A Vigil for Lost Promise outside the headquarters of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration in northern Virginia last night came 11 days before the 20th anniversary of University of Maryland basektball Len Bias of a cocaine overdose. “His death woke the nation up,” said his mother, Lonise Bias, the Washington Post reports. “We got on the ball, and we started a lot of programs, and a lot of things happened to prevent drug use with young people. I believe Len has truly done more in death than he ever could have done in life.”
Government officials agreed. “Traditionally, cocaine was considered a pretty benign, safe drug,” said Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. “In fact it was glamorized in the ’70s and the beginning of the ’80s. The death of Len Bias alerted the community in general that this drug was not a safe one.” In 1986, the institute’s surveys recorded a cocaine use rate among 12th-graders of 12.7 percent. After his death, rates plunged. By 1992, the rate had dropped to 3.1 percent. ,It started back up, and doubled to 6.2 percent in 1999. It’s now about 5 percent.