Pubdate: Fri, 31 Oct 2008
Source: Chicago Sun-Times (IL)
Copyright: 2008 The Sun-Times Co.
Author: Peter B. Bensinger,


The Sun-Times commentary by Joe Conason of Oct. 23 was a mixed 
blessing. On the positive side, it brought attention to a subject 
completely neglected during the presidential debates and by the media 
in interviews with the candidates.

On the negative side, it was misleading. The writer proposes 
abandoning control of illegal drugs and investing money elsewhere. 
The result of that action would be more addiction, more crime and 
much higher social and economic costs.

England tried this approach in the early 1970s and made heroin legal 
and obtainable at pharmacies, with the objective of reducing heroin 
imports and illegal sales.

The result was that heroin addicts did get a legal and non-lethal 
dose from pharmacies, but then went out on the street to buy more 
potent, illegally imported heroin, resulting in more overdose deaths and crime.

The British quickly abandoned this medical treatment approach.

Today, there are more new users of prescription drugs, using them 
without a prescription illegally, than new users of marijuana. 
Prescription drug abuse of pain-killers is the fastest growing drug 
problem in the U.S., and it is the legal medical drugs that are being abused.

Illegal drugs like crack cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and 
marijuana do have a dramatic impact on the brain and central nervous 
system -- causing addiction, provoking aberrant behavior and causing 
major damage to the brain, the lungs, acuity and the immune system.

We can have more effective use of our resources: increasing drug 
courts, drug treatment and prevention; increasing the leverage of 
federal, state and local law enforcement task forces and asset 
forfeiture, and improving community and family awareness and intervention.

Let's hope that whoever wins the election on Tuesday will address the 
problem of drug and alcohol abuse and put it on a priority agenda.

Peter B. Bensinger,

former administrator,

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration
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