Study finds drug use varies by region and age, requiring local strategies Clinton issues $32 million in grants for programs tailored to communities

July 12, 1998|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON -- The use of methamphetamines is rising sharply in the western United States, the Justice Department reported yesterday in an extensive new study that also shows America's crack-cocaine epidemic appears to have peaked.

In what amounts to a new phase in the war on drugs, President Clinton released $32 million in federal grants yesterday to help local officials devise strategies tailored for their communities.

"To stop the revolving door of crime and narcotics, we must make offenders stop abusing drugs," Clinton said in his weekly radio address.

The new funds address the drug report's most sobering conclusion: that no single national strategy will work because the drugs of choice vary tremendously by region and age -- with older users preferring cocaine and younger ones favoring marijuana.

"There is no single national drug problem," said Jeremy Travis, director of the National Institute of Justice, the Justice Department research arm. "We have lots of different local drug problems."

In the West, and particularly in San Diego, the report found that methamphetamine use continues to retain "a very solid hold," with nearly 40 percent of adults arrested in California's second-largest city testing positive.

The first of a planned annual "Report on Adult and Juvenile Arrestees" was based on urinalyses and interviews of 30,000 men, women, boys and girls arrested last year in 23 metropolitan areas.

The report comes as politicians jockey for partisan advantage before the November elections.

On Thursday, House Speaker Newt Gingrich joined Clinton in Atlanta to announce an unprecedented $2 billion nationwide media campaign to discourage children from using drugs.

The study reinforced the "strong nexus" between crime and drug use, with between 50 percent and 75 percent of arrested people testing positive for drugs.

A decline in cocaine use was especially striking because many cities in the Northeast and the West had reached epidemic levels in the late 1980s, with 80 percent or more of those arrested believed to have been users.

The study found that cocaine use nationally was two to 10 times more likely among males 36 or older than males between ages 15 and 20 -- a trend that could bring lower crime rates because "older cocaine users are aging out or dying out," said Jack Riley, director of the institute's Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring Program.

In Detroit and Washington, only 5 percent of the younger age group used cocaine -- while nearly 50 percent of the older group tested positive.

Researchers call this discrepancy "the big brother syndrome," in which younger children shun a drug after seeing its devastating effects on older users.

A similar difference, although to a lesser degree, was found for opiates, including heroin, with older suspects several times more likely than younger ones to test positive, the report said.

But the reverse seems to apply to marijuana, which was disproportionately concentrated among youths, the study found.

Pub Date: 7/12/98

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