- The Washington Times - Friday, September 7, 2001

'Keeping our students safe and alcohol-free'

As the school year begins, the most recent efforts of the American Medical Association (AMA) to fight binge drinking on college campuses turn our attention to a serious problem ("College alcohol access, binges top parental fears, survey says," Aug. 30).
As chairman of the Century Council, a national not-for-profit organization dedicated to fighting underage drinking and funded by America's leading distillers, I can say that our efforts in the past 10 years to keep alcohol out of the hands of minors have reinforced two realities time and again: One, that parents play an integral role in combating binge drinking by talking to their children about alcohol; and two, that we all are collectively responsible for battling this persistent social problem educators, parents, law enforcement officers, health professionals and the industry alike.
The council has distributed more than 3 million "Parents, You're Not Done Yet" brochures, which provide sound advice and tips on how parents and youth can address the issue of alcohol on campus.
To communicate directly with students, the council has provided "Alcohol 101" to more than 1,100 colleges and universities across the country. Alcohol 101, created in cooperation with the University of Illinois, is an interactive CD-ROM designed to educate students about the consequences of their decisions regarding alcohol.
For faculty members and administrators, the council has provided the funding for "Promising Practices," a comprehensive one-of-a-kind source book that provides an overview of successful programs designed to prevent underage drinking on different campuses nationwide.
The bottom line is this: It takes everyone to fight underage drinking. The AMA's timely survey results and new strategy are an excellent example of the steps that we all should be taking to keep our students safe and alcohol-free.

SUSAN MOLINARI
Chairman
Century Council
Washington

DEA appointment is right on

Robert Sharpe, in his Sept. 3 letter "DEA goals mutually exclusive," perpetuates the myth that our jails are filled with casual drug users and hard-core addicts. In fact, the vast majority of the people locked up for drug offenses are those who were convicted of dealing or transporting not using illegal drugs.
Drug abuse can only be fought successfully with a combination of education, enforcement and treatment. Educating children about the dangers of illegal drugs begins at home with families before children are even in school. Teachers, too, must do their part. (The Drug Enforcement Administration, among its other activities, helps parents and educators teach children about the dangers of drugs.) Law enforcement can try to make drugs less accessible and the price for selling them high. Treatment programs, which are only effective when users want to be helped, can provide support and encouragement to addicts who desire to remain clean.
Society as a whole must present a clear, coherent and unified message that using or selling illegal drugs is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.
Today, however, children receive mixed messages at best. Parents, many of whom used illegal drugs themselves, refuse to teach that drugs are bad. Children often refuse to be "judgmental" of their peers on certain subjects, such as drug abuse. The media including movies, music and television often glorify, and rarely vilify, drugs. Actors, sports heroes and other celebrities caught committing drug-related offenses are given repeated chances to turn their lives around. Some do. All are pitied, and most are immediately forgiven, suffering no lasting consequences save an empty wallet and months of court-ordered rehabilitation programs.
The message being delivered loud and clear to children is that drugs are sort of bad, drug dealers are kind of doing something wrong and drug addicts probably need help. Maybe. Legalizing hard drugs would only make things worse.
Drug abuse is not a "victimless" crime. Most drug addicts spend considerable time either getting high or searching for the means to get high. Eventually, this prevents them from concentrating on their jobs or taking care of their families.
Drug addicts become increasingly dependent on support from families, friends or government. Too often, they commit crimes to support their habits. Neither the price of illegal drugs (which is already too low) nor even their accessibility (which is already too high) "force" addicts to commit crimes. Rather, drug use prevents them from being able to hold down jobs, and the need for higher doses drives them to search for easy money. Prostitution, burglary, robbery, murder and car theft are all side effects of drug abuse.
An addict's family and neighbors are all victims of his drug abuse. If drugs were legalized, many of these problems would remain, and some would become worse.
That so many young men are willing to risk incarceration at the hands of police or risk death at the hands of rival drug dealers is a poignant commentary on society's failures. That drug abuse cuts across social, economic, racial and gender lines means that it is not "someone else's" problem. Drug abuse has existed throughout recorded history, in all societies. Perhaps the best we can hope for is control, rather than elimination, of the problem. Whatever the case, we must send our children a much clearer message than they now receive.
No one seriously believes that the drug crisis in America can be solved through enforcement alone. It is, however, equally wrong to think that treatment programs by themselves can end the scourge of illegal drugs. DEA chief Asa Hutchinson is correct in his support for, in Mr. Sharpe's words, the "balanced goals of aggressive law enforcement, increased treatment and reduced demand." We are all in this fight together, and it is a battle measured one life at a time.
Sometimes it looks hopeless, but it is a battle worth fighting.

JAMES TERPENING
Washington

Sharpton story belongs in the funny pages

I made it through the beginning of your Sept. 3 Nation article "Sharpton comeback good news for press" before I moved on to other features that were worth reading.
I can't believe The Washington Times doesn't have better things to do (especially at the top of Page A3) than to function as a groupie tabloid for someone such as the Rev. Al Sharpton, who provides no message of value or positive leadership to an audience that needs both. I have no doubt that without the coverage you and the rest of the media give Mr. Sharpton, he would find himself hard-pressed to draw a crowd at the local supermarket.
Your reporter attempts to establish the newsworthiness of the article in the first two paragraphs, stating that Mr. Sharpton's absence (caused by his spending time in jail) resulted in a "dull and dreary" summer for the media and that "Mr. Sharpton, in his absence, left a void in the tabloids that no amount of mayoral election news could fill."
While my heart goes out to your reporters, please tell me your staff is capable of finding something better to report than stories such as this. If you must write about guys such as Mr. Sharpton, put the articles where they belong in the comics or entertainment section.

BLAKE J. ROBERTSON
Stafford, Va.


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