Essay: the line – substance abuse

Essay: the line – substance abuse – editorial

Philip Hiaring



It makes sense to me that, in dealing with the current threat to put the wine industry out of business, we pay attention to the wish on the part of some to legalize illegal drugs. Crack and marijuana. The Wall Street Journal put down this idea in a Dec. 29 (1989) editorial.

The Journal argued that “this nation is suffering a drug epidemic today because of the loosening of societal control in general, and in particular because of the glorification of drugs during the 1960s. Half-baked talk of removing the legal stigma on drugs perpetuates and advances these trends . . . the appropriate remedy to the epidemic is use whatever tools are available — publicity, moral example, the criminal law — to maintain and increase the stigma on drug use. The current wisdom, of course, is that any such approach is futile. We can’t imagine that this is true.”

The Journal noted that “psychoactive drugs were not invented yesterday, and the human race has accumulated considerable experience in their use and control. Even in the U.S. we’ve had experience with drug epidemics before, notably in the patent medicine epidemic at the turn of the century . . . The very phrase ‘drug and alcohol abuse’ for our money, captures the reason legalizers have been able to throw Mr. (William) Bennett’s moral crusade on the defensive. The common wording casually accepts and advances the notion that crack is just another kind of booze. And, of course, the case for legalization begins and pretty much ends with the analog between current drug laws and prohibition.”

This led to the Journal’s eminently rational point; it is this: “Whether or not prohibition was a noble experiment, it failed because the population didn’t support it. The population will support, indeed is crying out to support, the prohibition of cocaine, heroin and even marijuana. The public is against alcohol abuse, but it is against drug use.” The editorial noted that this public wisdom is based on understanding human nature and further said “the most important distinguishing attribute of alcohol is that it is typically used in sub-intoxicating doses; those using it do not end up with mental or physical capacities measurably impaired . . . by contrast, cocaine is about intoxication; the whole point is the ‘high’; use and abuse are indistinguishable.”

The editorial deplored alcohol abuse and said that it can lead to alcoholism and drunken driving incidents but pointed out also that alcohol is “less additive than the illegal drugs” and quoted a researcher who estimates “about one of eight drinkers is an alcoholic or problem drinker, but perhaps one in three cocaine users is addicted or in trouble with the drug.”

The Journal also noted that “alcohol in moderate doses actually has positive health effects in reducing the incidence of heart attacks. Chronic alcoholism often kills, but about the chronic effects of cocaine very little is known. There is a line between alcohol and cocaine.”

The Journal concluded with a Rudyard Kipling quotation:

“Stick to the Devil you know.”

COPYRIGHT 1990 Hiaring Company

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group