DrugSense FOCUS Alert # 169 April 14, 2000 

DrugSense FOCUS Alert # 169 April 14, 2000 
Posted by FoM on April 14, 2000 at 19:41:07 PT
More Drug Tests & Forced Treatment Are Not Answer
Source: MapInc.
As the failure of the drug war becomes impossible to ignore, even many drug warriors understand the tactics of its supporters are failing. John Q. Wilson, the Pepperdine professor who occasionally tries to give the drug war a veneer of academic and moral credibility, is at least honest enough to see that sending more resources to Colombia is not going to affect the level of drug use inside the US. 
Unfortunately, as he writes in the Wall Street Journal this week, Wilson believes that more drug testing and more coerced treatment for illegal drug users will be a wonderful success while "legalization" would be a disaster. To make his case he uses facts selectively. While suggesting the Netherlands' more liberal policy of dealing with marijuana has caused an increase in marijuana use, he ignores the fact that rates of marijuana and hard drug use are lower for Dutch kids than American kids. Worse than his abuse of the facts is his attempt to dehumanize drug users by calling them "barbarians ... incapable of being improved by free and equal discussion." Wilson has spouted similar justifications for totalitarianism for more than a decade, which makes it clear he is incapable of being improved by free and equal discussion. Please write a letter to editors at the Wall Street Journal to identify the real barbarian. Thanks for your effort and support. WRITE A LETTER TODAY If not YOU who? If not NOW When?  PLEASE SEND US A COPY OF YOUR LETTER OR TELL US WHAT YOU DID (Letter, Phone, fax etc.)Please post a copy your letter or report your action to the sent letter list (sentlet if you are subscribed, or by E-mailing a copy directly to MGreer Your letter will then be forwarded to the list with so others can learn from your efforts and be motivated to follow suit This is VERY IMPORTANT as it is the only way we have of gauging our impact and effectiveness.CONTACT INFO Source: Wall Street Journal (US) Contact: letter.editor ARTICLE Pubdate: Thu, 13 Apr 2000 Source: Wall Street Journal (US) Copyright: 2000 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Section: A Page: 20 Contact: letter.editor FAX: (212) 416-2658Address: 200 Liberty Street, New York, NY 10281 Website: Author: James Q. Wilson Note: Mr. Wilson is a professor of public policy at Pepperdine University and author of "The Moral Sense," available in paperback from Free Press. Neither Legalizing Drugs, Nor Trying To Block Supply, Is Likely To Work. There Is A Third Way: Reduce Demand Through Manditory Testing. The current Senate deliberation over aid to Colombia aimed at fighting narcotics reminds us that there are two debates over how the government ought to deal with dangerous drugs. The first is about their illegality and the second is about their control. People who wish to legalize drugs and those who wish to curtail their supply believe that their methods will reduce crime. Both these views are mistaken, but there is a third way. Advocates of legalization think that both buyers and sellers would benefit. People who can buy drugs freely and at something like free market prices would no longer have to steal to afford cocaine or heroin; dealers would no longer have to use violence and corruption to maintain their market share. Though drugs may harm people, reducing this harm would be a medical problem not a criminal justice one. Crime would drop sharply. Prices Would Fall: But there is an error in this calculation. Legalizing drugs means letting the price fall to its competitive rate (plus taxes and advertising costs). That market price would probably be somewhere between one third and 1/20th of the illegal price. And more than the market price would fall. As Harvard's Mark Moore has pointed out, the "risk price"--that is, all the hazards associated with buying drugs, from being arrested to being ripped off--would also fall, and this decline might be more important than the lower purchase price. Under a legal regime, the consumption of low priced, low risk drugs would increase dramatically. We do not know by how much, but the little evidence we have suggests a sharp rise. Until 1968 Britain allowed doctors to prescribe heroin. Some doctors cheated, and their medically unnecessary prescriptions helped increase the number of known heroin addicts by a factor of 40. As a result, the government abandoned the prescription policy in favor of administering heroin in clinics and later replacing heroin with methadone. When the Netherlands ceased enforcing laws against the purchase or possession of marijuana, the result was a sharp increase in its use. Cocaine and heroin create much greater dependency, and so the increase in their use would probably be even greater. The average user would probably commit fewer crimes if these drugs were sold legally. But the total number of users would increase sharply. A large fraction of these new users would be unable to keep a steady job. Unless we were prepared to support them with welfare payments, crime would be one of their main sources of income. That is, the number of drug related crimes per user might fall even as the total number of drug related crimes increased. Add to the list of harms more deaths from overdose, more babies born to addicted mothers, more accidents by drug influenced automobile drivers and fewer people able to hold jobs or act as competent parents. Treating such people would become far more difficult. As psychiatrist Sally Satel has written on this page, many drug users will not enter and stay in treatment unless they are compelled to do so. Phoenix House, the largest national residential drug treatment program, rarely admits patients who admit they have a problem and need help. The great majority are coerced by somebody--a judge, probation officer or school official--into attending. Phoenix House CEO Mitchell Rosenthal opposes legalization, and for good reason. Legalization means less coercion, and that means more addicts and addicts who are harder to treat. Douglas Anglin, drawing on experiences in California and elsewhere, has shown that people compelled to stay in treatment do at least as well as those who volunteer for it, and they tend (of necessity) to stay in the program longer. If we legalize drugs, the chances of treatment making a difference are greatly reduced. And as for drug use prevention,. forget it. Try telling your children not to use a legal substance. But people who want to keep drugs illegal have problems of their own. The major thrust of government spending has been to reduce the supply of drugs by cutting their production overseas, intercepting their transfer into the U.S. and arresting dealers. Because of severe criminal penalties, especially on handlers of crack cocaine, our prisons have experienced a huge