Pubdate: Sat, 24 Nov 2001
Source: Baltimore Sun (MD)
Copyright: 2001 The Baltimore Sun, a Times Mirror Newspaper.
Author: Tim Gardner, Robert Sharpe


Thank you for the editorial stressing the need for appropriate treatment
options for criminal drug addicts in Baltimore ("Spike in city killings
linked to drug famine," Nov. 11). However, the premise in the title, that
the recent rise in homicides is because of a scarcity of illegal drugs, is
only very weakly supported.

It doesn't make sense that all illegal drugs in the country were consumed in
the few weeks between Sept. 11 and early October, which The Sun has
identified as the beginning of our violent crime wave ("City police to
redeploy officers," Nov. 7). I know that in my neighborhood the drug trade
carries on, and anyone can still come to the street corner near my house and
purchase a variety of illegal drugs. Violence begets violence, and local
murders reflect the global culture of violence that the United States
models. In continuing to cover our outrageous level of addiction, I hope The
Sun will consider issues of war affecting our local community - such as
behavioral manifestations of our culture of glorified violence; the
installation of groups in power in Afghanistan committed to heroin
production; and the reduction of money available for local drug treatment
and prevention programs as our budget shifts to fund war.

Tim Gardner


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The drug war fuels crime and violence, while failing miserably to prevent
use. Despite decades of zero tolerance, heroin use among high school seniors
is at record levels ("Spike in city killings linked to drug famine,"
editorial, Nov. 11).

But there are cost-effective alternatives. Switzerland's heroin maintenance
trials, modeled after methadone maintenance programs pioneered in the United
States, have shown such promise at reducing drug-related disease, death and
crime that they are now being replicated in Germany, Spain and the
Netherlands. And providing chronic addicts with standard doses in a
treatment setting can eliminate many of the problems associated with black
market heroin use. If expanded, prescription heroin maintenance could
deprive organized crime of its core client base. This would render illegal
heroin trafficking unprofitable and spare future generations addiction.
Harm-reduction policies have the potential to reduce the perils of both drug
use and drug prohibition.

Robert Sharpe, Washington

The writer is an officer of the Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy Foundation
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