Pubdate: Sun, 19 Jun 2016
Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (PA)
Copyright: 2016 PG Publishing Co., Inc.
Author: Jim Scofield


When are we going to get past all these drug arrests and 
imprisonments, repeated year after year without stemming their use 
("With Addiction Primed by Pain Pills, Heroin Dealers Move In," June 
12)? Can't we stop treating drugs as a crime problem, rather than a 
health problem? We stopped treating alcohol usage and sale as a crime 
over 90 years ago. As Michael Botticelli, the White House's director 
of national drug control policy, admitted recently: "We can't arrest 
and incarcerate addiction out of people . ... It's really inhumane, 
ineffective, and costs us billions of dollars."

Your article cites Gary Tuggle, DEA head in Philadelphia, as saying 
that "eight of 10 heroin addicts start out as oxycodone users." Now 
the public should see that opioid prescription pain pills addict many 
Americans, often older people, some of whom turn to heroin when they 
can no longer get prescription refills. Thus, we should realize that 
drug addiction is not a problem of the young or people of color. The 
"war on drugs" has devastated black communities. "Although the 
majority of illegal drug users and dealers nationwide are white, 
three-fourths of all people imprisoned for drug offenses have been 
black or Latino" wrote Michelle Alexander in her book "The New Jim Crow."

Your article fails to note that illegal drugs cause crime precisely 
because they are illegal. Drug prohibition keeps drugs expensive, 
attracting pushers who promote their usage and causing desperate 
addicts to rob in order to afford drugs.

There are far better courses than sending all these users and sellers 
to prison, as we should have found out from our unsuccessful 
experiment with alcohol prohibition.

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