Pubdate: Sun, 07 Oct 2007
Source: Daily Pilot (Costa Mesa, CA)
Copyright: 2007 Daily Pilot
Author: James P. Gray
Note: James P. Gray is an Orange County Superior Court judge and 
author of the book, "Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed and What We Can Do 
About It -- A Judicial Indictment Of The War On Drugs."
Referenced: Previous OPED 'Current Drug Policies Inefficient'


In last week's column, we discussed why our policy of drug 
prohibition is not working and why it will never work.

That probably was a discouraging column to read for many people. But 
today's column will bring you hope, because it discusses drug 
programs that work worldwide.

The first thing to do when focusing upon programs that work is to 
make the same important distinctions, such as the difference between 
drug crime on the one hand, and drug money crime on the other. 
Similarly we must make distinctions between someone's use of drugs, 
as opposed to his or her misuse, abuse or addiction to drugs. We must 
also focus upon the difference between the government attempting to 
hold adults accountable for their actions, instead of what they put 
in their bodies.

The first thing is full, honest and open education. You show me a 
problem area in our society, and I will show you how full, honest and 
open education is a material part of its resolution. We should focus 
honestly upon both the risks and the benefits of using various 
substances. Education of this kind is working quite well with regard 
to the biggest killer drug of all, tobacco, and it will work just as 
effectively with other drugs.

Another program is a needle-exchange program. This program allows a 
person to exchange a dirty hypodermic needle and syringe for a clean 
one at a designated location -- no money changes hands, and no 
questions are asked. That's it. Research studies show that programs 
as such do not influence drug usage, but they do reduce the incidence 
of the HIV virus that leads to AIDS as well as Hepatitis C and other 
blood-born diseases by about 50%.

Regardless of what one thinks about people who inject themselves with 
illicit drugs, they do not deserve to contract the AIDS virus. And if 
that humane reason is not enough, consider that it costs us taxpayers 
about $100,000 for each person in our country who gets AIDS.

Much hope can also be gained from a heroin maintenance program that 
has been in operation in Switzerland since the middle 1990s. This is 
a program run by licensed medical doctors that furnishes 
prescriptions of heroin to people who are addicted to it, and the 
prescriptions are filled at local pharmacies. To qualify for the 
program, people must be at least 18 years old, have been addicted to 
heroin for at least two years, present signs of poor health, had two 
or more failed attempts at conventional treatment, and must surrender 
their driver's licenses.

By the way, none of these presently illegal drugs are expensive to 
grow, manufacture or supply. Marijuana is not called a "weed" for 
nothing; it will grow anywhere. And the National Park Service was 
growing the opium poppy used to make heroin for years at Monticello 
until the DEA found out about it and ordered them removed. If the 
poppies will grow in Virginia, they will grow virtually anywhere. The 
only reason any of these drugs are expensive is because they are 
illegal. So the cost of the heroin in this program is no more than 
$10 per day for even the heaviest-using drug addict.

The results of the heroin-maintenance program show a 60% drop in 
felonies by the patients and an 82% drop in patients selling heroin. 
No one has died from a heroin overdose, and new infections of AIDS 
and hepatitis have been reduced. In addition, heroin usage in the 
communities has also been materially reduced. Most new users are 
introduced to it by their social groups, and 50 percent of the users 
sell heroin to support their own habits. But with so many 
users/sellers in the medical program, non-users have fewer chances to 
be exposed.

This medicalization program also made heroin unattractive to young 
people. As a result of this success, Switzerland's heroin program is 
being replicated in Germany, Holland, Belgium, England, Spain and Canada.

Another program that works is treatment. The RAND Corporation 
published study results in 1994 that said taxpayers get seven times 
more value for tax dollars with drug treatment than they do for incarceration.

This shows that it is much more effective to provide treatment for a 
nonviolent drug-addict, which costs about $3,500 per year, than to 
incarcerate that person at the cost to the taxpayers of about $25,000 per year.

For those people who are in prison, drug treatment has also been 
shown to bring truly positive results. For example, in Donovan State 
Prison in northern San Diego County, drug-addicted people who receive 
treatment as well as a program of aftercare support have a recidivism 
or re-offender rate of about 18% within the first year after being 
released from prison. But similar groups of drug addicts who do not 
receive the treatment program and an aftercare component have a 
recidivism rate of about 80% within the same period of time!

So think of all of the crimes not committed, victims not victimized, 
police not having to investigate and prosecutors, defense attorneys, 
judges and juries not having to try criminal cases -- as well as the 
prison space that is freed up -- all as a result of the treatment 
program at Donovan.
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