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The New York Times June 18, 1951
BUT GRAVEST HERE
By ROBERT C. DOTY
Narcotic addiction among juveniles has reached epidemic proportions in nine major cities from coast to coast and is at its worst in New York, Federal narcotics officials here and in Washington said yesterday.
Lack of parental control and the "social disintegration" of the large urban centers were blamed for the phenomenon in statements by Harry J. Anslinger, United States Commissioner of Narcotics, in Washington, and by speakers at the American Legion conference on narcotics here.
The problem is most acute in New York, the Legion meeting was told by Assistant District Attorney Irving Slonim, with street sales of narcotics amounting to at least $100,000,000 annually. Mounting prices of narcotics "shots," he said, had driven many young addicts to crime to obtain funds for supplies, bringing the problem into the open.
Conditions In Other Cities
Mr. Anslinger, according to the United Press, said the wave of youthful addiction had been noted also in Philadelphia, Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis, New Orleans, San Francisco, Washington and Baltimore.
But only in New York, he said, had addiction been reported among teen-age youths still in high school. His bureau, he declared, could put an end to narcotics peddling if adequately equipped with "tools" in the form of laws providing compulsory prison terms of five, ten and twenty years for second and third offenders. Congress now is considering such legislation.
The theme of stiffer penalties for illicit narcotics dealers was stressed by a dozen speakers at the Legion meeting at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel and by Senator Estes Kefauver, Democrat of Tennessee, in a radio interview.
The former chairman of the Senate Crime Committee described the wave of youthful addiction as a "terrible and awful menace," endorsed proposals for strengthening the Narcotics Bureau and urged parents to bring home to their children "the truth about what happens when they become narcotics addicts."
Dr. victor H. Vogel, director of the United States Public Health Service narcotics hospital at Lexington, Ky., told the Legion conference that admissions of teenage youths there had risen from fifty-two in 1948 to a peak of 440 in 1950 more than half of them from this city.
"Judging from news accounts, we are seeing only a small proportion of the teen-age narcotics addicts that exist in the large cities," he said.
However, he and other speakers drew a distinction between persons who had reached the stage of physical dependence on narcotics the true addicts and those who had experimented occasionally but had escaped enslavement. Many youthful users of narcotics in the latter class could be saved by prompt countermeasures the conference was told.
Dr. Vogel termed false a prevalent belief that a narcotic addict was required to plead guilty to a felony charge to obtain admission to the Federal hospitals. Addicts volunteering for first cures make up 80 per cent of admissions, he said, and records of their cases are entirely confidential.
Medical and rehabilitation methods at Lexington were praised by Irving Geist, a sponsor of the Four Chaplains Memorial Placement Center, Inc., which seeks establishment of a narcotics hospital and farm here, and by Dr. Morris Hinenburg, medical director of the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies. Both, however, urged new buildings for young addicts to permit their segregation from more sophisticated adult narcotics users.
Attorney General Nathaniel L. Goldstein, whose investigating committee last week focused attention on the youth problem, urged the Legion to direct its efforts toward establishment of more stringent Federal and state laws against narcotics peddlers and toward better educational and rehabilitation work among young people.
Mounting juvenile addiction rates were a sign of "social disintegration failure to keep up with the problems of urban life," said Austin McCormick, Professor of Criminology at the University of California and formerly New York Commissioner of Corrections. Youth, he said, found itself unable to develop ethical concepts in an atmosphere of poverty, alcoholism and racial prejudice, and sought escape in narcotics. A broader approach than provision of additional treatment facilities was needed, he declared.
Mrs. Sylvia Singer, assistant district attorney and chairman of a subcommittee of the Welfare Council of New York City studying the problem of youthful addiction, outlined a program for immediate action by city and state officials to establish new facilities for treatment of victims.
Mrs. Singer and Raymond M. Hilliard, executive director of the council, in a separate statement issued yesterday, urged opening a reception unit to classify and begin treatment of young addicts, and a long-term treatment unit providing psychotherapy and occupational therapy to readapt patients to community living.
Mr. Anslinger, Police Commissioner Thomas F. Murphy and Superintendent of Schools William Jansen are scheduled to address the Legion group today at final sessions of the three-day conference.
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