DISCLOSURES ON PRESLEY DRUGS AT DOCTOR'S TRIAL SHAKE FANS
Illustrations: photo of Dr. George Nichopoulos
In this Mississippi River city, one that has groomed its share of noted singers and musicians, one need only mention the name Elvis to see faces light up and hear praise of Elvis Presley.
Fans such as Jerrie Reeves, 34 years old, and Carol Rooks, 40, concede, though, that they are somewhat torn over what they have been hearing about Mr. Presley and his associates, particularly Dr. George Nichopoulos, 53, who served for 11 years as the rock 'n' roll star's personal physician.
Dr. Nichopoulos, known here as Dr. Nick, is on trial in Criminal Court on 14 charges of ''unlawfully, willfully and feloniously'' dispensing by prescription quantities of drugs to himself, Mr. Presley, members of his entourage, and the singer Jerry Lee Lewis, in amounts far in excess of acceptable medical standards.
Feelings run deep here over the state's accusations against Dr. Nichopoulos. While attorneys for the state insist that his actions were much like those of a ''pill pusher,'' his defenders are just as adamant in their insistence that nothing could be further from the truth.
Magnitude of the Problem
Several days ago, the news emanating from the small modern court room at the Justice Center, where the trial ended its second week today, was that Mr. Presley was a drug addict. It had been suspected for some months, since less complimentary reports about Mr. Presley's life began to flow. ''Elvis Presley was on narcotics and had multiple, multiple drug problems,'' James F. Neal, the doctor's attorney, has said.
Today, Elvis Presley's admirers were told the magnitude of their idol's drug problem. The prosecutor, Jewett Miller, presented records of prescriptions written for Mr. Presley by Dr. Nichopoulos. In 1975, he prescribed 1,296 amphetamines, often used for diet control; 1,891 sedatives and 910 narcotics, such as Dilaudid, a pain killer; Quaalude, a sedative; Placidil, a depressant, and Dexedrine, a stimulant,
From 1976 until Aug. 16, 1977, the day Mr. Presley died at the age of 42, Dr. Nichopoulus, according to the records, prescribed 14,916 additional doses of this assortment of drugs for his patient, more tablets of this nature than might be dispensed by many a small town drugstore to its entire clientele.
Even before Jerrie Reeves and Carol Rooks had heard the of the volume of drugs prescribed, their feelings about Dr. Nichopoulos's role with Mr. Presley were pretty much solidified. Fans Recall the Past
''He's a guy without any conscience because if he were a Christian he couldn't have done that,'' said Mrs. Rooks, who said she remembered running home from church years ago on a Sunday night to make sure she did not miss Mr. Presley's debut on the Ed Sullivan show.
''Yeah, but Elvis knew what he was doing, too,'' countered Mrs. Reeves. ''I love the guy and have got every one of his records. I don't like the idea that he died that way, but both men are responsible. I feel like the doctor is just that one in a million who got caught.''
''We're not modest about the way we feel about him,'' said the Rev. Nicholas L. Vieron, pastor of Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, of which the physician is a member. ''We're talking about a compassionate man who tried to do good. Of the 5,000 patients he's had, 99.9 percent would say he's the most compassionate man they've ever known.''
Mr. Vieron spends about an hour each day of the trial in the courtroom. He Vieron is also the spark behind the campaign that quickly raised $150,000 in pledges to pay the cost of Mr. Neal's services. Criminal or Helpful Intent
At issue before the jury of six men and six women is whether Dr. Nichopoulos acted with criminal intent in prescribing the heavy doses of drugs over expanded periods of time or whether he was trying to help Mr. Presley, Mr. Lewis and others.
Much of the thinking of the jury on this question is expected to be influenced by the opinions of a dozen or more medical professionals.
The defense, which is likely to begin presentation of its case late next week, is expected to argue that Dr. Nichopoulos was using a ''maintenance theory'' in dealing with the drug problems of his clients: that is, keeping them on the drugs and gradually reducing their addiction. The defense has said it may call as many as 20 persons.
The state, which began presenting its case last week, is seeking to persuade the jury that Dr. Nichopoulos knew that he was not acting in the best interests of his patients. The most adamant exponent of that argument, Dr. Alvin Cummins, head of the department of gastroenterology at the University of Tennessee Medical School, ended his testimony today by declaring that he believed Mr. Presley had been ''addicted'' and that the prescriptions of Dr. Nichopoulos ''constituted an outrageous and dangerous use of drugs.''
Mr. Neal has sought to temper Dr. Cummins's opinions by noting in cross-examination that Dr. Nichopoulos had tried to get Mr. Presley to stop taking drugs, had appealed to other doctors for advice in light of Mr. Presley's reported refusal to stop using drugs, had vainly sought the help of Mr. Presley's friends and family.DISCLOSURES ON PRESLEY DRUGS AT DOCTOR'S TRIAL SHAKE FANS - New York Times