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Crack use reaching peak, report says


State drug abuse clinics are treating crack cocaine addicts in record numbers, but officials believe the epidemic may be reaching its peak.

The number of crack addicts treated in Maryland in the year that ended June 30, 1990, increased by more than a quarter over the previous year to 6,440, a report released by the state Alcohol and Drug Abuse Administration said. In Baltimore, the number of addicts shot up by nearly 60 percent.

More recent figures lead state officials to believe crack use will continue to increase this year but at a far slower rate.

Projections based on figures for the nine months ending in March point to a 10 percent increase in treatments for crack addiction, officials said.

"It looks like we're approaching the peak. But we're still in a tremendously high level. We still have an ongoing, huge problem. We'd like to see the numbers decline," said Bill Rusinko, chief of the administration's Management Information Services, which drafted the report.

Mr. Rusinko said the increase in drug treatment shows that crack is more widely available in Maryland communities -- and not solely that there are more treatment slots for addicts.

"Usually there is a strong relationship between the use of a drug and the number of people getting treatment," he said.

Although the report shows more Marylanders are receiving treatment for drug and alcohol abuse, most abusers do not seek help. Only about 10 percent of drug and alcohol abusers are treated for their addictions, Mr. Rusinko said. Therefore, there are no concrete data on the total number of drug and alcohol abusers in the state, he said.

"What we see are the edges of the problem. These are all just indicators. Nowhere do we have a sense of the entire population [of abusers]. All we can do is guesstimate," he said.

The report also found that:

* Nearly half those admitted to alcohol and drug treatment programs in fiscal year 1990 had been treated for some form of substance abuse at least once before.

* Drugs such as barbiturates, amphetamines and PCP appear to have decreased in popularity over the last five years.

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