Pubdate: Fri, 12 Sep 2003
Source: Tomahawk, The (Mountain City, TN)
Copyright: 2003 The Tomahawk
Author: Greg Francisco


Dear Editor:

My heart goes out to Kristen Eller as she attempts to make sense out of the 
senseless drug overdose death of her beloved nephew. I simply cannot 
imagine the depths of her despair. I commend her for speaking out to ensure 
a similar fate does not befall others. Unfortunately, so long as we 
continue to rely primarily on vigorous law enforcement to solve our drug 
problem, many more teenagers will meet the fate of Ms Eller's nephew.

Substance abuse is a serious problem that demands serious solutions. 
Treating it as primarily a legal issue, rather than the public health 
issue, only drives the problem deeper underground. Teenagers who have a 
drug-abusing friend are reluctant to confide in an adult, fearing legal 
problems for their friend will result. All too often the results are 
lethal, when the friend overdoses and medical help is delayed.

Certainly law enforcement has a place in reducing the very real damage of 
substance abuse. But in our zeal to arrest and incarcerate our way out of 
the drug problem, we are doing more damage than good. Treat kids as 
criminals and many will become exactly that. Anti-smoking and public health 
campaigns have slashed teenage tobacco use and addiction without jailing 
anyone. There is every reason to believe similar results could be gained by 
applying the same model to illicit drug use.

Greg Francisco

Educators for Sensible Drug Policies Paw Paw, MI
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