increase in persons sentenced on drug charges. In the early 1980s, about 1/12th of all prison inmates were in for drug convictions; now well over one third are. No one can be certain how imprisoning drug suppliers affects drug use, but we do know that an arrested drug dealer is easily replaced. Moreover, the government can never seize more than a small fraction of the drugs entering the country, a fraction that is easily replaced. Emphasizing supply over treatment is dangerous. Not only do we spend huge sums on it; not only do we drag a reluctant U.S. military into the campaign; we also heighten corruption and violence in countries such as Colombia and Mexico. The essential fact is this: Demand will produce supply. We can do much more to reduce demand. Some four million Americans are currently on probation or parole. From tests done on them when they are jailed, we know that half or more had a drug problem when arrested. Though a lot of drug users otherwise obey the law (or at least avoid getting arrested), probationers and parolees constitute the hard core of dangerous addicts. Reducing their demand for drugs ought to be our highest priority. Mark Kleiman of UCLA has suggested a program of "testing and control": Probationers and parolees would be required to take frequent drug tests--say, twice weekly--as a condition of remaining on the street. These tests are inexpensive and show immediate results. If you failed the test, you would spend more time in jail; if you passed it, you would remain free. This approach would be an inducement for people to enter and stay in treatment. This would require some big changes in how we handle offenders. Police, probation and parole officers would be responsible for conducting these tests, and more officers would have to be hired. Probation and parole authorities would have to be willing to sanction a test failure by immediate incarceration, initially for a short period (possibly a weekend), and then for longer periods if the initial failure were repeated. Treatment programs at little or no cost to the user would have to be available not only in every prison, but for every drug dependent probationer and parolee. These things are not easily done. Almost every state claims to have an intensive community supervision program, but few offenders are involved in them, the frequency with which they are contacted is low, and most were released from super vision without undergoing any punishment for violating its conditions. But there is some hope. Our experience with drug courts suggests that the procedural problems can be overcome. In such courts, several hundred of which now exist, special judges oversee drug dependent offenders, insisting that they work to overcome their habits. While under drug court supervision, offenders reduce drug consumption and, at least for a while after leaving the court, offenders are less likely to be arrested. Our goal ought to be to extend meaningful community supervision to all probationers and parolees, especially those who have a serious drug or alcohol problem. Efforts to test Mr. Kleiman's proposals are under way in Connecticut and Maryland. If this demand reduction strategy works, it can be expanded. Drug tests can be given to people who apply for government benefits, such as welfare and public housing. Some critics will think this is an objectionable intrusion. But giving benefits without conditions weakens the character building responsibility of society. Prevent Harm to Others: John Stuart Mill, the great libertarian thinker, argued that the only justifiable reason for restricting human liberty is to prevent harm to others. Serious drug abuse does harm others. We could, of course, limit government action to remedying those harms without addressing their causes, but that is an uphill struggle, especially when the harms fall on unborn children. Fetal drug syndrome imposes large costs on infants who have had no voice in choosing their fate. Even Mill was clear that full liberty cannot be given to children or barbarians. By "barbarians" he meant people who are incapable of being improved by free and equal discussion. The life of a serious drug addict--the life of someone driven by drug dependency to prostitution and crime--is the life of a barbarian.'"  SAMPLE LETTER To the Editor:James Q. Wilson's recommendation that present drug policy be retained and modified by increased drug testing and compulsory treatment (A New Strategy for the War on Drugs, April 13) - is best seen as an unwitting example of the vicious thinking which spawned our catastrophic drug war; not as a basis for any rationale public policy. Space won't permit a full listing of Wilson's sins against both logic and history; the first is his assumption that the major purpose of any drug policy is reducing crime. In truth, crime wasn't associated with drug use until America initiated drug prohibition. Before 1915 users weren't criminals and addicts didn't have to steal. Another erroneous assumption is his equation of drug use with addiction in attempting to justify forcing those who test positive into "treatment." Most repeat users of any agent do not become addicts; they either continue sporadic recreational use for the balance of their lives or give it up completely; much like the situation with (legal) alcohol. Even where daily compulsive use is acknowledged to be harmful to health, our society hasn't seen fit to force (legal) alcoholics and nicotine addicts into treatment. In his last paragraph, Wilson reveals the full dimensions of his inhumanity and arrogance. By his definition, all "addicts" (users) are "barbarians," thus they don't deserve full liberty. This is neither sociology nor responsible policy; it's the cant of the bogus religion of repression intended to grace a brave new zero-tolerance world. No, thanks. Tom O'Connell MD IMPORTANT: Always include your address and telephone number Please note: If you choose to use this letter as a model please modify it at least somewhat so that the paper does not receive numerous copies of the same letter and so that the original author receives credit for his/her work. ADDITIONAL INFO to help you in your letter writing efforts 3 Tips for Letter Writers: Letter Writers Style Guide:  TO SUBSCRIBE, DONATE, VOLUNTEER TO HELP, OR UPDATE YOUR EMAIL SEE: TO UNSUBSCRIBE SEE: Prepared by Stephen Young Focus Alert Specialist DrugSense FOCUS Alert # 169 April 14, 2000 DrugSense, MapInc. Articles & Archives:
Home Comment Email Register Recent Comments Help

Comment #1 posted by observer on April 16, 2000 at 09:58:40 PT
Richard Cowan Rebuttal
Richard Cowan evicerates this WSJ/James Q. Wilson piece here:The Meaning of Barbarism: The Wall Street Journal Continues Lying to Its Readers To Steal More of Our Freedom (Apr 14, 2000)
[ Post Comment ]

Post Comment

Name: Optional Password: 
Comment: [Please refrain from using profanity in your message]
Link URL: 
Link Title: