Dorcas Speer Interviews Dr David Smith, Haight Ashbury Medical Clinic (WOI News Clip 391)

recently at Iowa State as well as
Simpson and Grinnell dr. David Smith discussed some of the aspects of the
drug problem dr. Smith is medical director of the haight-ashbury medical
clinic and consultant on drug abuse for the department of psychiatry at San
Francisco General Hospital and rather than go down through the usual sort of
listing of identification of the different drugs and some of the factors
involved I’d like for you to discuss some of the things that oftentimes
aren’t talked about at what point is the accurate drug information essential for
our young people in their developmental stage well I think the most important
thing to understand is that any drug pattern is an interaction between a
chemical personality and a social environment and therefore when you’re
gonna educate young people about drugs you’ve really got to start at a time
before they start thinking about taking the chemicals or experiencing the social
pressures that might lead them to to use drugs and I think that it should begin
in in elementary school and the bay area of the decision to take drugs starts
about the seventh grade so obviously if you’re going to have a form of
conceptual drug education that is meaningful it has to occur before the
seventh grade but it really has to be not just you know illegal drugs it has
to also discuss what the whole act of ingesting a foreign chemical in your
body means what taking aspirin means what smoking cigarettes means what
taking penicillin is in other words it has to be a conceptual thing that
emphasizes all aspects of drug taking so that it’s relevant for the young person
when he is actually placed in a situation
which he might be tempted mm-hmm most the young people get started on
experimentation with illegal drugs because of curiosity peer group pressure
and if you haven’t worked with your young person and helped you make
decisions about how to resist these things then your drug education hasn’t
been successful well if you have given inaccurate information then this also
adds to the the fun of experimenting because then the results are different
from what somebody told you they would be and so why believe anything they say
does this happen well this is a one of the big problems with drug education as
it’s currently formulated is that there’s a great deal of misinformation
and most of the material relates to specific drug facts and then school
administrators in particular are very anxious to make certain things seem a
lot worse than they really are particularly in the area of marijuana so
they’ll throw out some information it’s not true but it’s scary and they don’t
think that this matters much but if you’ve then had a very good drug
education program and you’ve talked about em fetta mean and barbiturates and
heroin and the real dangers of these substances and then at a later time the
young person hears or finds out one way or another that what you said about
marijuana was invalid then the reaction just to reject everything you’ve said
and this is one of the biggest barriers to effective drug education effective
young people think that we’re lying to them about everything and then they
always point out certain specific bits of misinformation as a way of
documenting that all of it should be rejected and I think that our biggest
goal in drug education is to establish credibility and when you’re speaking of
a the results of the drug intake and the
things that he can do with with the body I suspect that many adults are not aware
of the things that happen and that the diet pill doesn’t just take off the peak
out of the appetite and the weight but that there are many other things that
are involved in many serious consequences in the long run yes all
right going on to something else that impressed me as talking with you as the
factor of the illegal drug market being extremely detrimental as far as again of
the young people because of the environment that they have to go through
during their teenage and pre teenage years in order to obtain the drug that
many times they’re going to be getting could you elaborate a little bit on this
and the consequences well one of the biggest concerns of those of us that are
in the treatment of young people is that although you it’s essential to have
regulation of drugs in law enforcement to it you know to control supply
particularly the more dangerous drugs such as heroin barbituates amphetamine
LSD the criminalization of the drug user mother which treating him as a criminal
as produced in particularly the young many more serious consequences than the
act that he’s gone through for example them anytime you have a drug in large
demand then a delivery system will develop even if you made it illegal we
have a very naive feeling the United States that if we just made a drug
illegal and it’ll go away and we should have learned that this doesn’t work with
prohibition for example that with prohibition all’s we did with
prohibition was to lose control of the distribution of that drug in a huge
black market develop to supply the drug now there is a huge black market in
marijuana the young person that wants to buy marijuana has to enter into this
illegal drug scene he is exposed to a variety of other influences
and temptations and particularly if he smokes marijuana and finds out that it
didn’t lead to mania and all these other horrible things that he found out about
in the drug education program at school then he’s liable to say well they must
have been lying to me about these other agents and certainly he they’re readily
available and then he goes on in experiments with these other things in
the Bay Area for example if you legalized marijuana you would decrease
its availability decrease its availability to minors because it’s
easier for a miner to get pot than it is booze because there’s such a huge
marijuana black market now our biggest concerns are not with adult marijuana
use but with minor marijuana it’s we don’t want young people in the formative
stages of their adolescent maturation to be taking any drugs not marijuana not
pills not booze not anything and it’s of course very difficult to try to get them
through these crucial stages of adolescent Rancher ation without them
getting involved with drugs but we’re certainly not decreasing the
availability at least in the big city areas of marijuana by making it illegal
in fact by making a a drug that has a billion-dollar market in the United
States illegal we’re increasing its attractiveness by making it a forbidden
fruit were increasing and supporting this very well-organized black-market
distribution system and we’re exposing them to a system that we want to keep
them out of well exposing them to greater availability as well as to an
environment that is not conducive to the full development as they should be
developing right one last thing do you have available a
list of literature that would be on the levels that parents would be able to get
good information well the place to write for that type of information is the
National Institute of Mental Health and their drug abuse section we have
literature at our clinic that’s a little bit more sophisticated but I think you
can get the simple literature for for parents and for youth in large quantity
from the national student mental health and they and they distribute it for free
thank you our guest has been dr. David Smith he is
medical director of haight-ashbury medical clinic and consultant on drug
abuse for the department of psychiatry at San Francisco General Hospital and
thank you very very much for taking the time

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