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Editorial - Rethinking the drug war

June 09, 1997

In the past six months there hasn't been much good news in the war on drugs. Police agencies all over the Tri-state area have told The Herald-Mail that they don't have the resources to cope with rising drug abuse. Washington County Sheriff Charles Mades has requested more than 20 additional officers for jail duty, due to an influx of drug suspects. Now an annual survey of teen drug use shows that it's increasing among Washington County high school seniors. It's time to re-think the battle strategy in this war.

Drug use has increased despite a boost in penalties and prison construction, even though there's a ton of information available about drugs' adverse effects on the health of the user and any children they might have. Drug use also provides the payroll for an army of criminals involved in the manufacture, transport and sale of these illegal products. That is a consequence of their habit that users seldom see, and which law enforcement authorities might better use in an anti-drug education effort.

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Even if drug users' only concern is their personal safety, there ought to be a way to bring it home to them that their illegal purchases make life here less safe. The money associated with drug abuse can also corrupts government and law enforcement itself, compromising everyone's security. And finally, the effect of drugs like crack cocaine on the unborn only guarantees that society will get another bill for the care of these unfortunate children.

Even the uneducated in society are aware of these facts, but because the anti-drug message hasn't been presented in a sophisticated way, it's been possible to ignore them up until now. To make it impossible to ignore, two things are necessary.

One is a better education program that would make it clear to would-be abusers that they're not innocent bystanders if they get involved in such activities. The second is to banish high-profile abusers from sports, recorded music and the movies. If this society is serious about ending the drug plague, it must make it clear that fighting drug abuse is a higher priority than the next touchdown, hit record or blockbuster movie.

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