Back to the future

January 15, 1992

The evidence of a resurgence is almost everywhere -- from the kids in tie-dyed T-shirts in the malls to the Grateful Dead stickers on Jeeps and Cabriolets. The oldies are playing again on the radio, though new voices are humming along.

These are the children of the baby boomers, who ushered in the counter-culture. From all indications they are enthralled with the romanticism of the '60s. Perhaps it is predictable from a generation that grew up without a cause. Regardless, it is a worrisome prospect for drug treatment officials because along with the cultural trappings has come increased use of LSD -- particularly in the suburbs.

A statewide study of 12th grade students not only found an increase in LSD use from 1984 to 1989 but also revealed that nearly 30 percent of admissions to drug- and alcohol-abuse programs are now related to use of hallucinogens. Moreover, nine out of 10 of those seeking help come from the counties.

Officials only guess at why LSD seems to have more appeal among suburban kids than their urban counterparts. Some speculate it is because the emphasis in drug-education programs has been on the hard stuff -- heroin and cocaine. Others say LSD has an image all its own, created by intellectuals like Timothy Leary, that diminishes its real dangers. Regardless, the drug is cheap -- about $2 for a "trip" that lasts eight hours. And Mike Gimbel, director of the Baltimore County Office of Substance Abuse, says it's readily accessible.

Whatever the reason for LSD's growing popularity, residents of the suburbs who have traditionally considered drug abuse an urban problem must face the fact that geography does not make them immune. With LSD, as with other drugs, parents need to learn the signs and symptoms so they can spot a problem immediately. But the schools also have a role to play. The state Department of Education, for instance, receives over $8 million a year in federal "Drug-Free School" money -- 70 percent of which is doled out to local education departments. Baltimore County gets $851,000; Anne Arundel gets nearly $400,000; Howard receives $159,000; Harford, $210,000, and Carroll County gets nearly $130,000. Surely all the metropolitan counties have the resources to tackle the problem. The new information on the growing use of LSD should be sufficient to prompt every one of these jurisdictions to put greater emphasis in school drug-education programs on the use and dangers of hallucinogens.

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