Perhaps the greatest challenge of editing a newsletter about drug issues
is overcoming the reality that, as with all "news," there rarely
is anything "new." Most American anti-drug education programs
are proven, once again, to be failures. Sooo, President Clinton,
claiming children his priority, calls for more spending for education programs.
Once again, a President, seeking political advantage, makes policies of
proven ineffectiveness the core of his anti-drug strategy. What's
The Clinton Administration ignored the evidence of the value of sterile
syringe exchange to stop the spread of HIV among injecting drug users and
their intimate partners for four years. U.S. Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA),
Chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, HHS, Education, at the
urging of Common Sense for Drug Policy and the Drug Policy Foundation,
asked the HHS Secretary to report to the Committee on the efficacy of needle
exchange programs. Donna Shalala's Feb. 18 report cites the effectiveness
of the Point Defiance AIDS Project in Tacoma, WA (Dave Purchase, Director),
and the Yale-New Haven, CT project (set up with New Haven Police Chief
Nick Pastore's encouragement) reported by the GAO in 1993. She cites the
1993 study by Peter Lurie, MD, MPH and his colleagues at UCSF, which HHS
ignored for four years. She actually quotes most of their Executive Summary
(leaked and publicized by the Drug Policy Foundation on March 7, 1995)
but omits their recommendations to lift the Federal ban on needle exchange.
Shalala's letter shamelessly omits her role, and her colleagues', in failing
to stop the spread of HIV through needle sharing -- she even takes
credit for HHS playing "an important role in supporting evaluations
of needle exchange programs." Not insistent upon accuracy, she didn't
say "suppressing." Hats off to Kevin Zeese and Robert Field for
their success with the Senator.
Steven Jonas, MD, writes "Why the 'Drug War' Will Never End."
It is a powerful indictment of the reform movement's failure to understand
the racist heart of the "drug war" and to act upon it. The implications
of his second observation -- that the majority in the reform movement
is preoccupied with the libertarian claim of a "right" to use
drugs -- are that the critical public health priorities (which have
long justified expanded government powers), namely reducing tobacco and
alcohol morbidity and mortality, will not be addressed. Thus, reformers
will leave in peace the most powerful marketplace beneficiaries of prohibition.
While libertarians see the "war on drugs" as an opportunity to
organize against the ideology of government, for most Americans the libertarian
counter-ideology, despite its intellectual appeal, fails to connect to
their historic sense of community, their emotional needs, their social
values, or their pragmatic concerns. Meanwhile, violence, corruption and
Common Sense for Drug Policy quickly put together a very effective
media response to the ABC Television Network's "March Against Drugs."
Now they are working on the racist dimensions of the anti-drug effort.
Details in next month's NewsBriefs.