Pubdate: Thu, 27 Jul 2006
Source: USA Today (US)
Section: Pg 11A
Copyright: 2006 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc
Author: Robert Sharpe


The finding that "1 in 5 adults have a close relative who is or was 
addicted to drugs or alcohol" has important implications for drug 
policy (Cover story, News, July 20).

Alcoholics who seek help for their illness need not fear criminal 
sanctions. They can enlist family support in the recovery process 
without confessing to criminal activity. The USA has effectively 
criminalized addiction to non-traditional drugs. This practice has 
given the land of the free the dubious distinction of having the 
highest incarceration rate in the world and, in the process, driven 
illicit drug use underground where it is harder to treat.

If addiction is indeed a disease, would 40 million Americans be 
better off with a loved one behind bars? And if prison cells are 
effective health interventions, should they be extended to 
alcoholics, tobacco smokers and the obese?

Truth is, the drug war is a cultural inquisition, not a public health 
campaign. If Americans addicted to illegal drugs are to get the help 
they need, this country is going to have to stop subsidizing the 
prejudices of culture warriors. Driving drug use underground forces 
addicts to suffer in silence.

Robert Sharpe

Common Sense for Drug Policy 
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