Pubdate: Mon, May 24, 1999
Source: Times Union (NY)
Copyright: 1999, Capital Newspapers Division of The Hearst Corporation
Contact:  Box 15000, Albany, NY 12212
Author: Stanton Peele, The Lindesmith Center


The Albany Times Union ran Sylvia Wood's story titled, "With imprisonment
falling short, science looks for the answers." The article maintains that,
"For the past 25 years, the drug laws and similarly harsh federal statues
have had little apparent success in combating drug abuse despite stepped-up
enforcement and stiffer penalties." "Yet,'' the article continues, "mounting
evidence suggests that the key to winning the drug battle may be new
research that's unraveling the neurobiology of addiction," along with drug

I was mentioned in the article in the following passage: "a tiny minority of
people in the treatment community, including well-known New Jersey
psychologist Stanton Peele, refute the premise that addiction is a chronic
disease, and are skeptical of the growing volume of research to support the
medical model." Let me give a few
of the reasons for my position.

The article misleadingly suggests that only criminal and interdiction
efforts have expanded in the past 25 years. In 1973, under Richard Nixon,
the entire federal drug budget was $429 million. In 1999, the federal drug
budget is $16 billion, of which a third, or $5.3 billion, is devoted to
demand reduction (treatment, prevention, research). Combining all government
spending on drugs yields a figure of $40 billion, or about $13 billion for
demand reduction.

This represents in the vicinity of a hundredfold increase in money being
spent on treatment and research over the past 25 years.

How much more will these expenditures increase? Moreover, when should we
expect to see the fruit of massive current expenditures for treatment and
research? Will there be a substantial reduction of drug addicts, abusers,
and prisoners next year, in five years, in 10 years? If not, what should we
do in the meantime? I agree with the premise of the article that current
laws are of little use.

Imprisoning people whose only crime is drug use is a terribly expensive
mistake. But we must attack these policies directly, not because we are
praying that science will rush in to fill the gap. As for treatment, very
few drug users are addicts. And for those who think scientists are just now
starting to claim that they have the key to addiction, consider this quote
form 1977 by neurologist Richard Restak. He was writing about the
endorphins, opiates that are naturally produced by our bodies.

According to Restak, endorphins are "a veritable philosopher's stone -- a
group of substances that hold out the promise of alleviating, or even
eliminating, such age-old medical bugaboos as pain, drug addiction, and ...
schizophrenia." So, perhaps we should hold off planning our drug policy
around science's anticipated ability to
quench addiction any time soon.

Stanton Peele, Morristown, N.J. 
The writer is a fellow at The Lindesmith Center, New York City

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