Harvard Drug Use Apparently Declines

While the Cambridge arrest rate for drug offenses soars, drug use at Harvard has apparently dropped, except for marijuana.

Cambridge police arrested 40 per cent more suspects for drug offenses in 1970 than in 1969. Drug confiscations last year were more than ten times their 1969 rate for heroin and hashish. But these statistics have not resulted in any police action within the Harvard dormitories.

A mescaline-dealing Harvard student said recently, "Right now, people are just watching TV and smoking dope. But I look forward to one of the heaviest drug springs, this spring." Because of his widespread reputation for a quality product, he said the decline in drug use has not affected his sales, which he said included 650 capsules of mescaline in the past two weeks.

Others think that the decline in drug use at Harvard is more permanent. Dr. Preston K. Munter, associate director of the University Health Services (UHS), said, "The apex of the sociological phenomenon 'drug abuse' was reached and passed in 1970."

"I think Harvard people had their adventure in drugs," Munter said, "and probably the message that enough people were harmed by drugs finally got through." He also suggested that there is "a new generation who went through the drug scene in high school. By the time they got to Harvard, it was a closed issue for them."

But another Harvard dealer, who has become inactive this year, has a different theory. He said overall drug use at Harvard has declined not because freshmen and sophomores are so worldly but because they are "in general much straighter than the classes before them... so calm, jockish, and wonkish."

The former dealer, a junior, explained why he personally turned away from drugs. "In my particular case, I ran the gamut of what you can do," he said. "After a certain number of trips-about 100-there isn't that much more to find out about yourself."

However, he also predicts an upsurge in drug use this spring, although "it will still be placid compared to last spring. Then, it was just a regular electric koolaid punch, for months."

On the streets, drug use has apparently not declined during the winter. Street people seem to be using mostly "downs" (depressants) instead of acid and mescaline, which are more popular in warmer weather.

Mark Kashnor, a counselor at Sanctuary, said, "People are into downs out of desperation. Formost people into downing, their situations will have to change before they'll stop. They'll have to meet a boy or a girl, or get a place to stay."

Although Kashnor and some street people said that heroin use has remained low, and that police have not cracked down on drugs, Cambridge police statistics for 1970 tell a different story.

In 1970, arrests by the narcotics unit jumped to 517, an increase of about 150 arrests over the preceding year. Sgt. Duncan McNeil, head of the six-man narcotics unit, said that Cambridge police have been receiving a lot of helpful information from State and Federal officials.

However, he said that the jump in arrest figures is not due primarily to this information, or to increasingly sophisticated police techniques, but simply reflects a very sharp increase in drug use.

The amount of heroin seized skyrocketed from 22 decks ($10 quantities) in 1969, to 364 decks in 1970. Hashish confiscated jumped from two pounds in 1969, to 28 pounds in 1970.

Round My Brain

McNeil also pointed out that his unit seized 12 ounces of cocaine last year in at least two separate raids. He said, "This is the first cocaine we've seen in Cambridge in the last ten years."

Even though drug use has apparently declined at Harvard, two recently started programs are geared to handling drug problems if they arise and to preserve students' anonymity-the Drug Task Force and Room 13.

Last September, the University Health Services (UHS) set up a Drug Task Force of 15 second-year Harvard Medical students. They oversee Stillman Infirmary's emergency ward desk and answer phone calls on a drug "hot line."

The Task Force circulated pink posters which said, "Bumming? Med student on duty every night from 10 p. m. to 7 a. m. 868-2277. Anonymous." Most of these posters have been removed and few people are aware of the Task Force's existence.

Dr. Paul A. Walters, Jr., a UHS psychiatrist, trained the Medical students to cope with persons on bum trips, by "talking them down" and finding friends to stay with them.

During the first semester, Stillman's emergency ward averaged three phone calls and/or visits per week dealing with drug problems. Since intercession, however, the number of drug cases has plummeted to nearly zero.

Before the Drug Task Force was established, the Harvard police were used to oversee and, if necessary, to restrain agitated students who were bumming. "The sight of a blue uniform for someone on a drug trip really freaks him out," Walters said. "We've wanted to use friends. It works much better."

However, because of the relatively small number of cases they get, and the lack of publicity for the Drug Task Force, the morale of the Medical students is rather low.

Louis T. Sanchez, Jr., a second-year Medical student, said, "The whole [drug] scene has sort of died down. This is a Task Force but there hasn't been much of a task to weld us together." Nevertheless, he said, "It's important that someone's around in the peer group to talk things out."

Another Medical student on the Task Force, Richard J. Stadtmiller, offered a theory for the lack of drug cases in the emergency ward. "It's just possible that most people can handle their drug trips and don't need anybody."

Unlike the Task Force, which has a specific purpose, Room 13 began with very open-ended objectives. Margaret S. McKenna '70, who set up Room 13, said that only one in 20 calls to Room 13 is related to drugs.

How effective will these programs be? The mescaline dealer does not envision a decrease in drug use in the near future. He said, "As long as society is what it is, I don't think drugs are going to be a vanishing phenomenon at all."