The nine-day D.C. police crackdown on drug traffic has sent many addicts scurrying to narcotics treatment centers, especially those offering the powerful heroin substitute methadone, as an alternative to chancing drug pruchases on Washington's heavily policed inner city streets.
"We've gotten the word that it's getting tight out there," said George E. Powell Jr., chief of central intake for the city's Alcohol and Drug Abuse Administration.
Since the crackdown, he said, 50 new patients have been added to the city's already overcrowded treatment program, and the waiting list has grown to 200. The number of applicants seeking to enroll has jumped from 10 to 11 per day to 16 now, Powell said.
Only addicts with additional medical emergencies, are being accepted immediately into the program, which is brimming with 2,022 addicts in various stages of treatment. As for the others, "We're putting them on a waiting list and letting them know of other programs in the city," Powell said.
Those include programs at the Veterans Administration Hospital, St. Elizabeth's Hospital and private centers such as Psychiatric Institute.
Powell said many of the applicants have told him they are tired of being on drugs, or that "it isn't worth the hassle" of increased police activity on the streets.
Powell said an increased interest in methadone, itself a powerfully addictive government-controlled synthetic chemical used to curb an addict's craving for heroin, is common among addicts when they run out of money or when heroin supplies dry up. Methadone can tide them over and stave off painful withdrawal symptoms.
"Usually, if they make a serious effort in treatment, they usually don't go right back to drugs as soon as the police let up," Powell said. However, he said he expects to see a rise in the use of illicit heroin substitutes in the next few weeks, such as Dilaudid, a prescription painkiller purchased illegally on the street and taken orally or injected to produce a high.
Meanwhile, D.C. police vice squad officers from various districts plus a special task force of narcotics officers have been stepping up activities. They have arrested more than 100 suspected drug buyers, sellers and users in street sweeps since the crackdown started nine days ago.
After concentrating in Northwest Washington last week, officers moved into Southeast early Tuesday morning, arresting seven persons on various narcotics charges near the 900 block of Varney Street, and area described by police as a drug hot spot. A robbery and fatal shooting occurred Monday in the area.
Tuesday night, undercover officers arrensted another eight persons in the Seventh and T streets NW area.
According to police, the biggest arrest of the stepped-up war on drugs occurred Tuesday night when officers stopped a Cadillac occupied by two men and confiscated what police described as $50,000 in suspected high quality heroin and $1,100 in cash. Police said they were tipped off by an informant, moved in on the Cadillac in the 900 block of U Street NW and arrested Michael A. Clemons, 25, and his brother, Charles T. Clemons, 29, both of 4300 Vermillin St. in Oxon Hill. Both were charged with intent to sell the suspected heroin.