He gives free advice
and pills to bring trippers
"down." But onlt his
patients can cure themselves
Susan admits her need with words, but tears.
THOUSANDS OF YOUNG PEOPLE, from all parts of America, have come to San
Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district this summer. As part of growing up,
they use drugs and sample communal living, trying to explore and change
their inner selves with LSD and other chemicals. Most will return home
this fall after their vacations.
Many, however, plan to stay. They have quit parents, homes, schools
and careers. They hope the Haight Ashbury will derail their lives, throwing
them off the track their elders laid. Seeking new experiences, they take
self-destructive drugs like heroin and Methedrine as well as self-exploring
psychedelics. They change their names to prove their "liberation" and live
primarily for euphoria. They bury themselves in the present.
Others become lost from society and from their selves overnight. They
take drugs that trigger frightening personal revelations and, sometimes,
psychotic behavior. Even if they use LSD only once, their "bad trips" may
never end. Alone in a strange city, they do not know who can help them
"get down." Having defied California and Federal laws in taking drugs,
they feel outside society, afraid of its police and health officers. When
their pain finally becomes unbearable and they cry out, few hear their
pleas or understand their needs.
David Smith is one man in San Francisco who knows drugs and listens
to the young. Trained in toxicology and pharmacology at the University
of California medical school, he runs the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Screening
Unit at San Francisco General Hospital. The year-old public health program
offers medication, counseling and hospitalization for drug users and abusers
without threat of police involvement. Many of Smith's patients, like the
lost girl on this page, come because they trust the young doctor. Only
28, he speaks their language, listens to their music and likes it. He is
a friend to the young leaders of the Haight-Ashbury community and urges
them to send runaways to him for treatment.
Some older critics wonder if Smith is mature enough for his responsibilities.
He answered one: "LSD wasn't in the pharmacology curriculum five years
ago. My practice was created by a problem. I may be working in the unknown,
but no one else seems to care." A colleague goes further, saying, "Dave
is one of the few doctors in San Francisco who knows how big the problem
is, let alone how to treat it. And his feeling for the young is perhaps
his best qualification for the job."