From the St. Petersburg Times (FL)

Use, abuse, addiction aren't the same things

By John Chase, TNC Regional Leader

In her article "Darryl Strawberry's other stats" of March 5, Susan Aschoff uses "drug use," "drug abuse" and "drug addiction" almost interchangeably. This inadvertent blurring prevents rational discussion of drug policy.

The same blurring happened in the early 20th century. The Anti-Saloon League convinced our parents and grandparents that prohibition (of alcohol use) would stamp out drunkenness (abuse) and alcoholism (addiction). No attempt was made to assess each of them according to its social damage and its probable cost of prevention.

By the time Americans realized that national prohibition had failed, it had cost us thousands of deaths, hundreds of thousands of blindings and paralysis and the credibility of the federal criminal justice system. This noble experiment officially ended after only 13 years, when the 18th Amendment to the Constitution was repealed.

We are now engaged in another experiment rooted in the same fuzzy thinking that we can stop abuse and addiction by stopping use. It has gone on with vigor but without success since 1973. Our criminal justice system has self-corrupted to an ethic where the end justifies any means, even the destruction of our basic freedoms.

It is said that a problem well defined is 90 percent solved. We can define today's drug problem only with an understanding of how the fuzzy thinking of the early 20th century preordained the failure of prohibition.

John Chase
Palm Harbor