Pubdate: Mon, 02 Apr 2001
Source: Tampa Tribune (FL)
Copyright: 2001, The Tribune Co.
Section: Nation/World, page 8
Author: Robert Sharpe, Washington, D.C.


Regarding "Privacy rights and fetal drug abuse" (Editorial, March 23):

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the drug testing of pregnant women on 
constitutional grounds, but there are compelling health arguments as well. 
If the invasive practice had continued, the threat of criminal sanctions 
would discourage pregnant women who use drugs from seeking prenatal care. 
This would only increase maternal and infant mortality and morbidity.

The zero-tolerance approach to illicit drugs compounds the problem. When 
drug use is driven underground, individuals suffering from chronic 
addiction, pregnant or otherwise, are less likely to seek treatment. Would 
alcoholics seek help if doing so were tantamount to confessing to criminal 

The threat of prison that coerced treatment relies upon can backfire when 
it's actually put to use. Prisons transmit violent habits and values rather 
than reduce them. The vast majority of drug users hold jobs and pay taxes. 
Turning potentially productive members of society into hardened criminals 
serves no purpose.

Alcohol, incidentally, causes the greatest number of and the most severe 
birth defects. It kills more people annually than all illegal drugs 
combined. If health outcomes determined drug laws instead of cultural 
norms, alcohol and tobacco would both be illegal and marijuana, a 
relatively harmless drug, would not. It's time to declare peace in the 
failed drug war and start treating all substance abuse, legal or otherwise, 
as the public health problem it is.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Terry Liittschwager