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 - ^—'Drug-abuse abuse 9 blowing problem out of...
^—'Drug-abuse abuse 9 blowing problem out of proportion BOSTON — While everyone from nightly news anchors to campaigning politicians continues to focus attention on the nation's drug abuse problem, many drug prevention and treatment experts are warning of another another danger — "drug-abuse abuse." These experts worry that the often highly dramatized and highly politicized attention now being given to drug abuse is helping to create a climate of overreaction. And one result, they say, is a disturbing oversimplification oversimplification of both the nature of the problem and ways to address it. "There are so many other agendas involved involved in the drug abuse problem that we're getting profound distortions of the situation," situation," says Craig Reinarman, a professor of sociology at Northeastern University and an expert on the history of'drug problems. "There is no public-health benefit to be gained from this sort of hysteria." Reinarman agrees that drug abuse poses a serious problem. But unlike some drug abuse experts and law-enforcement officials who argue that the current debate is a healthy exposure of a longstanding problem, Reinarman and others like him worry that important facets of the debate are being overlooked: Need lor perspective Experts say that politicians and the media media have sometimes used statistics in a manner manner that distorts the drug problem. Drug abuse statistics, they say, need to be taken in context. , For example, although figures released recently by the National Institute on Drug Abuse show a rise in individuals who used cocaine during the month prior to the time the survey was taken — from 4.2 million in 1982 to 5.8 million hi 1985 — those statistics do not necessarily indicate regular use of the drug. In fact, the increase in individuals who used cocaine in the year prior to the survey rose only a fraction between 1982 and 1985 — from 11.9 million people to 12.2 million. In addition, many specialists who have worked, in the drug abuse field for years argue argue is important to view the nation's current problem, in the. context of history. Drug abuse has been a symptom of modern society for years, and concern about it has occurred cyclically — from the turn of the. century when there was an outcry over opiates opiates to the public concern about psychedelic drugs in the 1960s. Because drug abuse is so deeply entwined in the roots of modern values and goals, people people like the Rev. David Else of Pittsburgh — an Episcopal minister who has worked with drug and alcohol abusers for years — argue that it is important to understand there is no "quick fix" for the problem. Many experts say this fact is getting lost in the drug debate debate shuffle. Prevention programs While a great deal of attention has been focused in recent months on the need for law enforcement efforts to crack down on.drug suppliers and dealers, some drug abuse prevention prevention experts say that the need to cut the demand for drugs is being overlooked. "We're really losing sight of where the emphasis should :bie," says Dr. Deborah A. Cohen, a post-doctoral fellow doing research ' on the prevention of drug abuse at the University University of Southern California's Institute of Prevention Research. .The current debate, she argues, "is totally neglecting the possibilities of prevention." She cites a current program in several Los Angeles public schools — developed by the Institute of Prevention Research — aimed at teaching children "social resistance skills." Children are taught how to identify and deal with advertising^ and media influences, influences, and to learn how to say no to peer pressures to experiAent with drugs and alcohol. alcohol. According to Cohen, comparative studies show that the number of children who experiment experiment with drugs is 50 percent lower in schools .that include the drug prevention curriculum curriculum than in schools that don't offer the program. "That gets lost because it's not as, sensational" as drug abuse stories, she says. "What's so surprising is that with all the national national attention being focused on drugs, money for this kind of prevention research has been cut" Need for public awareness Many individuals working with abusers worry that the dramatic and inflammatory nature of much of the nation's debate on drugs may lead to a harsh "us vs. them" attitude toward drug users, as well as a public public fear that the problem is so big that nothing nothing can be done about it. Much of the publicity, says the Rev. Else, _ "is getting people in touch with their power- 'lessness and not giving them any direction to go with it." He adds, "You've got to be able to say, 'Yes, this is a serious problem: Now here's a step you can take'" to try to change it. To help combat public indifference about • drugs as well as excessive fear of them, Pittsburgh's Coalition for Addictive Diseases Diseases has planned a public-awareness campaign campaign that will begin next month. According to Else, the citywide effort will publicize- three main points: that drug addiction is a disease, that it is treatable and that families have an important role to play in helping loved ones out of a problem. ."You've got to give people hope," he says. "You're getting them in touch with despair, so you have to bring them hope. Otherwise despair takes over." Christian Science Monitor News Service

Clipped from
  1. The Daily Herald,
  2. 16 Oct 1986, Thu,
  3. Page 21

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