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'Crisis' Passing, But Drug Use Isn't

'Crisis' Passing, But Drug Use Isn't  image 'Crisis' Passing, But Drug Use Isn't  image
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(FIRST OF TWO ARTICLES) The crisis type of drug problem is on the decline in Ann Arbor. That seems to be the consensus opinion of persons closest to the drug scene. But they are unwilling to say that over-all drug use is declining. And some new drugs are causing trouble. Furthermore, alcohol problems seem to be on the rise. Says John Hinkle of Drug Help Inc., the organization of volunteers at 621 E. William: "Take LSD - we used to have lots of calls from persons who couldn't handle it, who were having bad trips. In fact, LSD freakouts were perhaps the main reason for starting Drug Help Inc. Now we get fewer calls. Either there are fewer users or fewer freakouts, probably both. In any case, we have seen a noticeable change." Hinkle says the decline in crisis-type problems has been going on the past two years, but seems to be leveling off now. Matt Lampe, who was a major force in launching Drug Help Inc. and is now associate coordinator of Washtenaw County's drug program, says: "The problems are still here but they're a bit less frantic. "A lot of the faddism stuff is gone. From about 1968 to 1971 we saw a real dominance of the psychedelic drugs. Lots of the kids who were abusing drugs used these. Some of them might use LSD in excess of three or four times a week. Psychedelic drugs were used by some as sort of a regular entertainment thing. "That sort of use has dropped. Now use of drugs is much more of an occasional thing. What we have seen might be called a normalization of the curve. "More people are better able to deal with drugs - to handle them better. Drug-related crises are down. And the drug thing has become less of a political issue, although that may be just an aspect of the general apathy toward politics." Lampe noted that the state is having an "incidence and prevalence" study of drug use and drug problems made by professional survey-takers. "When that is done we will have a much better knowledge of drug problems." Ann Arbor Police Chief Walter Krasny says, "There is no reason to think the drug problem is less serious than it was ayear or two ago." He said his department handled 341 cases involving possession of marijuana in the year ending last July, compared to 193 cases the previous year. The number of cases involving possession of hard drugs rose from 63 to98. "Drug dealers here are working on a captive audience of young people," he said. "We have recently made some significant arrests of hard drug sellers. But they received minimal punishment from the courts." Octagon House offers help to users of opiates (heroin and cocaine) from its offices in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti. Its director, Dick Gilmore, says opiate addiction is going down somewhat in the white community but is about the same in the black community. About 30 per cent of Octagon House clients are from the white middle class, he said, and the remaining 70 per cent are black. The figures used tobe 35-65. Explaining the small decline in the white middle-class community, Gilmore said that some opiate users have switched to combinations of other drugs or to alcohol. "Also, young peopie are beginning to realize how hard it is to kick opiate addiction." Octagon House is in touch with about 140 clients now compared to 200 a year ago. "But the difference in those figures does not necessarily mean a decline in opiate use," Gilmore cautioned. Some of those 200 may be in jail, some may be getting treatment elsewhere, and others may just not be coming in to seeusanymore." Several school princip√°is said that the trend to less drug use in schools and fewer problems, as reported by The News last December, still held true. "If anything, the decline has become a little more emphatic," said Wiley Brownlee, dean of Community High School. "There is a definite trend to more sophistication. The kids know better than most of the adult population what drugs are. "For example, the average adult would know there is a big difference between a bottle of beer and a bottle of gin but he is not so well informed on drugs in general. But the kids have acquired the ability to separate different kinds of drugs - marijuana, aspirin, beer, heroin - and consequently we don't have so many dangerous situations. They have just dropped off. At the junior high school level, Principal Vaughn Pilsinger of Forsythe Junior High said, "We don't have a problem with hard drugs in the building as far as I know. Marijuana is relatively easy to get hold of and we have had several situations, such as teachers reporting its use in the rest rooms. But in general, it seems to be tapering off. This has become less of a problem than it was in 1972 and 1973." Neal Miller, Tappan Junior High School principal, gave a similar assessment of the situation. "Drug usage among the students is fairly minimal, and on the decline, I think. I haven't seen any multidrug use. We have seen some alcohol use, but don't know if it is a trend. My guess is that there is a little more alcohol use, but I don't have any hard evidence for that impression." A decline in the problems associated with one drug may -be offset by a rise in problems associated with another drug, said Hinkle of Drug Help. The decline, in LSD problems, for example, was somewhat offset by the rise in problems with quaalude, also known as "ludes," "sopors," or "soaps." Hinkle said problems arise with this drug especially when it is used in combination with alcohol because of "potentiation" - they become more potent when used together. Sudden comas can result from their use, in combination, he said, with no warning from a preliminary slowing down of pulse and breathing rates as given by other sedative-hypnotic drugs. After government action made quaalude difficult to obtain, an almost immediate drop in overdoses and other problems was seen, according to Hinkle. Drug Help Inc. sees a definite upward trend in the use of PCP (phencyclidine, often called "peace pill.") "It is a strange drug," Hinkle said, "which is sold under several different names. It is usually sold as mescaline, although there is no real mescaline in pill form. It is also sold as acid (LSD). It is sold as THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) or "angel dust," and its active ingredient is marijuana. In any case, the person who buys it frequently doesn't know what he is buying. ' "PCP is definitely consciousnessaltering, causing numbing of hands and feet and then the face. It is a respiratory depressant, and potentiates with alcohol. "You might sleep after taking PCP," Hinkle continued, "then awaken and still feel the effects - tingling, numbness, a weird body feeling. The effects may persist for two or three days or even a week. And this could cause the user to blame something or someone else in his life for the way he felt." PCP use has risen because it is easily produced, cheap, yet carries a big markup that provides a good it for even the low-level dealer. Lampe echoed the opinion that PCP has caused problems. "Also, there are many heroin addicts. And the fad drugs like downers and LSD are still around, although there are not as many people into them." "We are realizing more and more that there is a large alcohol problem, even though drugs have taken over a part of alcohol's domain as recreation and as an adulthood rite." Barry Kistner, information director of the Washtenaw County Council on Alcoholism, agrees. Kistner estimates that there are 6,000 alcoholics in Washtenaw County and an equal number of problem drinkers. "It does seem that use of other drugs is going down and they are being substituted for by alcohol," he said. "Also, we are definitely getting more and more dual addictions - to legal and illegal drugs as well as to alcohol." Lowering of the legal drinking age to 18, effective. Jan. 1, 1972, has been followed by a threefold increase in the number of drivers aged 18 to 20 who have been arrested for drunk driving, Kistner said. He also reported that the 18-year-old law has been followed by a doubling of drinking by males under 18, and a tripling of drinking by females under 18. "It is easier for under-18s to pass as 18, or to get their older friends to buy for them," he says. Explaining the switch from illegal drugs to alcohol, Kistner said, "Alcohol is socially acceptable. It is easily obtained. People are aware of the possible penalties and difficulties of using illegal drugs. Why take illegal drugs when you can take a legal one?" Tomorrow: How drug help agencies are adapting to the changing scene.