Helping Addicts Would Be Best Tactic in Drug War

Helping Addicts Would Be Best Tactic in Drug War
Posted by FoM on April 14, 2000 at 11:55:49 PT
Source: Pioneer Planet
Election year rhetoric is rising to meet the deluge of cash Congress seems poised to throw into a new ``war'' on Colombian drugs. The House has passed, with administration backing, a spending bill that puts $1.7 billion into a two-year campaign to train and equip Colombian security forces to battle drug traffickers. 
The measure, now in the Senate attached to a larger ``emergency'' spending bill, is much more about a regional political challenge than stopping drugs from flowing into the United States.Rep. Jim Ramstad, R-Minn., deserves respect for presenting a more humane and practical alternative to throwing $1.7 billion down the rat hole of interdiction and open-ended conflict in Colombia. His amendment to use the money to treat drug addicts in the United States instead of sending it to Colombia failed. But Ramstad does a service by making the case for reducing demand by treating people who are addicted to drugs.The rest of the United States, and most urgently the Congress, needs to get as smart as Minnesota about the value of treating drug and alcohol addicts. It makes no sense to fund eradication and interdiction efforts lavishly in Colombia when 26 million American addicts and alcoholics have no treatment.That includes, according to the U.S. Office of Drug Control Policy, 3.5 million hard-core addicts in crisis. That office says 58 percent of addicts seeking treatment in 1999 were denied access to care. A drug control policy that doesn't go aggressively to demand is doomed to fail.It has failed. About $600 million in previous U.S. spending to eradicate the drug supply from Colombia has gone for naught except pork-barrel politics and militant posturing.Ramstad, a recovering alcoholic and champion of addiction treatment, notes that the balance between treatment and interdiction has eroded dramatically. In 1971, when President Richard Nixon started his federal ``war on drugs,'' he directed 60 percent of funding to treatment. That figure today is 18 percent.More discussion of what works to cut drug use and less bellicose posturing about Colombia are needed in Washington. Ramstad's insistence on demand-side drug policy advances that discussion.Published: Thursday, April 13, 2000  2000 PioneerPlanet / St. Paul (Minnesota) Pioneer Press Related Articles & Web Sites:The Lindesmith Center November Coalition Reduction Coalition Rights and the War On Drugs Czar Says Expanding Treatment is the Only Way Lawmakers Are Taking Harm Reduction Approach't Get Carried Away by Ethan Nadelmann
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