Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

The War against Drugs Can Be Won

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

The War against Drugs Can Be Won

Article excerpt

I share frustrations with America's inability to win its "War On Drugs," but I'm not ready to throw in the towel and "Just Say Yes." I am prepared, however, to offer a different line of attack.

The very word "war" has connotations of short and winnable. Those of us opposed to drug legalization are probably saddled with that awful word "war" for a very long time. And perhaps we've been forced to defend an indefensible position.

But the fact remains, drug abuse is still one of the nation's most serious domestic problems. It is embedded in crime, family violence, school drop-out rates, homelessness, AIDS, health-care costs, urban decay and economic competitiveness. Until we reduce current levels of addiction and the process that leads to that end, it is unlikely we can significantly improve these other issues affecting our lives and the country. Further, as communities mobilize and organize to address drug abuse, they are inevitably drawn into confronting these problems and dealing with broader social change. I believe there is an increasingly broad consensus about what now needs to be done to further reduce America's illegal drug problem.

(1) There has been a dramatic change in public attitudes about illegal drugs, resulting in extraordinary reductions in the number of users. Illegal drugs are becoming "denormalized" due to increasing perceptions of risk and social disapproval. This profound cultural shift has resulted in decreases of regular monthly users of more than 40 percent since 1985. This improvement, reinforced by media emphasis, in school prevention efforts and in drug-free workplace programs, has been across ethnic, demographic and geographic groups. Importantly, the focal point of this change has been at the community level - changes in individual attitudes and behavior supported by community consensus against drugs. This continuing process of denormalization is basic to long-term success.

(2) Greater availability, effectiveness and access to treatment are the most pressing needs for the illegal drug problem today. The estimated 6 million people in various stages of addiction are having the greatest impact on our society. …

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