HE BRIDGES THE GENERATION GAP
If you think Pot is paunch Grass is green and Hash is an entrée Meet Bill Clement
A SEMANTIC OCEAN of misunderstanding separates today’s parents from their teenage sons and daughters. It’s symbolized by the “No Smoking” signs hanging in our high schools. Only the older teachers can remember when the prohibition applied strictly to tobacco. At many urban school dances held now you can get a marijuana high simply by breathing the air in the washrooms. The kids read the signs as an order to keep their grass at home.
The men who hit Normandy’s Juno beach 25 years ago last month, and the women who waited for them, are people who still associate grass with lawns, hash with corned beef, and pot with middleaged paunches. They are utterly bewildered by the new jargon, angry about the lifestyle it connotes. What were they fighting and dying for back there on Juno? So that their children could grow up to be shaggy, drug-addicted, unisexual zombies dedicated to the destruction of all we have and are? In short, what in hell is happening to the younger half of our society?
One of the very few adults in Canada who can answer that question with some authority is Wilfrid Reid Clement, better known from the drug underground up to Parliament Hill as Bill. Clement is a behavioral scientist who thinks teenage drug - taking is merely spectacular evidence of a much more subtle and fundamental rift between the age groups.
“For instance, there’s this kid in Toronto who is putting out LSD in time-release capsules,” says Clement. “Now there is no real practical point in that. This kid is trying to tell us where his head is at. He’s saying his generation has the knowledge and skills to overthrow the enemy Establishment any time it feels like it. His underground drug factory — there are three currently flourishing in Toronto — is turning out a product as sophisticated as those being marketed by ethical drug companies. He’s issuing a political warning.”
It’s a warning we should heed because Bill Clement does know where teenage heads are at. He is a pioneer in the field of psychopharmacology, the study of how chemicals modify psychological behavior. For the past three years he has been living with and treating drug users at the nervous core of Toronto’s hippie subculture. This is a world where about 6,000 doses of hallucinogens change hands each week and where bad trips — drug-induced anxiety or psychosis — are almost as common as headaches. Clement’s deep involvement in the situation has enabled him to open up a channel of communication between the subculture and the outside world where before there was only suspicion and hostility. Now he acts as an interpreter between generations, a man both sides have come to respect.
On the one hand Clement has the con-
fidence of the young entrepreneurs who brew the community’s LSD, MDA, STP and an alphabetic soup of other psychedelic drugs (new ones are being identified at the rate of two a month). They tell him their trade secrets, tip him off when a dangerous batch goes on the market, and give him a chance to anticipate what treatment will be needed. He is also trusted by the teenagers who use the drugs, which is remarkable when you consider that he has just turned 40. They regard him as one of the beautiful people they can appeal to for help.
On the other side of the fence, Clement enjoys an excellent professional reputation that is bolstered by articles in several learned publications. Government agencies, belatedly realizing there will likely be an epidemic of drug-taking this summer, recognize him as an expert who can teach them how to cope with the problem.
Clement has already achieved a great deal. Thanks largely to his efforts, the province's Queen Street Mental Health Clinic became the first psychiatric hospital in Toronto to come to grips with the problem of treating teenage drug abuse. The clinic, where Clement works as a part-time consultant, now handles between 400 and 500 bad trips a year. Clement has helped develop a treatment process, based on tranquilizers and intelligent nursing, that is effective in 97 percent of cases. The federal Food and Drug Directorate cites the process as the model to be followed in all Canadian hospitals. When a two-year-old Winnipeg baby swallowed a large dose of LSD last spring, doctors at the admitting hospital immediately put in a long-distance phone call to Queen Street. Clement and his colleague were able to recommend a course of action. The baby suffered no lasting ill effects.
“What has really happened with a bad trip is that the drug-taker has lost control,” Clement says. “He may have chosen to perceive a melting wall or a ceiling coming down. He says, ‘Hey wow, look at that groovy ceiling coming down.’ Then he begins to worry that maybe the ceiling really is coming down and that in two seconds he’ll be dead. He can’t tell for sure because his time perspective is off. It’s pretty scary. At Queen Street we help him regain control before his acute anxiety develops into true psychosis. Only three percent of our cases suffer psychiatric sequelae, which means serious psychotic problems. At clinics in New York and Los Angeles they have a sequela incidence of 25 percent.”
