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Deb Saunders
Debra J. Saunders
22 Apr 2014
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No Cease-Fire in War on Drugs


President Barack Obama's drug czar, Gil Kerlikowske, doesn't like the term "drug war." He argues that none of the smart guys in law enforcement uses it.

Instead, the smart guys talk about middle-of-the-road strategies that emphasize treatment over incarceration — as did both Presidents Richard Nixon and George W. Bush — while they also advocate tough law enforcement.

Folks in the drug czar's office have "gotten really good at stealing the rhetoric of drug policy reformers," griped Bill Piper of the anti-drug war Drug Policy Alliance, but they don't mean it. Obama may talk up having a dialogue on legalization and decriminalization, but his newly announced strategy proclaims, "Legalization of drugs will not be considered in this approach."

Nonetheless, Rafael Lemaitre, spokesman for the Office for National Drug Control Policy, credited the administration's approach as representing a "revolution" in drug strategy, one based on science, research and evidence. The drug czar's office maintains that addiction is "not a moral failing on the part of the individual — but a disease of the brain that can be prevented and treated." The 2012 drug plan emphasizes treatment for "substance-use disorder" — and there will be more of that because the disorder happens to be covered in the president's Affordable Care Act.

Is it a disease of the brain? I asked Columbia University psychology professor Carl Hart, who is also a board member of Drug Policy Alliance. Hart laughed. "A behavioral disease, therefore the brain is involved? OK, we can say that about everything."

I admit, the addiction-is-an-illness line never worked for me.

It leaves out personal will. It sanitizes destructive decision-making. It suggests that people cannot get clean without a health care professional.

Art Caplan, director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, came up with the best explanation I've heard for the disease argument. People don't want to see addicts jailed, he said, so they've come up with a scenario to spare users from incarceration. Ergo: "The whole drug establishment is invoking the disease model as an antidote to the criminal justice model."

A drug czar fact sheet maintains, "The Obama Administration has remained clear that we cannot arrest our way out of the drug problem through an enforcement-centric 'war on drugs.'" (I guess the smart guys do say "war on drugs.")

But the Obama administration doesn't want to cure the criminal justice system; it wants to medicalize addiction at a time when many Americans are looking for alternatives to federal drug policies that don't work.

I have no doubt that Kerlikowske believes in treatment. I know people who entered programs that helped free them from the bonds of self-destruction. But I am skeptical about the efficacy of a wholesale expansion of drug treatment programs — especially the addicts-cannot-help-it kind. For one thing, addicts have to want to get clean in order to get clean.

"Who is the world's biggest believer that addiction is not a disease?" asked Caplan. "Alcoholics Anonymous, which has 'a volitional orientation.'"

Email Debra J. Saunders at To find out more about Debra J. Saunders and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at



2 Comments | Post Comment
Ma;am;.. The only difference between illegal drugs and legal drugs is that illegal drugs are illegal... The cost of them is greater for the society that tries to prevent them than the society that ignores them... They are not even close in order of magnitude to the death and destruction caused by legal drugs...And drug addiction as a disease of the brain they do not cause near the damage of acceptible brain diseases like religion, republicanism, capitalism, or empirism...

If this society wants to further bankrupt itself, divide itself, and frustrate itself in the effort to control individual behavior; then tally ho... The one certain cure, that is an old cold turkey no one in power wants to eat; is to create a reality people want to live with rather than escape from... It is impossible, right??? The so called healthy with their so called healthy addictions will not give up their drugs to see a world where drugs are unnecessary... Look at how many people are on stimulants of some sort, or anti depressants... Why is everyone so depressed??? Is it because the world is made of essholes because of the necessity of becoming an esshole to survive??? Is it because once a person learns to be an esshole to survive that they find there are people in their lives they cannot treat in typical fashion when angry or frustrated and so must get happy, happy, happy???...

There is no natural happiness anywhere... It is like security... The more the rich take security from the poor the less they can enjoy it themselves because they have destabilized the very society that gives us all security...And they have done the same with hope, and happiness and love... They have taken what they want, demeaned what they cannot use, and put a price on the rest -though these qualities are preceless... That is the real advance of capitalism... Fresh air, fresh water, and sunshine among a multitude of other natural qualities used to be so bountiful as to be free, but now each bears a price tag... What will you give for it when you can see how people suffer without them???

The rich can escape it all, and the poor cannot; and if they should try to, that very act adds to their multitude of problems... I think if it were possible to shut off the supply of mind altering drugs to this country whether illegal or legal, that no one would cry so loudly, or more pitifully than the rich...What would the rich do if the poor did not numb themselves in order to accept their own destruction and the theft of their portion of the commonwealth; and found for one moment that they were lucid enough to defend their rights???

Ma'am.... Try to consider to what extent the notion of the individual and of freedom of will has worked to rob the poor and promote the rich... I will not deny the influence of popular ideas on human progress, but these two notions have been positively deadly for much of humanity... The Emperor Justinian considered his subjects bound into feudalism and their unborn children with them on their word, as he considered it, freely given...And just so, we consider today that the commonwealth lost to one generation is lost to all succeeding generations and once gained is property for all theirsucceeding generation... Wealth and property, like poverty and hopelessness can become hereditary like a disease, and those who suffer them, though they self medicate may never grasp that it is within their power to change this static situation...

In other words, they have no will because they are not conscious of their power, but are very conscious of their weakness and human frustration...Another invention of relatively modern times is that of the individual... And what is the individual but a mark, and a victim??? Where true communities exist, and one gains his identity from his community, the community can defend his rights with their own... No individual is capable of morality because morality IS community, and neither is he capable of defending his rights...

Look at one of the greatest thefts of property and rights in the history of mankind: The closing of the commons upon which so many lives depended...When that was done, something that was inalienable was taken from individuals... They could not dispose of the commons because it was not exactly theirs... They had recieved it as a trust, and it was the property of their children as much as of their grandchildren... Since no one could be said to own it, the wealthy through manipulation of law where free to take it, and take it they did... No individual could stand against them as a class...

The same is true when an individual tries to defend his rights against a corporation... He is considered a free agent by law... He is discouraged and inhibited from organizing, and if he organizes his union has little more than moral authority... But the deck is stacked against him... He has no power as an individual, and his situation is perilous and made more so by the conspiracy of a whole class...His choice may be so limited that he can never be said to be free except in the most abstract and obtuse meaning of the word... When such people try to escape their reality they leave nothing of worth behind... Those with the power, the real power in life, who have choice because they have denied it to others at every opportunity know they are denying a fulfilling and happy experience to others, -and do so regardless.. It is no wonder that people should try to prove their freedom with slow suicide... It is a great wonder that more do not do so... .. Thanks...Sweeney
Comment: #1
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Thu Apr 19, 2012 6:21 AM
If legalization is the answer, why is there a huge black market on legal presecription drugs?
Comment: #2
Posted by: partsmom
Thu Apr 26, 2012 10:46 AM
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