Pubdate: Tue, 24 Aug 1999
Date: 08/24/1999
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (Canada)
Author: Dr. Perry Kendall

In his Aug. 21 article, "Simplistic solutions to illicit drugs won't
solve the problem," Ken Lane refers;, somewhat dismissively, to
"liberal media types, pro-drug spin doctors and the occasional
provincial health officer." As the senior public health officer for
B.C. I would like to assure your readers that I am not "pro-drug."
Nor, for the record, was my predecessor Dr. John Millar, nor are
B.C.'s medical health officers.

We are, however, deeply concerned over the individual and societal
harms caused by both licit and illicit substance abuse, and in regards
to the latter class of substances have produced reports calling for
changes to the way that we, as a society, view and treat substance

Among the recommendations for an effective approach is the recognition
that addiction is a disease of the brain, that prevention and
education are critical, that a range of treatment approaches
(including harm reduction activities, drug courts, maintenance and
abstinence) need to be available, and that based on the best evidence
available, treating substance abuse and addictive illness primarily as
a criminal activity is costly, ineffective and inhumane.

This approach, which draws heavily on the experience of European
nations who have actually implemented and evaluated it, runs counter
to the prevailing ethos in the United States. It is, however,
supported by policy groups ranging from the prestigious Rand Institute
to B.C.'s own Fraser Institute.

As for suggesting that concerns over present policies are limited to
"liberal media types," the following quotation from a May 18, 1998,
editorial from the Globe and Mail suggests that conservative media
types also have concerns over present drug control strategies:

"Irrationality is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting
different results. Judged by this yardstick, the illicit drug policies
of most Western governments are indeed irrational. These policies do
not achieve their stated ends - reducing the supply of drugs, cutting
crime, making citizens safer or weakening organized crime - but rather
the reverse."

The editorial goes on to conclude, "Prohibition does not work and
cannot work, and it costs are higher than those of properly supervised
and regulated access to drugs."

Complex, important social issues call for informed discussion and
public debate. Consensus may indeed by difficult to achieve, but
discourse is seldom facilitated by labelling those who proffer views
that differ from our own.

Dr. Perry Kendall B.C.'s provincial health officer