These days much of the clinic’s emergency drug work has become routine and Clement has left it in the hands of a small band of residents and volunteer outside workers he trained himself. But nine or 10 times a year there’s a serious case he has to deal with himself: “Like the other night a kid who panicked when
the narks walked in on him. He overdosed himself with everything he had — MDA plus LSD. I got called out because it was a real mess, the kind we don’t like to talk about. We were up all night.”
A “real mess” can take various forms. Sometimes it’s a black American deserter squatting in one of the rooms of Toronto’s student-run Rochdale College. High on speed, he suddenly decides he is Nat Turner and decides to knife every ofay male in sight. Or it could be a publisher’s son who dropped acid at a Saturday dance and is raving about giant cockroaches swimming in his wine. Watching Clement on such calls — placating the cops, soothing the patient, explaining treatment to the nurse — you realize you are seeing an unusually complicated person in action.
The complications begin with his background. In view of his well-to-do Toronto WASP upbringing, Clement should now be sitting comfortably in a Bay Street broker’s office instead of prancing through Yorkville in a beige jean-jacket with a medieval leather change purse swinging at his hip. In fact, after dropping out of school at grade 12 — “I kept failing French and motor mechanics” — he fooled around for a couple of years and then served a three-year hitch as a sergeant in the army’s Intelligence Corps. Next he went into the family real-estate firm and made a lot of money. In 1960, at the age of 32, he decided to go back to school.
In making this decision, Clement was influenced by a group of University of Toronto friends he had been mixing with, including the then - uncelebrated Marshall McLuhan. They warned him that the first year back in the classroom was bound to be uncomfortable. Their advice was to choose a college somewhere far away if he was ever going to stick it out. Clement wound up taking his honors BA in psychology at Parsons College in Iowa and writing his MA thesis at Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia.
The university training turned Clement into a thorough-going behavioral therapist. Working with alcoholics in the Huntington psychiatric hospital, Clement discovered that the main reason for promiscuous activity — whether it involves sex, drugs or alcohol — is that the people who indulge in it are afraid of success.
In 1966 Clement arrived back in Toronto ready to apply the same theories to the teenage drug scene he found thriving in Yorkville. One reason a grade-nine student drops out and turns on, he suggests, may be because the student is terrified that he will have to go on to achieve bigger and better things in grade 10. Clement believes that teenage heads can be put back on the rails by showing them how to adapt to the responsibilities of their own future.
Not everybody concerned about the
drug subculture was or is prepared to accept Clement's theories at face value. For one thing, his manner of expression puts people off when they first meet him. There is, in truth, something disengagingly boyish about Clement. Fie tends to come on like a pop Peter Pan, the hippie who never grew up. One feels like saying* “Behaviorist, cure thyself.” The lectures he delivers to various academic and do-gooding groups are tours de force of underground jargon highlighted by well-calculated obscenities. The audiences are disconcerted. They begin to suspect that Clement himself may be an habitual freak who, to use his own language. “is laying some sort of trip on them.”
Such performances are, of course, an act. Clement is a behavioral scientist who can't resist experimenting even at his own expense. He neither drinks nor takes dope. His only indulgence is tobacco— he runs through three to four packs of cigarettes a day. Beneath his pseudohippie mannerisms, Clement is a mature and experienced man who knows exactly what he is doing. And the things he says, despite the jargon, contain a greal deal of disquieting wisdom.
“Bill’s personality is sort of peculiar,” admits Dr. Gus Tolentino, a staff psychiatrist at the Queen Street clinic. “He has a grandiose style that is initially unnerving. But once the teenage drug problems started arriving here, it became obvious that he really did know more about how to treat these kids than anybody else. He forced the mental-health profession to recognize the problem for what it is.”
Barry Luger, 25, who is Clement's inside man at Rochdale College, explains his mentor this way: “Okay, so maybe Bill does make a lot of people uneasy at first. But he's still the brightest guy I ever met. He must have an IQ of around 200. He can walk into a room full of strange kids and tell them. bang. bang, bang, exactly what their hangups are.”
Although the Queen Street clinic has been an undoubted success, and although it has prompted other Toronto hospitals to take action, such treatment procedures are still only dealing with the effects of the drug scene. What is interesting Clement more and more are the causes. Why are teenagers behaving this way?
“We’ve established that there are three broad types of young drug-takers,” says Clement. “The first is the noisy exhibitionist, the kid who will tell his parents he is dropping acid, or will smoke marijuana in front of the teacher. He wants people to notice him. He’s sick and he is using drugs to draw attention to his problem. Once you know what the real problem is, and respond to it, the drugs cease to be a factor.
