Pubdate: Tue, 27 Feb 2001
Source: Seattle Times (WA)
Copyright: 2001 The Seattle Times Company
Contact:  P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA   98111
Fax: (206) 382-6760


Treatment, Yes, But What If The User Doesn't Want It?

In Mindy Cameron's column "An American epiphany in the War on Drugs" 
(Times, Feb. 18), she notes, having watched the movie "Traffic," that 
the current government stance with regards to drugs - namely war - is 
a failure. Cameron goes on, as does the movie, to advocate a change 
of approach: from fighting the drug dealer to treating the drug user.

The idea that this country might devote much more funding and energy 
to treatment seems more right-minded at first blush, but, the fact 
is, forced, involuntary "treatment" does not work. In order for 
treatment to work at all, the person being treated has to want to 
involve himself in treatment. Period.

A fact that is never acknowledged in our national debate about drugs 
is that a lot of people who use drugs use them occasionally, 
recreationally and responsibly. Despite the stereotype, the average 
drug user is gainfully employed and is a net contributor to his 
community. For such a person, drug use is not a problem and it's no 
business of government.

I know that this is going to sound like a radical idea, but maybe 
government should just leave people alone when they're not harming 
anyone else.

- - Lloyd Gaarder, Sioux Falls, S.D.

Wrong Impression

Even in the movie "Traffic," which reveals the drug war in all its 
misguided, tragic lunacy, drug users are portrayed as degenerates and 
chemical slaves. The drug czar's daughter goes from bright schoolgirl 
to pathetic crack whore in the blink of an eye.

Come on. Even for heroin users, the most reliable estimates are that 
a mere 10 percent become addicted. Not great news, but on a par with 
booze. The simple truth is that the vast majority of drug users use 
drugs recreationally and are no more in need of detox and counseling 
than is a tavern patron.

People take drugs to enjoy themselves, not destroy themselves. The 
biggest myth about drugs is that drug use equals drug abuse. The 
truth is that only the unfortunate few come to ruin, and most do so 
with a legal drug anyway.

- - Bill Muse, Seattle

Demand Change

The problem is not that Mexico and Colombia and a host of other 
countries supply us with drugs, but that our demand for them is so 
great. As long as Americans are prepared to pay these enormous sums, 
someone will step in to supply the drugs.

So how do we reduce our demand for drugs? By incarcerating addicts. 
What a thoughtful approach. We hear it was President Nixon's campaign 
staff in 1968 that thought up the idea of the War on Drugs, and that 
$40 billion was spent by the government conducting this war last 
year. So now we have had an epiphany regarding the failure of this 
33-year-old war?

I'm sorry, Mindy Cameron, but the facts have been staring us in the 
face since the beginning, but our only answer has been ignorance and 
a refusal to face those facts. All the police SWAT teams, attack 
helicopters sent to Colombia, new prisons and prison sentences have 
not reduced, nor ever will reduce, our demand for drugs. If one must 
receive an "epiphany" to realize this, it speaks volumes to our own 
sad state of affairs.

- - Rick Meisenholder, Bellevue

Mind Control

Addictions do not meet the nosology of disease. Addictions are 
stigmatizing terms that are culturally conditioned. Americans 
fighting addiction is equivalent to Haitians fighting voodoo or, more 
correctly, St. George out fighting dragons, on which all scapegoat 
persecutions are modeled (there were no such things as dragons, but 
St. George "saved" us from them nonetheless).

Taking the "wrong" social drugs is a vice, not a crime or a medical 
disorder. Sentencing people to "treatment" or helping people who do 
not want your help is called persecution. Harming people in the name 
of helping them is as old as mankind is itself.

The ugliest aspect of drug prevention is that in order to control 
what substances a man may put in his body, the state must also 
control what ideas a man may put in his head. The state in an 
ostensibly free country has no business controlling the ideas of its 

- - Chris Buors, Winnipeg, Manitoba

Logic Lesson

Economics 101, a quiz. Text: There are immense profits in illegal 
drug traffic. Question: Why don't government officials support 
legislation removing these profits? Answer: Because there are immense 
profits in illegal drug traffic.

- - Tom Difloe, Camano Island
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