Pubdate: Sat, 24 Mar 2012
Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
Copyright: 2012 Hearst Communications Inc.
Author: Kevin A. Sabet
Note: Kevin A. Sabet served in the Office of National Drug Control
Policy under the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations.


The reported cause of Whitney Houston's untimely death should get us 
talking about finding an answer to Hollywood's - and the rest of 
America's - drug problem.

On the day of Houston's death, the great Tony Bennett commented: 
"First it was Michael Jackson, then Amy Winehouse, now, the 
magnificent Whitney Houston. I'd like every person in this room to 
campaign to legalize drugs. Let's legalize drugs like they did in 
Amsterdam. No one's hiding or sneaking around corners to get it. They 
go to a doctor to get it."

We now know that drowning as the result of a heart attack brought 
about by cocaine use was the cause of Houston's death. We also know 
that the drugs she was known to use the most - prescription pills - 
and the drugs that caused the death of Jackson (also a prescription 
drug) and Winehouse (alcohol) are already legal. In fact, Jackson and 
Houston almost surely received their drugs from doctors.

Legalization is not the answer. Never mind that no country in the 
world has legalized drugs (and the Dutch are rolling back their 
notoriously lax marijuana policies this year). Bennett's solution is 
illogical because evidence shows that the legalization of our current 
illegal drugs would simply increase the access and availability of 
drugs, lower their price and increase their use.

That said, we can certainly do a better job of managing our current 
legal drugs. President Obama's plan to cut prescription drug abuse 
contains four simple, but powerful, changes that could not come too 
soon: educate prescribers, parents and young people about the dangers 
of overdose; shut down illegitimate "clinics" that freely sell these 
drugs; establish electronic monitoring at pharmacies; and encourage 
the proper disposal of unused medications.

If we could implement that policy, we might be able to stop the fact 
that drug overdose is now the leading cause of accidental death in 
the United States, having recently overtaken car crashes.

A smart drug policy that combines prevention, intervention, 
treatment, recovery, and, yes, enforcement is our shortest route out 
of the kinds of tragedies that have taken the lives of so many 
talented people in America. Simplistic solutions like legalization 
would only consign more people to addiction without properly 
addressing the underlying cause of use in the first place.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom