The New York Times October 23, 1951
REPEATERS FAILING IN NARCOTICS 'CURE'
State Inquiry Shows Spread of Vices at U.S. Hospital--Cases Here Are Rising
By CHARLES GRUTZNER
Repeaters keep "taking the cure" at the Federal hospital for
narcotics addicts at Lexington, Ky., without lasting benefit and young voluntary patients
there learn new evils from veterans in crime, it was testified yesterday at the state
inquiry into narcotics addiction.
The second phase of the public hearings conducted by Attorney General Nathaniel L. Goldstein brought out, too, that neither Bellevue nor any of the other city hospitals had proper facilities for teen-age addicts whose number appears to continue increasing. The picture of unpreparedness for the cure and rehabilitation of addicts is to be completed at today's hearing, starting at 1 P.M. in the State Office Building, 80 Centre Street.
Continuing the procedure that dramatized the extent and shocking details of addiction at the first public hearings last June, the Attorney General presented his case yesterday through witnesses on the stand and disembodied voices emanating from a record player. The unseen witnesses were addicts whose stories had been put on wire tape and offered as sworn testimony.
The witnesses who testified in person were Dr. Marie Nyswander, formerly in charge of the women's division at the Lexington hospital and later head of the disturbed women's ward at Bellevue Hospital; Dr. Paul Zimmering, senior psychiatrist in charge of the male adolescents ward at Bellevue; and Benny Gim, special assistant Attorney General and former Federal narcotics agent.
Assistant Attorney General Sidney Tartikoff, who conducted the questioning, put into the record police and penal statistics which showed that more addicts and peddlers of narcotics were now being arrested and sent away than there were up to last June, when the problem was considered of scandalous proportions.
Police records for the first nine months of the year showed 2,837 arrests- 636 of boys and girls under 21 and 2,201 in the age group 21 and over-- as compared with a total for the twelve months of last year of 2,482 of whom 521 were under 21 and 1,961 were 21 or over.
Acceleration of Arrests
Mr. Goldstein remarked that the arrests so far this year were four times the total for 1946, while narcotics arrests of teen-agers were almost thirty times those of 1946.
Other statistics offered yesterday by Mr. Tartikoff showed large increases through last August and September in the number of youthful addicts and peddlers of narcotics in the various prisons, reformatories and penitentiaries in this state. Of 811 felons admitted to Sing Sing prison during the first eight months of this year, for instance, 143 were users or sellers of narcotics.
More than 400 teen-age narcotics addicts have been sent so far this year to Elmira Reformatory and Westfield State Farm for Women for drug peddling or other offenses including petty larceny, prostitution, robbery, assault, attempted burglary or being wayward minors.
Mr. Goldstein said the new cases since June would require an upward revision of the estimates made four months ago of the number of narcotics cases to come to official attention this year.
Conditions at Lexington were highlighted by the recorded testimony of a 37-year-old housewife and mother, recently released as cured after having four times previously "taken the cure" at Lexington and four or five times at private sanitariums, and of an 18-year-old Bronx boy released two months ago from the Federal institution where he said newcomers learned the tricks of satisfying their craving for drugs on the outside.
The woman's story was that she began smoking opium out of curiosity aroused on a
"date," when she was 16 and working in Boston as a waitress; graduated to
heroin; was arrested thirty-three times for prostitution and other offenses she committed
to get money for narcotics; relapsed into addiction after five private "cures"
and four stays in Lexington because she had never really "made up my mind" to
stay away from narcotics until after her child was born.
It developed that when the woman was sent to Lexington by the courts she underwent the full five-month "cure," but on other occasions she had as a voluntary patient, checked out after stays ranging from two to twelve days.
No Warning in Hygiene Course
The boy's narrative said that he had received only two psychiatric consultations in five months at Lexington and felt that more frequent help of that sort was desirable. It was disclosed that during his attendance at Samuel Gompers Vocational High School he had never received instruction in the effects of narcotics in a hygiene class.
At the hearings in June Mr. Goldstein had been sharply critical of the city's schools for alleged failure to meet a State Education Law requirement that they teach the effects of narcotics on the human system.
A third recording played at the hearing had been made by a 20-year-old girl on the eve of her admission to Lexington as a voluntary patient. She had been previously "cured" in a New Jersey prison by the painful "cold turkey" withdrawal treatment but had resumed the use of heroin.
Dr. Nyswander testified that she had observed at Lexington a high ratio of repeaters, many of whom took the "cure" several times but returned to narcotics soon after they left the hospital.
Pressed for her estimate of how many of the cures were lasting, Dr. Nyswander said
perhaps 15 per cent. When Mr. Goldstein said he thought hospital authorities claimed about
25 per cent, Dr. Nyswander replied that she considered that a "generous"
Asserting that Bellevue and other city hospitals had no facilities for the follow-up necessary to rehabilitate narcotics addicts, Dr. Zimmering said the first cases of teen-age addiction admitted to Bellevue two years ago were from Harlem but that the influx this year into Bellevue and Kings County Hospitals was from many parts of the city and included youths of varied racial and religious backgrounds.
The young addicts, as a group, are not hoodlums or underprivileged, Dr. Zimmering said, but were mostly "nice kids." He said their psychometric measurements showed them as average mentality, ranging from dull normal to superior. They turned to crime only under pressure of the need for more narcotics he said.
The third phase of the public hearings, at which district attorneys, judges and legislators will recommend more effective ways for dealing with the problem, will be held after the Nov. 6 election, thus to avoid any suggestion of politics in the hearings.