The anedotes and experience in this article are real, although names are not. The author is the mother of one of the youngsters. CAPTION: Picture 1, no caption, photo set up by Don [WORD ILLEGIBLE] for the Washington Post; Picture 2, 3, no caption WHEN CHERYL WAS 14, she stopped riding her bike, playing with her cat, seeing her school friends in Montgomery county. A neighbor told her mother that she was taking drugs. Her mother didn't believe it. She wasn't the sweet practical child she'd been a year ago, but that was the age, her mother thought. Cheryl's temper tantrums worsened, her room became a filthy smelly fire hazard, she stole from her mother and her new friends' parents, she broke furniture and attacked her mother and brother when she was questioned. Finally she was caught with drugs and admitted using pot, pills and PCP for a year. At mid-semester her mother sent her to a private school to change her environment. She seldom went to class, was high most of the time, ran away from school. She was raped while hitchhking. Returned home, she was put under psychiatric care as an outpatient. She vegetated for the summer, still sneaking in drugs. She was sent to another school recommended and paid for by the State of Maryland. it cost $8,500 a year and provided psychiatric counseling. There she added cocaine to her drug list. it was sold by the dorm counselors. She began drinking. She had frequent memory losses, so she cut back on drugs. She was returned home as uncorrectable when she threatened to tell authorities about the drugs available in the dorm. By then her parents were divorced. Her mother was in therapy and dreaded her presence. Her brother couldn't stand the sight of her. Her father hadn't the room for her to live with him. She sat at home for two weeks tearing up pieces of paper and smiling. Now 16, she had thought about getting a job but she isn't sure. When she isn't sitting, she is pacing or fidgeting or just standing in a corner leaning on the wall. Make love not war, the flower children said. Remember? Ten years ago they blew smoke in the faces of the cops they gave flowers to. The college kids smoking pot then wore costumey clothes, went barefoot, smiled benignly in the fog of the peace they extolled. It was a large, visible cult. Marijuana frightened a lot of parents who were eventually persuaded that it wasn't as bad as whiskey, wasn't addictive, that it was a gentling thing. No violence or scarred livers or pickled brains, the highball-oriented parents were told. Not even doctors could find much wrong with it. Marijuana got some bad press when harder mind embellishers filtered into paradise. It wasn't the grass that had fostered the hard drugs, it was a flaw in society, said the flower children survivors, who moved on to variations of the suburbs whence they came. They seem to have disappeared, a least as a subculture. But the drugs have not. They are more available than ever and have sifted down to adolescents, pre-adolescents. Younger children don't bother to dress differently to define their drug interest. So many people use so many drugs that there is nothing to define. But there is a lot to hide when the users are 13-to 15-year-olds, just beginning the roller coaster ride out of childhood. With emotions as out of controls as their energy, everything they do seems excessive. And instead of rebelling openly, many children are retreating into drugs. They furtively numb themselves with whatever is least detectable. They're rebelling, but instead of learning from their excesses, they're blotting them out. In a society intent on providing escape from all discomfort, it must seem logical to kids to try to temper the wild ride. With drugs they can examine minutiae without threat - they need't try to piece anything together, yet they feel that they've heightened their awareness. Many young teen-agers try marijuana the way kids of an earlier age drank beer on the sly. And that's the extent of it. But for many children, getting high becomes a reality in itself and they combine drugs - pills, pot, liquor - to say that way. Statistics on drugs are as varied as the sources of them. Kids you ask say that anywhere from 50 to 85 per cent of students smoke pot at parties and at rock concerts. HEW's National Institute on Drug Abuse reported a five per cent increase in marijuana use in 1976 over 1975. Drug counselors in the Washington area say that there is a real problem with only about 10 per cent of students, while the Montgomery County Drug Control reported a 43 per cent increase in drug related arrests in 1976 over 1975. Statistics explain little about children's use of drugs that potentiate each other or about how much experimenting goes on with unpleasant to fatal results as youngsters seek the perfect high. Children can get marijuana, LSD, barbiturates, amphetamines