Pubdate: Wed, 27 Sep 2000 Date: 09/27/2000 Source: Newport News-Times (OR) Author: Robert Sharpe Authors: Robert Sharpe Ref: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v00/n1425/a05.html 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.