Rachel Maddow   |  August 15, 2013

Chris Hayes, Quaaludes, and the Politics of Power

Rachel Maddow explains why the Quaaludes epidemic of the 80s was a solvable problem that is hopefully comparable to the solvable problem of pollution and climate change, topics explored in an upcoming documentary by Chris Hayes, The Politics of Power, airing Friday, 8/16 at 8 p.m. ET.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> here is an idea to start with this morning. and the idea is qualuude , they used to be a thing, right? in the 70s -- qualuudes were a very widely abused drug. in 1981 , the dea said the most used drug in the nation was pot, but the second most used drug was qualuudes, it equalled the severity of the heroin problem within just a couple of years. so there were two ways you could get them if you wanted to get high on qualuudes, you could get the brand made prescription pill, made by a drug company or you could cook them up illegally. but there is a reason that there is not a qualuude problem in the united states anymore, and it is that the basic compound that you need, the basic chemical compounds that you need, which was put together by indian scientists in the 1960s , it is very hard to make, too hard to make in a sort of cook shop doper lab anywhere, even if you're sort of a good cook shop laboratory scientist. in order to make the drug illegally, what the cartels would do, because they could not make the basic compound they would have to purchase it. so they would bulk purchase it from this small handful of professional large-scale factories who were making that compound legitimately. there were only four of them, germany, austria, hungary, in large scale factors. we think of the drug war as mostly a futile enterprise, basically a worthy idea, but futile, there is not a qualuude drug anymore in the united states . they used to call it disco biscuit, they will tell you they can't get it anymore. but what was on track to equal heroin in this country doesn't exist anymore, and that is because it was beatable. there was only one legal manufacturer of the pills. and so at a policy level we banned the legal sale of the drug and made sure that one manufacturer complied. in terms of the illegal sales, we convinced or bought off those four factories who made that complicated base level chemical compound . we convinced them or bought them off so that they should stop selling it in bulk. and so the u.s. has no qualuude problem anymore. whatever you think about the drug war , i wanted to raise this story this morning, because as a non-scientist, i'm here to tell you that the general public in the united states thinks that the whole idea of human effort to combat climate change is futile, that the whole idea of environmental science is the complex and nuance measurement of hopeless, slow motion catastrophe. that basically, you guys work to tell us the consequence of our behavior, but we believe that broadly seeking to change our behavior now is not possible in any meaningful scale, and also not going to make a difference anyway. in the mind of the general public , the earth is now the drug war . worthy, maybe, but basically futile. so what are the quallude stories? what are the things that can be explained about achievement in environmental protection and environmental science that can help us all, even not the true believers, that can help us all understand that all of this distinguished work is not just about writing the chronicle of the stuff we're told. earlier this year at the nation's preminent award, a lot intimidating to be up there with the scientists, talking about ozone layers and how to save the rain forests. i don't do much public speaking , this was very intimidating for me. i tried to get at the idea of how we get to these problems. something as big as the temperature of the earth being wrong seems like a dumb problem to work on, because it is just too big, right? what could we ever do to affect something that big? well, i'm happy to say that the smartest guy in this building, the smartest guy in this whole business i work in, i think, has figured it out. it is chris hayes , and he has a new documentary, i don't want to spoil it. but msnbc's new documentary is really good and premiers tomorrow on msnbc. plan to watch it, and i'll see you after. now it is time for "the last word" with lawrence