and PCP on almost any junior high school campus in the area and in countless shopping center parking lots. Armed with a blend of myth, partial truth and complete trust in their dealers, they think they know what they're buying and are always sure tha they can "handle" it. One of the most popular drugs today is PCP, and psychiatrists and toxicologists are not only finding it elusive to measure, but in light of its potential for explosive manifestations, they agree that it is probably more harmful thatn any other drug. Finding a pattern among young chronic drug users is equally elusive. They are not the oldest, youngest, middle children; not the brightest or slowest; not primarily from divorced or transient families, though these and other factors have been cited as causes. The result is fatigue, depression, guilt and frustation for parents and children. Children who had had hobbies, enjoyed sports and were good students, change rapidly. They lie, steal, skip school, stop studying and apparently lose all concern for the things that once had mattered. The tip-of-the-iceberg period of discovery lasts about a year for parents who give up their trust slowly; by then the children are cocooned in the drug culture and will fight to retain what has become their only social sustenance. The biggest outward hazard in their frequent drugged carelessness is fire. Children falling asleep with lighted cigarettes have set their beds or rooms on fire.After a year or two of worry, small fires, expensive doctors and schools, possibly arrest, once-close families can be in nervous shards. Some parents turn their children over to the state as out of control. It is terrifying for parents who thought that the drug problem was solved, not shelved, and who were prepared for the eventuality that their child would try it and drop it to find that there are still no answers. Alex is 13, just. He likes getting high. He's been juggling cobinations of pot, pills, beer and PCP since September. He can get it all on the playing field at the junior high he attends. His brother Eric, now 16 began taking drugs at 13 too, and after a year of speed, pot, acid and barbiturates - with nearly fatal overdoses - he was institutionalized. Ten months later he was released, drug free, but when he started school the cycle began again. He was a year older than the other ninth-grade students. With his long hair, beard, and gliding walk the kids said he looked liked Jesus. he became a hero to some children and to his brother. Eric thrived on being treated as a man who had come through some rite of passage alone. he had lived through the cuckoo's nest. he had taken every drug there was and could "handle" it. Somehow the balance was upset and he was sent back to the institution in April. He'd taken more acid and no one knew what else and spent his last free days muttering about his hair, how it was part of him, how much he and his hair had been through. He was agitated and scared and talked about how he used to control his whole family with his switch blade knife. Alex spends his days drawing marijuana plants, developing a frail bravado and visiting special schools with his mother. He has told all the schools that have turned him down how much he likes getting high. A group school has accepted him, but his parents are still paying for Eric's last hospital stay and will need stated aid for Alex's new school. He giggles, fidgets as he talks: "It was a good weekend, except my mother almost blew it. We were partying at a friend's house - beer and bongs all over and she came to get me but I forced her out of the house I mean, just because she couldn't find me for 36 hours, she thinks she has the right to just come in and bust the place. She would have, too. Called the pigs on my friends. My friend's mother was there. She doesn't hassle you for getting high like my bitch old lady. "I got to see Eric yesterday. He looks okay. And he runs the place, man. He still has his hair long, and now he's got an earing." Alex's mother is not so fine. the house rented for Eric's return from his first stay is back on the market and she's staying in a room at a friend's. Sharon Daniel's experience in discovering her 14-year-old-son's drug world is a more common mid-70s event than many people realize. Bored by the '60s drug fad herself, Sharon was wary of its draw on children.She thought she knew enough about it to offer Lanny some perspective. She didn't. New job for her, new school for Lanny and a new country for them both. Just back from abroad, it was going to be fun, learning to speak Carter, eating peanuts, wearing jeans whenever they wanted. But six weeks into it all, as often as not she was driving home crying. What was this drug thing" Nothing she'd ever seen. Lanny listed or lurched rather than walked, was rabbit-eyed, monosyllabic or parallel with