- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 25, 2003

In defense of a 'menacing' medicine

"Medicine or menace?" was the question posed in the headline of the Feb. 19 editorial that focused on methadone, an addiction medication. The answer: research says medicine not, as the editorial states, menace.

It is unfortunate that in 2003, with our wealth of knowledge about diseases and treatment, there remains doubt about the fact that those who suffer from drug addiction can effectively be treated with medications. Methadone and buprenorphine are not, as the editorial calls them, "chemical crutches" to the patients who use them properly. They are established medications which have been shown to be as effective in the treatment of the chronic relapsing disease of addiction as medications prescribed to treat other chronic disorders, such as diabetes or hypertension.

An abundance of quality research shows that pharmacotherapies should be an important part of addiction treatment. Methadone and buprenorphine exemplify two treatment options for opioid addiction that, when combined with behavioral therapies, demonstrate tremendous success at treating drug addiction. Methadone treatment has been evaluated more rigorously than any other drug abuse treatment and has been shown to retain in treatment a large proportion of patients; reducing their intravenous drug use, death rates, HIV/AIDS rates and criminal activity; and enhancing their social productivity.

Years of basic and clinical research go into every medication brought to market. This is true with addiction medications as well. Much time and effort were spent developing an effective medication with a high safety margin and low potential for diversion to illicit use. Consequently, buprenorphine, which was just approved for use as a medication to treat opiate addiction in the U.S. by the Food and Drug Administration last October, represents a major breakthrough in drug abuse treatment because it can be dispensed by qualified physicians in their offices. Buprenoprhine provides a viable treatment option for the approximately one million Americans who are dependent on opiates.

When used for legitimate medical purposes and managed by properly trained clinicians, medications such as buprenorphine, methadone, oxycontin, morphine and countless others improve the quality of life for millions of Americans with debilitating diseases and conditions. All medications can cause adverse side effects, and when intentionally or carelessly misused they can pose significant risks. This is what appears to be happening with methadone. The increasing number of people reportedly showing up in emergency rooms after abusing methadone is of great concern. It requires further investigation in order to identify effective ways to manage this emerging public safety problem, such as informing physicians and patients about dangerous practices that may lead to overdose.

However, it is critical that in our rush to resolve one problem, we not make the terrible mistake of creating another by depriving needed medication for those who suffer from addiction.


Acting director

National Institute on Drug Abuse


Make the Middle East safe for people and other living things

Because People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) President Ingrid Newkirk appealed to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat not to harm animals in Middle Eastern violence, outdoors writer Gene Mueller says she "owes the people of Israel an apology" ("PETA earns pity in wake of blunders," Sports, Sunday). Mr. Mueller may be interested to learn that it was the avalanche of e-mails from Israel after a donkey was used as an explosives carrier that prompted us to plead for the animals.

I grew up in Israel, and my family still lives there. Despite the constant threat of violence under which they live, the Israelis can still find it in their hearts to care about all the innocents who are victimized by the turbulence there.

PETA opposes violence and cruelty to all beings, but while millions of people and hundreds of organizations work to help the people in the Middle East, almost no one cares about the animals, who also suffer. We at PETA have chosen to work for animal rights because the animals need help not to the exclusion of helping people, but in addition to it. Just a few months ago, we did both when we sent a delegation to this troubled spot to distribute healthful vegetarian food to both Arab and Israeli children, bringing a simple message of nonviolence along with nutritious food.

I wish Mr. Mueller (who, while writing in defense of shooting animals for sport, probably has not asked Mr. Arafat to stop killing people) had been able to meet one of my fellow PETA employees, Ravi Chand, who worked tirelessly to share a message of compassion for animals. But he is not available for an interview because he is also a U.S. Marine. He has just shipped out with his platoon for the Middle East. He has put his life on the line to defend his country, yet he, like so many in Israel, can see what Mr. Mueller missed: We don't have to choose between people and animals. Indeed, we can care for all.



Domestic Animal Issues & Abuse Department

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

Norfolk Va.

No public money for prison ministries

Rich Lowry's column about the lawsuit of Americans United for Separation of Church and State against Charles Colson's InnerChange program at an Iowa prison distorts the nature of the Colson initiative and misses the point of our legal action ("Faith in prison," Commentary, Sunday).

Mr. Lowry claims that the state only funds "the nonreligious aspects" of InnerChange. In truth, as InnerChange itself admits, there are no nonreligious aspects to the program. Program materials boast, "All programming all day, every day is Christ-centered." The group's Web site asserts that prison inmates are converted to fundamentalist Christianity "through an instantaneous miracle; it then builds the prisoner up with familiarity of the Bible. … Transformation emphasizes the change in behavior as a result of encountering Jesus Christ. … Acceptance of God and biblical principles results in cure through the power of the Holy Spirit."

InnerChange is saturated with fundamentalist Christianity. Inmates are judged on how willing they are to adhere to fundamentalist tenets and can be removed from the program for not being religious enough. The program's main goal, as InnerChange staffers admit, is winning converts, not reducing recidivism.

Last year, Jack Cowley, who runs InnerChange in Texas, told the Non-Profit Times: "From the state's point of view, the mission is to reduce recidivism. From a ministry point of view, our mission is to save souls for Christ."

It is Americans United's view that saving "souls for Christ" clearly is a religious activity one that cannot be supported by the government or subsidized with public funds. If Mr. Colson wants to win converts behind bars to his brand of Christianity, let him do it without the support and backing of the government.


Executive director

Americans United for Separation of Church and State


Dull Sharpton

The Rev. Al Sharpton's comments about "who-do voodoo economics" directed at the Republicans are beyond absurd ("Sharpton defends his viability at DNC candidate call," Nation, Sunday). Why? Because Mr. Sharpton praised John F. Kennedy for "[remaking] government for the people. And that kind of change is needed today."

Such praise reveals him to be either a liar or an ignoramus. President Kennedy, for all his faults, enacted tax cuts for the same reason Ronald Reagan did: They stimulate the economy. Once more, the "Reverend" Sharpton is wrong.



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