“The second type is the promiscuous
drug-user. This kid is sick as hell. He'll shoot anything anywhere. We’ve even had to treat patients who have been taking LSD in the form of anal suppositories. Like the confirmed alcoholic, he wants to keep the world at bay.
“Finally, there's the social drug-taker, the person who uses drugs the way our generation uses tobacco and alcohol. And here's where we run into trouble. Because I don't think that anyone over 30 is really in a position to comment on such social behavior.”
Central to Clement's thesis about why teenagers act the way they do, the fact he keeps stressing when talking to adult audiences, is that 80 percent of the scientists who have ever lived are alive and working today: “The implications of this technological change are overwhelming. Traditional institutions are blowing up in our face. The historical authorities that once established behavioral patterns — parents, the church and the terminal educational system — are no longer valid. Today's teenagers are being influenced by forces beyond our control.”
Clement illustrates this point by displaying a series of psychedelic advertisements clipped from newspapers and magazines. In a recent survey the ads were shown first to a group of adults and then to a group of teenagers. Both groups were asked to comment. All the adults said the ads were merely interesting examples of contemporary design. But the teenagers perceived them quite differently. The fact that such established organizations as Eaton’s. Simpsons and the CPR were using an art form derived from the drug subculture was evidence to them of society's acquiescence in or even approbation of general drug use. “Our 12-year-olds are already being conditioned to the idea of taking drugs,” says Clement. "The parents have nothing to say in the matter.
“I have to keep reminding myself,” says Clement, “that my two-year-old son Jonathan has never seen an artist’s depiction of what the earth looks like from the moon. But he has seen the real thing. Ten years from now, when he is a teenager, who knows what sort of behavioral pattern will have been imposed upon him? All I can say is that it probably won’t come from my wife or me.”
Clement and his wife Faye, a Toronto girl he married in 1960 and who also took psychology at Parsons College in Iowa, rent the top half of a house near the heart of Yorkville. The furnishings are modest and the decor only mildly psychedelic. What makes the atmosphere unconventional are the guests. Hippies, drug freaks and cops are constantly dropping in. The conversation of acidheads is often heard in his living room.
Meanwhile. Clement’s efforts to investigate the root causes of drug - taking haven't met with the same success as his program for treating the effects. Mentalhealth authorities remain reluctant to rec-
ognize that the general availability of drugs is reaching epidemic proportions. They either deny the reality of the situation, or say it’s simply a police matter.
When Clement recently applied for a $2.500 grant to make a three-week tour of underground laboratories in the United States, he was turned down by every major agency in the field. Clement is now so disillusioned that he plans to get out of the drug-treatment business altogether. His next project is a feasibility study involving super-adaptive kids: “I want to find out why some teenagers can make it through the system in a specially adaptive way and whether it is possible to teach the dropouts how to handle themselves.”
Clement thinks his reasons for wanting to make the tour should have been obvious: “Damn it, our official information on drugs is already two years out of date and our research facilities are falling further behind all the time. There’s no way we can keep up with what these kids are doing unless we talk to them and examine their motives.
"The time-release LSD is one example of the skills they can command. Another development, which happened right here, was the discovery that you can make it impossible for authorities to analyze a drug by adding a tiny and harmless portion of Comet cleanser to the batch. What are the cops going to do about that? Then there’s this guy in Boston who took over machinery from a contraceptive-pill firm and is marketing LSD in compacts.
“None of the authorities here seem to realize that the current drug scene is only a teaser preceding the main event. Even if we could crack down on all the hallucinogens now in circulation — which we can't — there are at least 583 more separate ‘families’ waiting in the wings. They are all registered at the U.S. Patent Office in Washington. The kids simply mail a computer-program request to the Patent Office and they get manufacturing instructions by return post. Isn't anybody aware that today’s teenagers know how to program computers?”
What added a touch of acid to Clement's disillusionment was an episode that occurred shortly after he received the final turndown on his request for $2,500. He was sitting in Yorkville outlining his grievances to a dope dealer, the son of a senior federal-government official. The kid listened sympathetically, then pulled a $5,000 wad out of his pocket (he'd had a good week) and gave it to Clement, saying, “Look, Bill, you know those government people are immoral, dishonest and corrupt. Why bother with them? You do groovy things. I'll lay the bread on you and you can go first class. Those bastards always make you travel tourist.”
Clement turned the offer down. “But,” he says, "I came away with the uncomfortable feeling that maybe I have been working for the wrong side.” □