Source: Sunday Times (UK)
Contact:  Sun, 15 Mar 1998


YOU are correct in calling for a drugs policy of zero tolerance. Keith
Hellawell's plan correctly targets youth and the criminal justice
system (Editorial and News, last week).

As you said, not withstanding politically correct disbelief, drug use
in the United States is down. The use of drugs by American youth fell
dramatically between 1979 and 1992 and recent data reveals the
increase that began in 1992 has ebbed.

The key is clear and consistent messages about the reality of drug use,
including alcohol and tobacco, from educational, legal and medical
communities. Hellawell's efforts to reduce youth drug use will be thwarted
unless the Blair government is also willing to boldly attack underage
alcohol use. Research establishes that young people experiment with alcohol
and drugs together.

The United States still has a chronic drug-use problem. Recent British
data, collected regionally, show significant increases in the use of heroin
and other dangerous drugs as well. Worse news is that these users are
getting younger.

The criminal justice system cannot be the exclusive way to reach this
population, however. Addiction can only be brought down by a sustained
community based approach centred on aggressive intervention and treatment

Edward Jurith Atlantic Fellow in Public Policy, Manchester University
(General Counsel to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy)