Pubdate: Mon, 20 Jul 2009
Source: Daily Gazette (NY)
Copyright: 2009 The Daily Gazette Co.
Author: William Aiken


When announcing the approach to his drug policy, President Obama
stated that his administration will put more of an emphasis on drug
treatment and less reliance on the criminal justice systems. That
shift in strategy is a wise one that will yield more cost-effective
results while lowering the number of addicts.

However, President Obama should go further, and look to other
countries that have had success with heroin maintenance clinics, such
as Germany and Switzerland.

Not only have these clinics played a role in reducing drug-related
crime in these countries by double digits, the addicts' recovery cycle
is accelerated. They can work a job and be with their families while
they receive heroin administrated by a doctor. In America, we offer
addicts methadone clinics. Since the majority of addicts prefer heroin
over methadone, they often go back to their drug of choice through
black market resources.

Drug policy reform requires not only a smart president, but a strong
president. A president who can face the opposition that tars its
adversaries as soft on drugs. These European countries have figured
out what drug policy is the most effective, while America has suffered
from a slow learning curve on this issue.

Our inability to do the right thing has given America the title of
having the world's highest incarceration rate. We make up less then 5
percent of the world population yet we account for 25 percent of the
world's entire prison population. We went from having 50,000 drug
offenders in our jails and prisons in 1980 to over 500,000 today. Our
shortsightedness led to a federal ban on clean needle exchange which
has substantially increased our AIDS and HIV populations.

We can no longer afford a slow learning curve. President Obama is the
right man to advocate these changes in drug policy. The question is,
will the American public allow its hatred of drugs and all the
problems they create to be the guiding force in determining our policy?

William Aiken

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