the floor someplace. The signs began at the front door - junk-food wrappers, books and jackets forming a path to where he lay prone. Growing, nearly 6 feet tall, one day energetic the next exhausted - wasn't that the age? Not quite. It was spooky when she couldn't wake him - his utterings about quasars and the Star Trek people. He was failing all his best subjects. He had had a paper route but couldn't get up for it or stay up for dinner. He kept saying he was fine, not "stoned" and she wasn't used to questioning him and only later realized that he had redefined "stoned" to mean crawlingly high. If he was vertical, he was fine; passed out, he was tired. It was a frustrating game in semantics. The day he stayed home with a sore throat she called to see how he felt. he was incoherent. Mumbling about quasars, capsuled, Spock. She streaked home to find him passed out on her bed, cigarette burns smouldering on the bedspread and spilled wine between himself and a friend who was also unconscious. Had they been in his tinderbox of an attic suite, the place would have been in flames. She got him upstairs. The other boy got up and walked out. She called his mother, a woman with a voice like a wet string. Weary. The woman was glad her son was on his way home, knew that he "smoked dope," didn't understand it as his sister was "fine." Next day, Sharon called the school and was told that there were to drug problems there are there would have been complaints or arrests. She mentioned having seen children on the field outside the classroom windows smoking and was simply asking what could be done about an obvious problem that incapacitated students. There was no problem. She called one of the drug help listings in the phone book and said, "We've just moved here from a place where pot was pot and hash was hash. What do people take here?" "Oh, it could be PCP, grass and PCP, just grass, pills, wine, acid, all of it together. It could be anything . . . they get it at school, in shopping centers. Junior high is the worst because the kids there are the most vulnerable and the traffic goes to the easiest targets." If it was an emergency, she could bring him in; if not, arrange for drug counseling. All she'd ever heard about group drug counseling was that children learned more about drugs than they knew before, so she decided against it. The dope and denials dragged on. When he looked bleary on Christmas, she dug a packdt of grass from his pocket shrieking, "Next time, the police." Next time was after a two-day school retreat. He came back tired, went right to bed.She went upstairs to check the lights and tripped over a bag of grass. She called a squad car for drama, not for an arrest. Lanny found it amusing. The police, Sharon discovered, were as concerned as she over the numbers of children gone awry so young. They were not cops hovering to throw children in the clink and besides, they have almost no power to control minors. They hope to keep them from future trouble, but find it a losing battle. As one Montgomery County Juvenile Aid officer said, "Ten years ago it was unusual to see young kids in the hospital for drug intoxication. Now the seventh floor of the county general looks like a barracks - kids lining the walls, temporary beds set up, unbelievable. There seem to be fewer overdose problems but more durg problems generally." Sharon called his friends to ask them not to come to the house unless she was in it and not to come stoned. No improvement. So she called the parents and was greeted with a mixture of rude denials that their children migh be involved to one fatigued answer, "Bravo - let's keep in touch." Having become, meanwhile, more of a cop than parent, she found a doctor for him to see twice a week so that he would have someone else to talk to besides her own bleak self. He saw his father on Sundays, some diversion. She tried to orchestrate other diversions with non-druggies, but he resisted by getting stoned. She called the school again, now six months after the first call. This time the school said that there was a problem. Seven arrests since February menat that it existed.There was to be a meeting of Concerned Parents the following Wednesday and she was welcome to come. By the next Wednesday, she was afraid to leave Lanny alone in the house. He had been agitated for days, was glassy-eyed and defensive, held long mystical monologues and disjointed conversations. she called parents and doctors to find out what it meant. Probably multiple drugs, she was told. he denied using anything but pot, but he had lied so much she was suspicious of everything. she slept on her purse because he had helped himself and she couldn't remember to count her money. He lied about where he went and whom he saw. he used to be so honest - what was the drive, this drug-seeking? The doctor offered to put him in a