Ex-mayor's Arrest Breaks Stereotypes! 

Ex-mayor's Arrest Breaks Stereotypes! 
Posted by FoM on March 12, 1999 at 15:20:50 PT

The latest casualty in the drug war is a man we never expected to find on the battlefield: Fred Greenwood Jr., the former mayor of Medina.
Greenwood was recently indicted on charges of possession of crack, a felony. On Jan. 12, agents from the Medina County Drug Task Force, looking for a man wanted by the Akron police, knocked on Greenwood's door.The officers said they found their man, as well as pipes containing crack dust.The instruments belonged to Greenwood, police said. The bust ended with Greenwood's arrest by an officer he'd sworn in 28 years ago.Greenwood, who also had served on the City Council for nine years, spent three nights in jail. He's facing a maximum of 12 months in prison.We've long accepted that neither prominence nor a political career is a shield against drugs. The tragic downfall of former Washington, D.C., mayor Marion Barry proved that in 1990.But Barry was in his 50s when he was videotaped putting a crack pipe to his lips. Greenwood is 73. If anything is shocking about this case, it is the image of a septuagenarian - a man who should be relaxing with grandchildren or spending days on a golf course - smoking the tiny, devastatingly potent rocks.Whoever heard of a person that old using drugs, especially crack? That's a young person's drug.Isn't it?Those familiar with drugs answer, "Yes, but . . . ."Kathleen Farkas, an associate professor at the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve University, noted that the age of the crack user usually ranges from 18 to 35. The typical abuser is either a teenager or a woman in her 30s.Maurine Baker is the coordinator of older adult services for Recovery Resources, which offers addiction treatment and prevention services in the metropolitan area. In her eight years with the agency, she estimates she has seen only five elderly clients addicted to an illegal drug. Some had heroin habits they'd never been able to kick. Baker said most of her clients abuse alcohol or prescription drugs.While the choice of crack may be uncommon in someone Greenwood's age, the fact of his alleged addiction isn't. Farkas said the former mayor's story is a wake-up call, alerting the public to the fact that senior citizens do suffer from substance abuse.Often, though, they don't receive treatment because they aren't diagnosed."We have an idea of older people that is just as stereotypic as our idea of crack users," she said. "We think older people don't get involved in illegal drugs."Or get involved with drugs at all, Baker said. "We don't look at the elderly as addicts."And because of those misconceptions, symptoms of addiction - confusion, disorientation, change in eating or sleeping habits - are attributed to aging. When the substance abuse is recognized, Farkas said, it is sometimes tolerated - especially if the drug is alcohol."There's a feeling that the person doesn't have much time left, so why deprive them of something giving them pleasure during their last years?" she said.Experts on substance abuse predict that such tolerance will change within the next 10 to 15 years. That's when they expect the numbers of elderly addicts to jump sharply, as baby boomers turn into senior citizens.Most vulnerable will be people who became and remained addicted in their youth. They are expected to maintain the habit throughout life."You're going to see very different drugs of choice," Baker said, noting that now, only 1 percent to 2 percent of elderly addicts misuse unlawful drugs. "There's a wider danger of use of illegal drugs [as baby boomers age- because we're talking about people who know how to get drugs off the street."If their predictions are correct, Greenwood's arrest is more than the sad ending to a prominent life. It's a look at the beginning of a problem.Messages for Scruggs may be left at (216) 999-4327.©1999 THE PLAIN DEALER. Used with permission.
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