Pubdate: Fri, 10 May 2002
Source: Washington Post (DC)
Page: A36
Copyright: 2002 The Washington Post Company
Authors: Robert S. Weiner, DeForest Rathbone
Bookmark: (Drug Testing)


The May 3 front-page story "Europe Moves Drug War From Prisons to Clinics" 
failed to show the negative effect of liberalization of drug policies in 
the countries cited.

For each of the past three years, Europe has imported and consumed more 
than 200 tons of Colombian cocaine -- better than double the annual totals 
before 1999 and the new decriminalization movement. President Bush has 
stated that Europe is a major importer of heroin from Afghanistan.

As U.S. consumption of cocaine has decreased by two-thirds in the past two 
decades, Europe has become the new market. The Netherlands is now the top 
source of the Ecstasy reaching America's children. So we are paying a price 
for Europe's "harm reduction."

Moreover, Britain is not liberalizing its policies. To the contrary, it has 
reversed the laws legalizing heroin laws during the past decade because its 
addiction rate quintupled in that period.

The story twice quoted the EU data coordinator as saying that drugs are 
widely available in prisons. If that is true, Europe should clean up its 
prisons. While it is true that the United States must expand drug treatment 
in the prison population because more than 60 percent of arrestees test 
positive upon entry, it is a myth that drugs are widespread in U.S. prisons 
themselves. Only 2 percent to 3 percent of prisoners actually obtain 
illegal drugs.

As U.S. drug use is dropping, Europe's is rising. Europe may be headed for 
the drug and crime disaster we had two decades ago, from which we are 
emerging as we spread the message about the dangers and enforce the law.


The writer was director of public affairs for the White House Office of 
National Drug Policy from May 1995 until August 2001.

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As a May 3 story noted, several European countries are attempting to reduce 
drug problems by substituting drug treatment instead of punitive measures.

A similar rationale is in use here as the basis for student drug- testing 
programs in numerous schools. The concept is that drug abuse by 
schoolchildren is a health and safety problem that needs to be diagnosed 
and treated rather than punished as a behavioral infraction.

The Supreme Court has approved drug testing of student athletes and is 
considering a case that would allow schools to expand it to all kids in 
extracurricular activities. Congress and the administration recently 
enacted the "No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, " which includes a provision 
that authorizes and provides federal funding for student drug testing.

Student drug testing has a great track record in reducing drug use. Schools 
that test all students sharply reduce drug use. Surveys of non-testing 
schools show about one-third of their students use drugs on a regular 
basis. When finally used in schools throughout the nation, health-related 
student drug testing will do for drug-related tragedies what the Salk 
vaccine did for polio tragedies -- it will nearly eliminate them.


The writer chairs the National Institute of Citizen Anti-Drug Policy, a 
grassroots organization.
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