Pubdate: Sun, 29 Oct 2000
Source: Bergen Record (NJ)
Copyright: 2000 Bergen Record Corp.
Author: William C. Van Ost
Note: The writer, a physician, is co-founder and consultant to The Van Ost
Institute-Addiction Treatment Center in Englewood.


Neither of the candidates for New Jersey's U.S. Senate seat nor any of the
candidates seeking election or reelection to the House from the New Jersey's
5th and 9th Districts has, so far, made reference to what I view as the No.
1 health problem facing this country: the national drug epidemic.

It's as if this intractable social and criminal problem has simply gone

Perhaps that very lack of attention by our political leaders can explain why
polls show that the "drug problem" is no longer considered one of the top 10
public issues. Alcohol and other drugs still kill more 225,000 people a year
- -- more than 4,300 a week. They still fill our hospital beds. They still are
the chief ingredients of crime in both the United States and New Jersey.
They are still the major causes of auto accidents, of family breakups, of
lost productivity, and of spousal and child abuse.

Congress has already approved the projected 2001 national drug control
budget of $19.2 billion. According to the National Drug Control Strategy
2000 annual report, 67 percent of that budget is dedicated to domestic law
enforcement, interdiction, and international strategies; the remaining funds
are allocated to treatment and prevention efforts (only 20 percent and 13
percent respectively).

Now, the president has authorized an additional $1.3 billion for an
anti-drug aid package in Colombia, which may not only be dangerous but will
also simply not work. Why not?

In 1985, in 1987, and again in 1993, successive major Colombia drug cartel
honchos were either killed or imprisoned. Each time the then-U.S. drug czar
would declare victory in the "war on drugs," and each time a new cartel
would come into power and assume control of 80 percent of the cocaine
shipped into the United States, worth billions per year. In spite of these
"victories," we see no decrease in the cocaine traffic.

With "Plan Columbia," the president buys protection against charges by the
far right that he and his party are "soft on drugs." Fearing the same
charge, members of Congress of both parties have accepted the move.

What do I want? I want candidates to acknowledge that "waging war on drugs"
is simply not working.

I want candidates to change allocations of the 2001 budget and target what
does work: drug abuse education, treatment, and rehabilitation, and an
enlightened approach to law enforcement.

William C. Van Ost ,Englewood, Oct. 20
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