Pubdate: Thu, 16 Oct 2003
Source: Orlando Sentinel (FL)
Copyright: 2003 Orlando Sentinel
Section: My Word
Author: Mel Dahl


The Secret Is Out: Rush Limbaugh Has A Drug Problem.

According to CNN, "The radio talk show host said he first became addicted 
to painkillers 'some years ago,' following spinal surgery. However, he 
added, 'the surgery was unsuccessful and I continued to have severe pain in 
my lower back and also in my neck due to herniated discs. I am still 
experiencing that pain.' "

I admit to not being a dittohead. Limbaugh always struck me as a bit of a 
pompous windbag, even on those occasions when he said things with which I 
agree. With that disclaimer, let's talk about the broader question.

America is home to millions of drug addicts, both legal and illegal. The 
drugs of choice range from heroin and cocaine at one extreme to tobacco, 
caffeine, alcohol and Prozac at the other.

Perhaps instead of spending billions of dollars on a futile war on drugs, 
which almost no one thinks is actually working and causes vast amounts of 
human suffering, we should admit the obvious: Not everyone is as strong as 
the rest of us would like them to be. There are always going to be people 
who for whatever reason don't seem to be able to make it on their own 
without a little help.

And let's admit something else that's obvious while we're at it: The 
majority of drug addicts are more or less functional. Many of them have 
jobs, families, and other obligations they manage to keep. Drug use cuts 
across all socio-economic boundaries; while there are addicts who fit the 
stereotype of the crazed lunatic burglarizing houses to score the next fix, 
there are also addicts who come home after working a normal job, get high, 
sleep it off, and report back to work sober the next morning.

In fact, the reason many employers resort to drug testing is because it is 
often impossible to tell from attendance or performance who uses and who 

Limbaugh, himself, is a good example of this. By his own testimony, he 
became an addict not because he thought it would be a fun thing to do, but 
as the result of back surgery. The surgery was unsuccessful and he is still 
in pain.

The people fighting the war on drugs would be perfectly happy for him to 
spend the rest of his life in pain so long as he isn't taking drugs. Like 
the difference between Prozac and crack, the difference between our modern 
drug warriors and the people who conducted the Spanish Inquisition is one 
of degree rather than kind: They, too, are perfectly happy to inflict (or 
prevent the alleviation of) massive amounts of pain for what they see as a 
higher good.

What did these drugs allow Limbaugh to do? Lead a normal life.

So long as he had access to the drugs, he could awaken in the morning pain 
free, and look forward to a pain-free day.

At one level, Limbaugh deserves his fate. He did, after all, become a very 
wealthy man by advocating the same drug policies that have now come back to 
bite him. If our society were about vengeance, I would say let him sleep in 
the bed he has made for himself.

But to the extent that compassion plays a role in our society, let us 
exercise our compassion by using Limbaugh's tragic story to revisit our 
basic assumptions about the war on drugs.

Mel Dahl, Orlando.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Keith Brilhart