Housing agents taking drug class

Police lieutenant to teach signs of abuse

April 20, 1999|By Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan | Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan,SUN STAFF

Annapolis Housing Authority employees will spend two hours immersed in the drug culture this morning, learning how a crack cocaine pipe can be crafted from a soda can and what a "Loveboat" is (marijuana sprinkled with PCP).

Far from being illegal, the drug and paraphernalia class has been ordered by their boss, Patricia Croslan. And their instructor -- Annapolis City Police Lt. Robert E. Beans -- is on the right side of the law.

"It's of great importance for people to be able to identify drug paraphernalia, particularly when they work in an environment where they might come across it," said Croslan, the Housing Authority director. "It's a safety factor for them in case they see some drug paraphernalia that they should be careful about picking up or being exposed to. We'd rather try to work toward prevention than dealing with something after it's happened."

In the past year, Beans has conducted the class for companies and municipalities across the state. In January, Kimla T. Milburn, Annapolis personnel director, asked him to run the program for all city department supervisors so that they would know how to detect drug use among employees.

Croslan said she approached Beans three weeks ago about teaching the class to her 50 employees. In classes for city supervisors, which ran once a week over the past two months, Beans introduced 83 managers to a variety of drugs, laying out samples so that they could see what the drugs look like and teaching them terminology so that they might recognize whether an employee is a drug user from water-fountain and other office conversations.

Beans also listed telltale signs of drug use among employees -- how crack cocaine can make a person extra energetic, heroin causes fatigue and PCP (phencyclidine hydrochloride) can cause hallucinations. Beans told them that heroin users aren't necessarily identified by needle marks on their arms anymore because many shoot up the drug in more discreet places, such as between the toes, behind the knees and on the genitals.

He talked about items associated with drug use, such as syringes, razor blades, mirrors and crack pipes fashioned out of aluminum cans. "These cans may a lot of times be thrown in the recycling bin, so if you find some there that will give you a heads up that an employee may be using crack," Beans said.

"A lot of [supervisors] had heard about the different types of drugs, but they'd never seen it before. They may also have seen the paraphernalia but weren't aware it's associated with drugs. They never had that type of exposure before."

Supervisors learned other signals, such as excessive use of mouthwash, breath sweeteners, mints or candy, that can point to a user's trying to mask the smell of drugs. Beans taught them some unorthodox methods of concealing drug use.

"A person could be using drugs right in front of you and you wouldn't know it," Beans said. "I know one young lady painted her fingernails with Wite-Out so she could sniff it.

"The person may even be wearing drug paraphernalia in front of you," he said, describing necklaces of tiny cocaine rocks that have been found on some users.

"I was quite enlightened," Milburn said. "If you're not a part of that life, you have no idea the kinds of everyday items that are used by people who are addicted to controlled dangerous substances."

Croslan said she hopes the class will help her staff recognize what drugs and paraphernalia look like so that they will know what they're dealing with during inspections or maintenance of apartments or buildings.

Beans administers a written test at the end of each class to make sure his students have been listening.

Pub Date: 4/20/99

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