Pubdate: Sun, 10 May 1998 Source: Dallas Morning News Contact: http://www.dallasnews.com Author: Tom Kallenberg DON'T GIVE MIXED SIGNALS Why not support needle exchange for drug users? Because mixed signals are interpreted by vulnerable people in accord with the least pejorative explanation. Example: "It's wrong, illegal, and dangerous to use intravenous drugs, but I'm not going to have you arrested ... here, take these clean needles." There are other examples: "It's unwise and dangerous for a young teenager to have sex; here, take these condoms." Another: "You came into this country illegally? Well, OK, then we'll provide you with most of the benefits of citizenry." In each of these cases, the result is more of the proscribed activity, and increased resignation by society because "we just can't do anything about it." In the long run, we stand for nothing because we can't stand by principle. There is a cost to every policy decision. By distributing needles for drug addicts, society inevitably reduces the opprobrium of intravenous drug use. As always, people at the margins will be harmed. A question: Would The Dallas Morning News support needle exchange in the Plano school system? TOM G. KALLENBERG, Princeton - --- Checked-by: "Rolf Ernst"