San Francisco Examiner - December 28, 1978, front page
Narcotics as a control
How Jones used drugs
By Peter King ©1978, San Francisco Examiner
Potential troublemakers or defectors from the Peoples Temple flock in Jonestown were kept under tight control in a special "extended-care unit" where they were heavily drugged, according to former residents of the jungle commune.
There were enough dangerous drugs at the remote compound thousands of doses of anti-depressants and downers to treat each of the 900 cultists who lived there hundreds of times.
Although the temple had an official anti-drug policy some members were ex-addicts who had kicked the habit under Jim Jones' influence there were enough drugs at the mission to supply a city the size of Georgetown, Guyana (population 66,000), according to an American pathologist who inspected the scene.
Police and government authorities in Guyana are sorting out documents pertaining to drugs found at Jonestown as their investigation spreads into areas beyond the killings. The drug question has been a low priority up to now.
Dale Parks, a temple defector who was a nursing supervisor at Jonestown, said he was shocked at the quantity of drugs found at the medical clinic there: "There's no way that many people were receiving treatment. I know they were using things to keep people under control, but not like this."
Parks, a trained therapist for respiratory ailments, said the "extended-care unit" consisted of eight beds separate from the mission clinic.
"If a person wanted to leave Jonestown or if there was a breach of rules, one was taken to the extended-care unit," he explained. "It was a rehabilitation place, where one would be re-integrated back into the community. The people were given drugs to keep them under control."
After a few days or weeks, Parks said, the patients lost their desire to leave the commune and no further behavioral problems were anticipated.
Asked about the use of drugs for brainwashing, Parks said, "It is a reasonable assumption that such went on in the extended-care unit."
Another temple member, who asked that his name not be used, said: "People who wanted to leave were fed drugs like Thorazine so they would come to their senses. We were told the CIA would haunt us for the rest of our lives, that we could never live in peace."
Parks said the extended-care unit was started recently, in about August or September, to replace physical punishment as a means of keeping unhappy temple members in line.
After Debbie Blakey's defection from the temple and her allegations of physical abuse, Parks said, Jones became concerned that investigators would try to verify her stories. That was when the extended-care unit was formed, Parks said.
He said people emerging from the facility were closed-mouthed about the treatment and repentant about their past behavior. "I'm sure they were threatened," he said.
During a joint two-week investigation by The Examiner and the Associated Press, a partial drug inventory was obtained. It revealed that the drugs in the Jonestown warehouse included thousands of doses of Quaaludes, Demerol, Seconal, Valium and morphine, plus 11,000 doses of two drugs used to control the behavior of manic depressives and others with extreme psychotic problems.
Medical officials say the drugs promote suicidal tendencies, can cause hallucinations, blurred vision, confusion and speech disturbances, involuntary movements and produce emotional highs and lows.
In addition to being used on cultists Jones believed could cause him trouble, the drugs were administered liberally and forcibly in many cases during the suicide-murder ritual that left 914 people dead.
Dr. Lynn Crook, a pathologist from Medical University of South Carolina, was sent to Guyana by the U.S. government to help inspect the bodies. He suggested that narcotics might have been used to pave the road for mass suicide. He said many of the cultists might have been under the influence of drugs when they drank the deadly cyanide-grape punch.
In addition, such narcotics as Thorazine, a strong tranquilizer, and chloral hydrate, generally known as "knockout drops," were added to the cyanide, probably to ease the suffering caused by the poison.
The drugs, according to survivors of the events and former temple members, were smuggled into Guyana, avoiding the South American country's strict importation regulations on pharmaceuticals.
Grace Stoen, a former temple member and one of its foremost critics, says Jones' followers were frequently asked to go to a physician, complain of an ailment, and turn over their prescription to the temple. Jones was most interested in acquiring sleeping pills, she recalled.
Stoen said a temple member who worked as a psychiatric technician at Mendocino State Hospital stole patients' medication.
Jonestown survivors said cultists making the trip from San Francisco to Guyana were encouraged to bring as many drugs as possible with them. Guyanese customs officials, although they knew of the drugs, let the temple members' luggage into the country routinely without a thorough inspection, sources said.
"Jones never bothered (Guyanese) customs and customs never bothered Jones," Dr. Crook said local Guyanese told him.
Parks said crates containing "something Jones wanted brought in" would be packed on top with personal belongings. Customs officials seldom bothered to check crates or trunks that temple members told them were packed with personal items, Parks said.
And a memo obtained by the Associated Press details ruses that temple members would use to distract customs officials. They included romancing them, having an elderly man fall out of his wheelchair and packing Tampons at the top of crates of medical supplies to discourage customs searches.
Sources also named a temple member in San Francisco who is a registered nurse as the person in charge of procuring the drugs. They couldn't explain how the woman did it.
A spokesman for the California Board of Pharmacy said the nurse could have obtained the drugs legally if she was acting on behalf of a physician. He suggested that a more direct method to obtain large quantities would be to buy from the manufacturer, who then exports the drugs.
Many of the drugs at Jonestown were manufactured by U.S. firms, although not necessarily in the United States. A check with some of those firms brought denials of any involvement. Many said they have policies against that kind of foreign sale.
Drug industry officials in Guyana said only minute amounts came through official channels there. Drugs bought for use in Guyana must be registered and cleared through a government agency, and none of the drugs found in Jonestown were, the officials said.
Dr. Joyce Lowinson, a psychiatrist and member of President Carter's Council on Drug Abuse Prevention, said the list of drugs indicated that "there were a lot of psychotic patients, or they (Peoples Temple) were using them to control people."
Many of the Jonestown drugs are habit-forming. Several require that antidotes to reverse an adverse reaction be in stock, but none of the antidotes were noted on the drug list.
Some of the drugs were especially dangerous, too. Therapeutic doses of Demerol, for instance, have precipitated unpredictable, severe and occasionally fatal reactions.
The following are examples from a partial inventory that has been independently authenticated by law enforcement sources.
- Thorazine (chlorpromazine), 10,000 injectable doses and 1,000 tablets in a size normally given only "for severe neuropsychiatric conditions." The drug acts "at all levels of the central nervous system." It is effective for the "management of the manifestations of psychotic disorders" and for control of the manic depressive.
- Quaaludes, 1,000 doses of the sedative-hypnotic drug frequently used in suicide attempts.
- Vistaril, 1,000 doses. Used for total management of anxiety, tension and psychomotor agitation; can render the disturbed patient more amenable to psychotherapy in long-term treatment of neurotics and psychotics.
- Noludar, 1,000 pills. A sleeping aid that produces both physiological and psychological dependence. Moderate overdoses can produce delirium and confusion; large overdoses, stupor leading to coma.
- Valium injectable, 3,000 doses. Useful in treating neurotic states manifested by tension, anxiety, apprehension, fatigue, depressive symptoms or agitation.
- Valium tablets, 2,000. An overdose of Valium in either form tends to make suicidal patients more likely to make a death attempt.
- Morphine sulphate, injectable, 200 vials. This strong pain killer can be habit-forming and have complex psychological effects.
- Demerol, 20,000 doses. A narcotic analgesic, it should be used with great caution and has multiple reactions similar to those of morphine.
- Talwin, 1,150 doses. Similar to Demerol in morphine-like actions. The drug has a history of creating psychological and physical dependence.
- Seconal, 1,000 pills. An extremely dangerous sedative and hypnotic that can be habit-forming. Must be used under medical supervision.
Examiner staff writers Nancy Dooley and James A. Finefrock also contributed to this story.