Pubdate: Wed, 05 Jan 2000
Date: 01/05/2000
Source: Houston Chronicle (TX)
Author: G. Alan Robison, PhD

To the editor:

Harold Harvey suggested in his Jan. 1 Viewpoints letter ("Clean up
body and mind") that we should rid our bodies of even small traces of
drugs, but let's not throw the baby out with the bath water. The two
specific examples he gave -- nicotine and alcohol -- are, indeed,
highly toxic and never necessary, but that's not true of all drugs.

For example, narcotics such as morphine are indispensable for the
management of severe, intractable pain and even cocaine still has some
valid therapeutic uses, both as a local anesthetic and as a stimulant.

The drugs that are produced within our own bodies, such as insulin and
other hormones, as well as the drugs which function as
neurotransmitter agents, are literally essential for life; and
penicillin and other antibiotics have saved countless lives that would
otherwise have been lost at an unacceptably early age.

Harvey seemed to be referring to what our attitude as responsible
adults should be toward the "recreational" or non-medical use of
psychoactive drugs.

We should realize that the drugs themselves are not the problem, since
no one is forcing us to use any of them if we don't want to. The
problem is with the distribution system that makes the most dangerous
and addicting of drugs easy for children to get, since most addicts
get hooked on drugs while still children.

That system is drug prohibition, which has been the official policy of
our nation for too many years.

Prohibition causes more harm than the prohibited drugs could have ever
caused -- that's what we should all be trying to rid our society of.

Of course we could do a much better job than we're currently doing
with alcohol and tobacco, but it would still be a giant step forward
if we made drugs such as heroin and cocaine as hard for children to
get as it is for them to now buy whiskey or gin. That can only be done
if we get rid of prohibition and replace it with a system that can be
effectively regulated.

G. ALAN ROBISON Executive director Drug Policy Forum of Texas, Houston