CRACK BOOM IN BALTIMORE Number of city addicts admitted to treatment programs grows by 60%.


The number of people seeking treatment for crack cocaine addiction in Baltimore is growing faster than in Maryland's crack-troubled Washington suburbs.

Data released yesterday by the Maryland Alcohol and Drug Abuse Administration show that the number of crack addicts admitted to drug treatment programs in Baltimore grew by 60 percent in the year ended June 30, 1990, while declining slightly in Prince George's and Montgomery counties.

The report said 991 people sought treatment for crack addictions in Baltimore in fiscal 1990. That surpassed the number in Montgomery County (688), and is approaching the total in Prince George's County (1,164).

The rise in crack admissions in Baltimore is of concern because admissions to drug treatment programs are thought to reflect trends in alcohol and drug abuse in the community.

Crack is one of the few addictions in which Baltimore has lagged behind Maryland's other subdivisions. Baltimoreans represent almost 29 percent of all the Marylanders who sought drug treatment in 1990, but just 15 percent of those who sought help for crack habits.

Crack -- a cheap, smokable and highly addictive form of cocaine -- arrived in Maryland in the mid-1980s and was first noted in Baltimore in 1986. But it was slow to gain acceptance in the city, police say.

"Baltimore has always been one of the later cities to get the new trends," said Capt. Michael J. Fannon, head of the Baltimore Police Department's drug enforcement section.

"The addict population here has been slower to accept a new drug, or a new method of ingestion."

But the crack invasion grew quickly in such cities as Washington and New York, and had been blamed there for soaring murder rates, a burgeoning drug trade and the destruction of families and neighborhoods.

In Baltimore now, said Fannon, "we're probably in the middle of something where other cities have passed through."

The Alcohol and Drug Abuse Administration report said that while the number of cocaine-related admissions to Maryland drug programs doubled from 1987 to 1990, crack-related admissions have grown six-fold. During that same period, the number of people entering drug programs who admitted to using injectable forms of cocaine grew by 43 percent, while the number who said they inhaled, or "snorted" the powdered form of the drug "appears to be leveling off," the report said.

Elsewhere, the annual report noted that:

* Alcohol remains the primary problem for three-quarters of those people admitted for treatment. Two-thirds reported drug problems. Half had multiple substance-abuse problems.

* Cocaine has replaced marijuana as the second-most-often-mentioned substance abused by people entering drug treatment, after alcohol. Nevertheless, the annual increase in the number of people admitted for cocaine habits slowed from 28 percent in 1989 to 11 percent in 1990. However, admissions for heroin addiction are accelerating, from 7 percent in 1989 to 17 percent in 1990. Officials suggest that more cocaine users are turning to heroin -- a depressant -- to control the cocaine "high."

* Among cocaine, marijuana, heroin, PCP and alcohol, the only drug mentioned as a problem less frequently in 1990 by people entering treatment was PCP.

* The number of IV drug users seeking treatment in 1990 totaled 9,739, up from 7,963 in fiscal 1987, an increase of 22 percent. IV drug users are among the groups at greatest risk of transmitting or contracting the AIDS virus. An estimated 80 percent of all heterosexual AIDS cases are attributable to IV drug abuse, the report said.

* Most of the growth in IV drug abuse is among people using both heroin and cocaine intravenously. The number of people using heroin alone by injection is in decline.

* Nearly three-quarters of IV drug abuse in Maryland was in Baltimore or Baltimore County in 1990. Barely 10 percent was in Prince George's and Montgomery counties.

* A total of 263 people died from drug abuse in Maryland in calendar year 1990. Of them, 148 were in Baltimore, 39 were in Prince George's and Montgomery counties combined, and 47 were in Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties combined.

The total of 263 drug deaths in Maryland is down sharply from the 386 and 392 deaths reported by the State Center for Substance Abuse Research for 1988 and 1989, respectively. But it is comparable to the totals (222 and 275) reported for 1986 and 1987.

Joe F. Abate, data base manager for the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, said it was not clear whether the drop in deaths in 1990 is an aberration, or a return to normal. "It doesn't say anything but a wish," he said. "I hope it continues."

* Alcohol consumed by Marylanders continued a gradual decline that began in the 1980s, part of a national trend. But in the middle-Atlantic region, only Delaware and the District of Columbia had higher per capita consumption of alcohol than Maryland.

* Arrests for sale or possession of illegal drugs in Maryland declined almost 5 percent in fiscal 1990. The totals for adults and juveniles fell from more than 35,000 in 1989 to 33,300 in 1990. The declines -- sharpest among juveniles -- followed at least two years of increases.

* Arrests for cocaine sales and possession leveled off or declined in 1990 after sharp increases in 1989.

Copyright © 2020, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad