No-one knows exactly how many drug addicts there are in New York. In 1969, the?
No-one knows exactly how many drug addicts there are in New York. In 1969, the figure for heroin addicts was well over 100,000. New statistics, due in a fortnight, are likely to show a staggering increase. The known facts have already reached frightening proportions. One half of New York street crimes are committed by addicts. The estimated cost to the city is over 2,400 million dollars (GBP1,000 million sterling).
The amount spent on addict rehabilitation and drug prevention is a mere fraction of this sum -- an estimated 30 million dollars (GBP12.5 million). Now there's the threat of a further cutback of funds. In view of this, Charles Wheeler of the BBC has been taking a look at the work of one rather special centre for reforming youngsters trapped by the drug habit.
The centre is called Odyssey House. It was founded and is now run by ex-addicts, with the help of doctors, teachers and social workers. With at least 25,000 school children currently taking heroin in New York, the centre has been doing valuable work in the treatment of teenagers from thirteen to eighteen. It currently treats 400 residents and 3,000 outpatients.
The film has an excellent commentary by Wheeler over natural sound of various activities at the centres. His report is transcribed on our own commentary page. There is also an interview with a schoolgirl addict currently undergoing treatment at the centre:
SYNOPSIS: New York is one of the few cities in the country that treats drug addiction as an epidemic. It has to. There are more than a hundred-thousand herein users in the city.
Each of these youngsters is a drug addict -- a drug addict who is trying to go straight. Their ages run from thirteen to eighteen. Some are on herein. Others are on amphetamines like speed, or barbiturates, or on consciousness-expanding drugs like L.S.D. They are undergoing an eighteen-month course of treatment at the semi-private centre in New York called Odyssey House. Some of them were sent there by the juvenile court. Others were brought by parents. And some walked in from the streets. In New York City, twenty-five thousand schoolchildren are currently taking heroin, according to the Board of Education. In 1969, two-hundred and twenty-three teenagers died from drugs, including ten boys and two girls under fifteen. Altogether, more than eleven-hundred addicts died last year. In the first week of May, thirty-eight addicts died in New York, including five teenagers. The Odyssey House project was started by a dozen heroin addicts in a hospital ward. They set up their apartment, brought in others, attracted the help of professionals and got official support in 1967. Today, Odyssey Houses have 400 residents and 3,000 outpatients. Treatment is based on community living and mutual help. Everybody works. Nothing is done for an addict that he can't do himself. Addicts under eighteen attend classes as though they were at school. Laurie Palmer is from a small town in Connecticut.
But it is beginning to look like a lost battle. The state legislators have just imposed budget outs, and instead of expanding, Odyssey House and other centres are having to dismiss staff and reduce the number of patients they can admit.