Pubdate: Wed, 09 Sep 2015
Source: Boston Globe (MA)
Copyright: 2015 Globe Newspaper Company
Authors: William J. Bennett and John P. Walters
Note: William J. Bennett is host of "Morning in America" and former 
director of drug control policy for President George H.W. Bush. John 
P. Walters is chief operating officer at the Hudson Institute and 
former director of drug control policy for President George W. Bush.


America is in the midst of a heroin crisis, and the growing epidemic 
may soon surpass the crack and cocaine overdose deaths of the 1980s 
and 1990s. Shockingly, we seem powerless to do what we did back then 
- - attack the supply.

Fecklessness regarding heroin has fatal consequences. The death rate 
from heroin overdoses doubled from 2010 to 2013; according to the 
Centers for Disease Control, 8,200 died in 2013. In the Northeast, 
the problem has been acute. Heroin and other drugs in New Hampshire 
now kill more people than traffic accidents.

But we are not helpless. The heroin epidemic is inflicted upon us by 
criminal acts that produce an abundant supply of inexpensive drugs. 
Stopping these criminal acts will stop the epidemic.

The Obama administration refuses to do this, insisting that overdose 
medication and treatment for heroin users and addicts are sufficient.

Medication to revive dying addicts will not prevent the explosion of 
new heroin users, nor will it get addicts truly clean and sober. 
Emergency triage doesn't immobilize the plague or prevent its spread. 
And promising Obamacare insurance coverage does not necessarily lead 
to treatment - most families know that denial and resistance to 
treatment is part of the pathology of addiction.

Facing a cholera epidemic from bad water, we would not simply give 
the sick antibiotics. The number of victims would increase, including 
those we just treated. Likewise, administering antidotes is not a 
strategy unless we address the underlying contaminants causing the 
disease. In the case at hand, that cause is the growing supply of 
cheap, potent heroin.

For 25 years before President Obama, US policy confronted drug 
addiction with effective public health measures, emphasizing 
education, prevention, and treatment and, crucially, programs to 
reduce production, interdict the drugs, and lead international 
partnerships to destroy drug cartels. It worked.

Yet President Obama refuses to attack supply. He has not increased 
military and law enforcement coverage at the border to stop heroin 
from Mexico - presumably because this might be seen as 
anti-immigrant. Further, Obama has failed to target heroin 
distribution throughout the United States; he said he opposes a war 
on drugs because it leads to "mass incarceration" - a deadly falsehood.

Worse, Obama has tacitly allowed legalized marijuana to spread drug 
use on a widening scale, undermining prevention and treatment. Now 
drug gangs flourish in a legalized-drug environment, spreading 
addiction throughout America.

Meanwhile heroin production is surging in Mexico, in a more pure and 
potent form than ever. And the world's greatest opium producer, 
Afghanistan, supplies most heroin found in Canada and is poised to 
enter our communities as well.

Some claim the crucial cause of heroin overdoses is prior misuse of 
prescription opiate medications. When these pills become scarce and 
expensive, they argue, opiate abusers turn to heroin.

This is not entirely wrong, but it is an inadequate explanation of 
the present crisis. The CDC notes that less than 4 percent of opiate 
misusers initiate heroin within five years, and points to the impact 
of heroin supply. There can be no crossover from opiates to heroin 
without a ready supply of heroin. The crucial answer to this crisis 
is interrupting the abundant supply of cheap, potent heroin.

As death and addiction spread, who will speak truthfully about this 
epidemic? President Obama has not, but many Republicans have also 
downplayed the danger of drugs and the importance of law enforcement. 
Crime- and drug-ravaged communities are crying out for leadership. 
Who will answer them?
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom