Pubdate: Mon, 01 Apr 2002
Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (PA)
Copyright: 2002 PG Publishing
Author: Mathieu Ahlstrom


It was with a breaking heart I read the article regarding teens fighting 
heroin addiction ("Heroin's Hold," March 24). This is a story that just 
won't go away, resurfacing whenever an especially potent batch of heroin 
comes through the area. I applaud the efforts made by the government in 
supporting Act 53, giving parents some crucial assistance in getting help 
for their addicted children.

Treatment is a large part of the solution, but as the article explains, it 
is the entry into hard drug use that is a large part of the problem. As a 
former Pittsburgher now living in the Netherlands, I have been able to 
witness firsthand the results of the "radical" Dutch drug policy.

The Dutch are very pragmatic about drug use, recognizing the different 
layers of use and addiction, as well as access. The decision to tolerate 
soft drugs (primarily marijuana) was aimed directly at keeping young 
experimenters away from hard drugs. The policy has worked so far -- the 
average age of a heroin addict is now in the 40s.

Everybody agrees that staying substance-free -- including alcohol and 
nicotine -- is the healthiest way to lead a life. The reality, of course, 
is far different. The Dutch government has taken perhaps the most 
comprehensive, rational and humane approach to drug policy, with generally 
good results. No system is perfect, and it is easy to point out small 
flaws, but for the health of the community and reduction in crime rates, it 
has been very successful.

One wonders why the United States continues to throw money at a war that 
just cannot be won with the current strategy; treatment is just the beginning.

MATHIEU AHLSTROM, Delft, Netherlands
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