general hospital for detoxification. Not wanting him labeled, she said no. She went to the meeting.never having been to a help-type meeting before, she had no expectations. She was greeted with the jargon her son used. the man leading the session told 25 adults to sit, stand, write their first (only) names to tape to their chests, talk to a stranger for fine minutes, sit down and listen to what the leader wanted. The leader wanted to share his feelings, man. He wanted everyone to share their feelings, he wanted everyone to know where they were coming from and where he was at. It was a condescending form of California non-speak Sharon thought had been out of vogue for 10 years. The leader became quite agitated when someone suggested speaking English and said something to the effect that the group could only group slowly and that it was being unfair to itself by upsetting the group program. No one understood anything. One woman said that she was there under the recurring threat of her daughter's overdosing, and she left. By the end of the meeting, outrage had formed the gorup and some parents managed to surreptitiously get each other's last names and phone numbers. Thus, Sharon learned that most of those attending were married, had several children, were not transient, had run the gamut from yellow pages to shrinks seeking help. All felt isolated, guilty and hopeless. Most of them would be at the next meeting because they didn't know what else to do. Three days later Lanny was arrested for stealing Vallium from a family friend's locked closet. His bizarre behavior had been the result of mixing Valium and pot for two weeks. He was glad he was caught, he said later, though he had hardly been aware of the arrest at the time. He remembered little of the previous two weeks. He hid the sickness he felt in detoxifying, went to school when he wanted to be home. He hadn't known how sick he could get or that it would take more than a week to feel truly normal. Sharon then realized that he'd been tampering with street pills all long, and had she known better she would at least have taken his pulse when she'd found him sleeping so deeply. Pills in certain combinations can be fatal, and people who are high forget what or how much they've taken. She'd actually feared he'd gone mad during his manic monologues and had asked the doctor to see him more often unsure of what was wrong. With the Valium experience still fresh and his feeling well a relief, he seems like himself again. Clear-eyed, waling straight, apparently interested in his surroundings again. But how long will he be able to resist the drug smorgasbord that is tradition on the school playing field? And will summer's freedom do anything other than move the drug feast? Susan is in the ninth grade at a junior high school in Bethesda. She began smoking PCP the summer after seventh grade. She didn't really seek it out, but she'd smoked pot, had heard bad things about acid, and, well, PCP was an hallucinogen. Just an animal tranquilizer. She smoked it on parsley or on grass that would otherwise have been mediocre. But the PCP got scary after a while. Sometimes she thought she was losing her mind, long after she'd taken it. She couldn't see straight or hold a conversation. She could barely talk about the weather and she didn't want to grow up like that. She's stopped smoking PCP, stopped drugs altogether, for the last month anyway. She'd never stolen from her parents, but - and her eyes brimmed - she'd lied to them a lot. Readjusting at school while going off drugs wan't easy. She had broken away from her old friends, many of whom were now "groupies." No, not rock star followers. "Groupies are the girls who talk about hair and clothes all the time and are all in love with handsome Jerry Smith. And they're the jocks, the Jerry Smiths. They all hang around together. "But when I'm with my 'fry' friends - 'fries' are heavy drug users - it makes me sad to see them getting high all the time. I'm not their mother, but I care about them," - her eyes filling again, "and I know I can't tell them anything." Michael is 18 and is now in college. When he was a Western Junior High School in Montgomery COunty, he and six friends formed a close group. They began smoking pot about eighth grade, but they could handle it. None of them failed school, got caught or was busted. They were cool, they thought. When dealers offered them other stuff - pills, acid, PCP - they tried it. They had good dealers whom they trusted the way their parents trusted a long-sought honest car mechanic. By the time they were juniors at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, they were all shooting heroin. Three of them are dead, one is in a mental institution with permanent brain damage from inhaling freon. The three still alive are nearly phobic about drugs and drug users.