New data collected at five Orange County drug treatment clinics shows a surge in the use of LSD among youth--particularly in the more affluent South County.
Crack cocaine and PCP are more popular in the North County than elsewhere, while marijuana ranks highest as the problem drug among the 657 adolescents in public treatment, according to the report, which will be presented today at the Orange County Child Abuse Conference in Anaheim by John Van Sky, director of the Santa Ana Drug Abuse Clinic.
The study--which Van Sky cautioned is limited by its narrow sample--is consistent with informal reports from hospitals and school officials who have observed that LSD is making a comeback. "We're not sure why and we're not sure whether it will continue," he said.
Van Sky speculated that it may be that "the other drugs get very bad press. You have to remember who you're dealing with. Adolescents are subject to very extreme peer pressure. It might be cool to fry on acid, but not cool to take PCP."
The statistical study was based on clients ages 12-19 in treatment at five Orange County Drug Abuse Services clinics from Nov. 1, 1990, to Nov. 30, 1991, in Westminster, Anaheim, Santa Ana, Mission Viejo and the Newport-Mesa area. Some of them were forced to enter treatment as a condition of probation, or were referred by schools; others were brought in by parents or sought treatment on their own.
The youths were asked to identify their drug of choice. However, multiple drug use is the norm among clients, Van Sky said.
"Across the board, the No. 1 drug for adolescents is marijuana," Van Sky said.
Out of 223 youths in the Mission Viejo clinic, 11.2% were admitted with hallucinogens, "virtually always LSD as the primary identified drug problem," Van Sky said.
While the sample was taken from a select population, Len Liberio, program manager for Drug Abuse Services, called the figures "fairly typical of what's going on in the county."
"It's a new trend we're seeing," he said. LSD "seems to be flipping up everywhere we turn."
Liberio estimated that about 1% of drug abuse has involved LSD since its heyday in the '60s. He said a recent movie about the rock group the Doors "probably glorified it and brought it back to life a bit."
South County school officials Tuesday said they had "several cases" of high school students being caught with stamps laced with LSD. Sometimes they have a cartoon of Mickey Mouse on them.
"I can't say it's an epidemic," said Alan Hix, community liaison officer for Capistrano Unified School District. But he said local hospitals and children themselves are reporting increased use of LSD as well as the sniffing of inhalants, such as glue and propellants.
One of the biggest problems in the affluent area is denial, he said. "Somebody told me: 'It's not OK to have a (drug) problem in the South County," he said.
In the North County, the youths reported what Van Sky called a "significant amount" of PCP and cocaine abuse.
In Santa Ana, eight of the 68 youths in treatment had PCP problems and 16% were cocaine and crack users.
In Anaheim, 7% of the 121 clients named PCP as their problem drug and 10%cocaine and crack. Mission Viejo and Newport-Mesa reported no PCP use.
The report, prepared for the conference, will be helpful in determining treatment for drug users, Van Sky said.
"The challenge would be to tailor the treatment to the peer group so that within a social context it makes sense," he said. "You can't tell a heroin addict:'This is going to limit your educational possibilities';they'll laugh at you. They don't see themselves as having any educational possibilities.
"With an adolescent who is aspiring to college, you can point out taking hallucinogens may limit their ability to process information in future, and may affect their education and everything else," Van Sky said.
This year, Liberio said, the county has been sponsoring community forums to gather testimony from the community about drugs in an effort to pull together a five-year plan.
The fifth and final community forum will be March 25 at 6:30 p.m. at the Hall of Administration in Santa Ana.
Drugs of Choice
Marijuana is the drug most often used by adolescents treated at five Orange County drug treatment centers during the 13-month period between Nov. 1, 1990 and Nov. 30, 1991.
Source: Orange County Health Care Agency, Santa Ana Drug Abuse Clinic