An exhaustive study of drug use among District of Columbia criminals shows that heroine use declined during the years 1972 to 1975, and that heroine users are less apt to committ crimes of murder, rape and aggravated assault than other drug users.
Those crimes are considered crimes of violence by the D.C. police and the National Institute on Drug Abuse, did not correlate statistics between heroin use and robbery, although that crime is a more frequently committed street crime than the other three.
One of the two authors of the study, Nicholas J. Kozel, said that the statistics tend to refuse the common notion of heroin addicts' being constantly driven to violence in their desperate search for money to suport their habit.
The report, based on urinalyses of 37.379 criminal defendants in Superior Court during the 40-month period, found that heroine users accounted for the bulk - 65.6 per cent - of all drug users.
The report found that illicit drug use declined from 35 per cent of the prisoner population in 1972 to less than 20 per cent by early 1975, and that heroine use, while fluctuating during the period, also generally declined.
While the number of defendants remained relatively constant, the number of heroine users fluctuated from 681 in January-March, 1972 to a low of 258 in January-March, 1973 to 358 in January-March, 1975. Kozel said that the downward trend in heroine use appears to be continuing today.
While the use of drugs as a whole declined, the report said, the use of some specific substances such as the stimulant phenmetrazine - known on the street as "pink bam" - has greatly increased.
Increased government control over the dispensing of some prescription drugs, including methadone, and the street addict's search for other, substitute drugs account for the irregular pattern in drug use, the report said.
According to the NIDA report, almost 17 per cent of nondrug users were charged with "violent" crimes while only 7.3 per cent of heroine users were charged with such crimes.
"The main issue in crimes associated with the heroine use is acquisition of money," Kozel said, "We focused on the acquisitive aspect of the crime, while other people look more at the violent aspect."
Kozel, a public health analyst at NIDA, and NIDA director Robert L. Dupont, are the authors of the 20-page study on drug use among Superior Court defendants.
While hard evidence linking heroin addiction with crime patterns is scarce, DuPont and Kozel said that increases and decreases in burglaries reported by D.C. police from 1969 through 1975 are closely paralleled by fluctuations in the purity of heroin confiscated and analyzed by police in the same period.
"An increase in heroin purity is thought to be associated with an increase in heroine availability and subsequent use," the report said.
While general drug use declined during the period covered by the NIDA study, Kozel and DuPont noted the "phenomenal growth" in the use of phenmetrazind, and the "equally spectacular decline" in the use of the stimulant drug methamphetamine, or "yellow bam."
Imposition of federal "regulatory supply control" of methamphetamines curbed their use in 1972, but their users quickly replaced them with phenmetrazine, which is clinically similar and produces similar physiological effects, the report said.
Also, the report said, the ilegal use of methadone - a synthetic drug used to block the craving for heroin - declined with tighter requirements for dispensing the drug by clinics in the city.