HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Righteous Drug Warriors Mete Out a Cruel Lesson
Source: International Herald-Tribune
Pubdate: Wed, 9 Sep 1998
Author: Mike Gray


The writer is the author of "Drug Crazy: How We Got Into This Mess and How
We Can Get Out," from which this comment was excerpted by the Los Angeles

By Mike Gray

LOS ANGELES---Maureen was a 19-year-old Irish red-head in England when she
married a rich kid from Manchester who gave her three children and
introduced her to heroin. A few years later he desided to run off with a
younger woman, so he left Maureen with the kids, no money and a serious
heroin habit.

For the next several years, she moved the kids from one bed-and-breakfast to
another, supporting herself with prostitution and shoplifting, all the time
frantically chasing the dragon. Like most addicts, she tried to kick the
habit repeatedly without success.

Finally the authorities were breathing down her neck and she knew she was
about to lose her children. A friend steered her to a clinic in suburban
Liverpool, where her life was instantly transformed.

John Marks, a Welsh psychiatrist who ran the clinic, examined her and
determined that she was indeed a heroin addict. So he wrote her a
prescription for heroin and told her to come back in a week.

Almost unbelieving, she took the slip of paper to the pharmacist up the
street, who filled it without batting an eye. As she stood at the counter
staring at the small round container of pure heroin, an odd sensation
washed over her. The auger of panic that had been twisting her gut every
waking moment for a decade was spinning down. For the first time in years
she had a tiny bit of brain space that was not focused on how to get the
next fix.

It began to dawn on her that it no longer made any difference whether she
could get the cash or whether her dealer would show up or whether the
stuff was any good or whether the cops would beat her to it.

As she slipped the package into her purse, she caught a glimpse of herself
in the glass. For the first time in 10 years she stopped to take a serious
look. She was stunned. Then she glanced down at her children and said, "Oh,
my God."

In an instant, the morality that had been instilled in her as a child came
flooding back: "I felt so disgusted." Over the next weeks and months, her
dose was stabilized at a point that allowed her to function without
suffering withdrawal, and within a year her life had been completely turned
around. She had a job, her kids were in school and she was talking about
going back to college.

The paper that John Marks handed her almost nonchalantly had turned out to
be a passport out of hell.

Unfortunately, the Liverpool clinic---one of the last of the old British
heroin maintenance programs was featured on a CBS "60 Minutes" broadcast.
U.S. drug enforcers went into convulsions.

The success of the clinic---a 90 percent drop in the local crime rate, zero
cases of AIDS, progress in moving people off welfare rolls into productive
jobs---flew in the face of American drug war orthodoxy.

Dr. Marks was warned by friends in the Home Office that the U.S. Embassy was
exerting tremendous pressure to shut him down, and in the end it was
successful. The 450 patients that Dr. Marks had been serving were kicked
into the street and told to find-a detox program where they could learn to
give up their evil ways. "Two years later," said Dr. Marks, "25 of the
addicts were dead."

And what of Maureen the heroin user with three children who planned to go to

"I saw Maureen the other day," said Dr. Marks. "She was desperate, back to
criminality; a lot of her friends are back in prison. She's on the streets.
She saw me in passing and asked if I could take her back on. Her doctor
tried to refer her to me, but the Health Authority refused to defray the

And so the state, in its righteous determination to set everything straight,
has managed to teach Maureen and her children a lesson. It's one they won't
soon forget.

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Checked-by: Don Beck