Pubdate: Wed, 27 Sep 2000
Date: 09/27/2000
Source: Newport News-Times (OR)
Author: Robert Sharpe
Authors: Robert Sharpe

Oregon Health Sciences University's attempts to evaluate the efficacy
of drug tests will not prove easy. First of all, the tests themselves
are not perfect.

Anyone capable of running an Internet search can learn how to thwart a
drug test, so a decline in positive tests is not necessarily a good
sign. As stated in your Sept. 22 article, Toledo High School students
are reluctant to cooperate with drug surveys.

Who is going to willingly admit to drug use in an age of
zero-tolerance? Honest answers could very well lead to drug-sniffing
dogs, routine locker searches, and mass arrests.

An inability to conduct reliable research is not the only negative
consequence of zero-tolerance approaches to public health problems
like substance abuse.

Law enforcement's involvement with medical conditions like addiction
discourages treatment.

In order for drug treatment to be truly effective - and not
necessarily preceded by an arrest - policymakers are going to have to
tone down the zero-tolerance rhetoric.

Would alcoholics seek treatment if doing so were tantamount to
confessing to criminal activity?

Likewise, would putting every incorrigible alcoholic behind bars and
saddling them with criminal records be cost-effective? Driving
addiction underground is counterproductive and only compounds the
problem by discouraging honest discussion. It's time to declare a
peaceful end to the failed drug war. Rather than stigmatize users and
waste resources attempting to overcome immutable laws of supply and
demand, policymakers should look to the lessons learned from America's
disastrous experiment with alcohol prohibition in the early 1900s.

Editor's note: Local high schools already have used drug-sniffing dogs
and locker searches.

Robert Sharpe, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, The George
Washington University Washington, D.C.