Unfolding Research is a recurring series in which people answer questions about their experiences conducting research in the Manuscript Division. This entry was written by Emily Dufton.
Tells us about yourself: Who are you? Where are you from? What are you researching?
My name is Emily Dufton. I’m from Takoma Park, MD, and I’m researching the history of medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder.
In general, what are your research strategies and how have they changed over the years?
I don’t know if I’ve ever developed a strategy. I’ve been researching since grad school, but almost ten years after getting my PhD I’m still pretty disorganized. First I go wide, collecting everything possible on the subject. Then, if I find a story, I’ll drill down. But it takes me a long time to put the puzzle pieces together, and throughout I’ll research in a haphazard way, going down a lot of rabbit holes. Eventually, the story takes shape once I’ve explored the material and can more clearly see what is and isn’t part of the narrative.
In what collections have you been conducting research and why?
I used about forty boxes from the Jerome Jaffe papers. I focused specifically on his materials from 1971 to 1973, when he directed the Special Action Office for Drug Abuse Prevention, or SAODAP. As SAODAP director, Jaffe led the federal effort to nationalize heroin addiction treatment–and nearly succeeded, until the Nixon’s administration’s slow implosion destroyed SAODAP as well
Just to follow up, the Jerome Jaffe Papers were only processed and opened in 2020. What did the collection offer in regard to your research?
What’s funny is that I saw these papers once before, in Jerry Jaffe’s basement. Everything was on shelves in old cardboard banker’s boxes. He let me page through a few things, but it was all pretty disorganized. He mentioned then, back in 2018, that he was eventually going to donate his papers to the LOC.
Now they’re finally here, and I finally got to see them. It was such an immense thrill. The papers–which were so well organized, kudos to the Library archivists–offer really useful insights into just how stressful directing SAODAP was. For two years, Jaffe barely slept or saw his family. He worked like a maniac to extend treatment nationwide. The sheer amount of material he created was extraordinary–all the papers, memos, telegrams, congressional testimonies and reports were overwhelming. But it was amazing to hold a signed memo in my hand, knowing the person I was writing about had held it too. Like I was right there in Washington in 1972.
Has anything regarding addiction treatment and its history surprised you in the course of your research?
Oh yeah, basically everything. The story of addiction medication would be hard to believe if it were a novel. Writing about the transformation of medication-assisted treatment–from its role as the culmination of New Frontier and Great Society dreams into the overwhelmingly private and predatory system we have today–is a thrill, and the work is strengthened by access to great archival sources like Jaffe’s papers.
What’s the funniest or most interesting document you encountered in the Manuscript Division on this project?
The last few folders of SAODAP material are all photographs. They’re awesome–black and white, professionally developed, many by official White House photographers. But, at the very end, a bunch of photos were of a party, and it seemed like a pretty raucous time. Balloons and streamers hang from the ceiling, everyone is smiling, they dance and converse, and then the bottles and cups come out and everyone clearly gets completely drunk. The pictures are wild–they capture the essence of the moment and look like a ton of fun.
I had a conversation with Jaffe after I finished looking through his papers, and I asked him if he remembered the party where a White House photographer documented him getting wasted. He laughed and said he did.
“What was the occasion?”
“It was the day I resigned.”
It’s hard not to be excited when looking through the papers of a guy like that.
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