcohol. I never saw or heard of heroin or hash. I am sure that at least two guys went back to the world as meth addicts, and others as pot junkies. But I know of one NCO that returned with a alcohol problem. all of this sounds terrible, but most people served honorably and with pride in a very difficult period in our history.
  • Fighto109Fighto109 Member Posts: 7 ✭✭
    edited November -1
    I was with 196th Light Infantry, Attached to the Americal Div. 1970-71.
    Tam ky, Chu Lai area to the DMZ
    This was a gunt swinging battalion. In the rear or FB and when not on bunker line - just about everyone smoked - or drank ( I drank mostly) but never on the line, and nobody dared to smoke in the bush! ever!!
  • bojedisbojedis Member Posts: 5 ✭✭
    edited November -1
    It was everywhere at Cambell in 76. Ah the good ole days. The guys would dust the bays with black pepper and take a buffer to it before uncle Cidny would bring the dogs through.
  • Alan RushingAlan Rushing Member Posts: 9,002 ✭✭
    edited November -1
    There was nothing reassuring, about having anyone that was supposed to be alert, looking out for you and covering your back ... and find them under the influence. Be they practicing: alcoholics, drug addicts or "chemically dependent".

    Never did figure out how drinking was better than smoking, eating, popping or shooting-up!

    Each and every one of the practicing alcoholic there, assured me there was night and day differences. They claimed that it was crystal clear to them.

    Don't you know that the "crystal looking glass" was actually the empty bottom end of whatever they were drinking alcohol from ... and never saw a practicing alcoholic contemplate the bottom of any glass for long.

    Anyone out there want to attempt to sensibly explain how some chemicals of abuse are more OK than others? Not talking quality or prices!

    Neither did I feel safe or secure having anyone under the influence around me, or especially behind me.

    Some of the drunks used to enjoy suing mortars like fireworks at night and into our friendly villages. Those were closer in where one could appreciate all the bright lights, when the rounds exploded, burned homes to the ground. Great fun, killed a number of women and kids and maimed even more. I am certain that those people appreciated the fact that they were our friends and the chemically dependent troops were watching their backs as well as mine!

    You would have thought more adult males might have been killed. Most of them were on friendly forces ops assured that their kids, sisters, wives, and grand parents were all being looked out for and protected back home by the Americans. Even every little kid loved me after that!

    Yeah, they were looking out for me and "had my back" just like they did for the villagers. And I felt safe as safe could be.

    I guess that I was one of the scary guys referred to earlier ... war was sobering for me.
  • charlie acharlie a Member Posts: 4 ✭✭
    edited November -1
    69 -71 4/77ARA 101
    when I first got there was the 1st time I smoked pot. In my 21 months I seen all kinds of drugs.
    The pot was good but did not compare to what you could get in Bankock. Opium was killer, there were french pills that came in foil packs in strips I believe we called them BT,s I do not remember why. Then there were glass vials like hour glasses with a liquid speed. You would hold the bottom of the vial and flick the top and they would break and we would pour the liquid in to fresca or some other surplus crap soda the px would have and drink it. we would use ritz cracker can lids and put opium and pot in them and heat and shake it until the opium would all be stuck to the pot. then heroin came around in the $2.00 vials and $5.00 vials. One $2.00 vial probably could od 10 people now. Most shotguns were done with a pipe a K woody
    or a yellow bowl if my memory serves me right. We did do shot guns from a pipe into the barrel of a 12ga pump and the smoke came out the ej port. I can only remember that once. We would sit under a rigged up flare chute and get high people would come and go from under it. Someone had a gas mask rigged up to accept shotguns and pipes with pot,opium, and heroin done in 3 to 9 layers were real popular. Wine in bongs. I havent thought about this poop in years. with all that said and done I have been sober for 25+ years
    Thanks for the memory
    ps we flew stoned alot pilots also, not on combat missions. It was great to fly and smoke in the helicopter if it was when AFVN had rock & roll hour. It came through the head phones. I was a crew chief on a cobra with the right pilot we would go on test flights and just enjoy ourselves. We did not do this often but we did do it.
    We many times had to go on emergency nite time extractions of SF guys and unscheuled pilots would be poopfaced and go. All I know is you would never get away with what we did today
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