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The Other War

Since 1981, the United States has spent billions of dollars on the “War
On Drugs.” To whose benefit? Our prisons are bursting with non-violent
prisoners. Many are young people who are addicted to drugs and who need
compassion and treatment. Not incarceration! While more prisons are being
built, our country has earned the title of “World’s Leading Jailer.” In 1980,
there were 500 thousand incarcerated prisoners; in 1990 over 1 million and
in 2000 an astonishing 2 million prisoners.

Our cities are being destroyed by crime and violence. By not allowing needle exchange programs the spread of AIDS and other infectious diseases has become a public health nightmare. Little of the drug war budget is being spent on treatment even though it has proven to be at least seven times more effective than incarceration. It makes no sense!

After more than 30 years of fighting a war that cannot be won, we have become
fragmented and distrustful of one another. We must join together, now, to build a safer country for our youth.

Research shows that some kids have been told that pot is as bad as heroin. They are more likely to experiment with heroin particularly if they tried marijuana and had few consequences. Many kids feel if they were lied to about
marijuana, then they were probably lied to about heroin and other drugs as
well. The result is, many teens are rebelling against the very programs that
are intended to help them. Government surveys show half of high school
students try an illegal drug. And 80 percent if you include alcohol, before
graduation.

Kids who experiment with drugs and those with substance abuse problems are often suspended or expelled from school. These are the kids that are most in need of help. “Just say no!” has failed to reduce drug use or addiction. The focus should be on the talents and capabilities, not the inabilities, of our children.

We need to understand that drug experimentation is different from drug
abuse, and find ways to help those who have a problem with substance
abuse. Shouldn’t the first step toward recovery be the recognition that we
have a problem?

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