Pubdate: Sat, 10 Nov 2001
Source: Fayetteville Observer-Times (NC)
Copyright: 2001 Fayetteville Observer-Times
Author: Robert Sharpe


The Nov. 1 editorial, "Another Kind Of Ruin," on the drug war, noted that 
"Alcohol wrecked lives long before cocaine, heroin or methamphetamine." 
Alcohol continues to wreck lives.

The Observer is to be commended for addressing America's No. 1 drug problem 
in a straightforward manner. When the subject of the drug war comes up, the 
deadliest recreational drug is often overlooked.

Alcohol kills more Americans every year than all illegal drugs combined and 
is the drug most often associated with violent behavior. We tried 
prohibiting alcohol once, with disastrous results. Organized crime 
flourished and children had easier access to alcohol than ever once 
mobsters took over the distribution.

These days, liquor producers no longer gun each other down in drive-by 
shootings, nor do consumers risk blindness drinking bathtub gin. While U.S. 
politicians continue to ignore the parallels between the drug war and our 
failed experiment with alcohol prohibition, European countries are 
embracing harm reduction, a public-health alternative based on the 
principle that both drug use and drug prohibition have the potential to 
cause harm.

Examples of harm reduction include needle exchange programs to stop the 
spread of HIV, marijuana regulation aimed at separating the hard and soft 
drug markets, and a range of drug treatment alternatives that do not 
require incarceration as a prerequisite.

The zero tolerance approach, favored by U.S. politicians, only compounds 
the problem. Would alcoholics seek help for their addiction if doing so 
were tantamount to confessing to criminal activity?

Robert Sharpe, Program officer, The Lindesmith Center Drug Policy Foundation

Washington, D.C.
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