Back to Editorials on Noelle Bush's arrest

War on Xanax?

By Mark Harrison, November Coalition writer

Prescription drug abuse is out of control. Take Xanax, for instance. But don't take it like Noelle Bush, 24, who was arrested for prescription drug fraud in January. But take Xanax metaphorically, unless, as in Noelle's case, you are really stressed out because you're starting a new job tomorrow. Then by all means pretend to be a "Dr. Scidmore" and call your order in to Walgreen's for Xanax just after midnight. And to sound like a real doctor, specify the quantity for your "patient's" prescription or you might arouse suspicion and go to jail as Noelle did.

Remember, take Xanax with extreme caution because this felony carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine if you are not Florida Governor Jeb Bush's daughter. An estimated 9 million people, 12 years or older, used controlled sedatives, stimulants or opiates for non-medical reasons in 1999, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse. And 25 percent had tried prescription drugs illegally for the first time the previous year, an alarming trend, caution researchers. This should be no surprise since advertising for prescription drugs like Prozac, Ritalin, Zoloft and yes, Xanax, has tripled since 1996, ad campaigns pushing powerful pharmaceuticals that have similar psychoactive effects as some illegal drugs.

Only in the U.S. and New Zealand are pharmaceutical companies allowed to sell drugs on national television. Since FDA advertising rules were gutted by a business-friendly Congress in 1997, ad spending to promote pharmaceutical use has increased from $1.8 billion in 1999 to $2.5 billion last year. These dollars, according to a report in the New England Journal of Medicine, directly resulted in a $20.8 billion increase in prescription drug sales. A miracle of modern medicine.

Kids, whom we're trying to keep off drugs, are receiving very mixed messages. Television ads have told teenagers that marijuana and methamphetamine will equally fry their brain like a cracked egg in a hot frying pan. Ads for the drug Ritalin, on the other hand, offer children what they've been missing for six, maybe 12 long years: an effective stimulant similar to that used by U.S. troops during combat and truck drivers on long hauls; the effect on school children? It helps them behave in school and pay attention.

On Super Bowl Sunday the nation was introduced to the White House do-drugs-and-you're-a-terrorist public service announcement. All teenagers in the USA who have ever tried illegal drugs-about 50% - just blew up some innocent people in Colombia, plastering the walls with blood, guts and chunks of flesh (emphasis added). One must wonder what our new drug czar John Walters has been drinking to believe that kids are dumb enough to fall for his $3.2-million insult to their intelligence, courtesy of U.S. taxpayers.

Terrorists may not only support their activities with prohibited drugs (Afghani opium, which is not a teenage drug of choice), but they also use Toyotas and smuggled diamonds. So listen all terrorists, we "say no" to all three, but Osama and (insert name of child to be chided) are kissing in a tree. Ha ha.

One of Jeb Bush's three children had a brain cracked open like an egg and was frying sunny side up on high heat back in 1994. Though he phrased his announcement sans smashed egg analogy, the revelation came during his failed gubernatorial run. He did not specify which child, whether George, 26, Noelle, 24, or Jeb Jr.,18, but reports indicate that Noelle has undergone drug treatment previously. The family tragedy prompted Columba Bush to become involved with drug prohibition organizations.

The Florida first lady is now the spokesperson for Informed Families of Florida, a non-profit group that informs families about drug abuse.

The physiological and psychological complexities of drug abuse cannot be solved with a simplistic "just say no" approach. The job has been too tough for cops to handle over the past 30 years. So let's give health professionals a try for the next several decades and save billions of taxpayer dollars in the process.

Thankfully, Noelle didn't have to stay in jail very long. Her dad paid the $1,000 bail. She waived her right to a speedy trial and is enrolled in another drug treatment program. But what's good for a Bush evidently isn't good for others with the same needs in the state of Florida. Two days prior to Noelle's arrest, Governor Bush announced that drug treatment programs would be drastically cut in state prisons where over 60 percent of the prisoners are drug law violators. This is how a Bush gets tough on drugs. The savings will enable prisoners who fail to get the drug treatment that they want, to return to prison after their release, costing the state millions more than it tried to save. But maybe that won't be Jeb's problem after the 2002 elections.

Regardless, Governor Bush is firmly convinced that drug treatment offers the best hope for his daughter, but not for thousands much like her who may never experience the warm embrace of compassionate conservatism. President Bush released his 2003 budget that left his drug war priorities with no significant changes from previous years. Fumigating South Americans with glyphosate that wipes out the food crops of indigenous people and leaves them with festering boils and shooting down missionary planes are included in the Andean Regional (the war is spreading to other countries) Initiative and gets a 17 percent increase to $731 million.

Tracking down drug addicts and coercing them through drug courts into faith-based drug treatment programs gets $52 million. Overall, the budget still leaves about 70 percent for cops and 30 percent for health services, which would be faith-based, believe it or not. But none of this comforts Jeb and Columba Bush. They know that Xanax is not the problem. Most of the drugs that are currently prohibited by law have been used in societies around the world for thousands of years. The drug war budget emphasizes cutting off the supply of drugs, not decreasing their demand, but it looks like Xanax is here to stay.

The Razor Wire is a publication of The November Coalition, a nonprofit organization that advocates drug law reform. Contact information:
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