- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 22, 2003

Nothing imaginary about mental diseases

Jeffrey A. Schaler's "Stop funding fake diseases" (Letters, Saturday) poorly addresses the huge social, legal and medical problems of drug and alcohol addiction. Compulsive abuse of alcohol and illegal drugs causes enormous misery to 16 million Americans as well as their families, employers and the communities that must deal with the devastating secondary consequences. The upshot is more than 150,000 dead a year and a $185 billion cost to the economy from the consequences of alcohol abuse alone.
Thankfully, because of the brilliant work of brain neurochemistry experts such as Dr. Alan Leshner, who headed the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and Dr. Herb Kleber, during his years at Columbia University, we know a great deal about the fundamental nature of the addictive process. We have developed science-based treatment protocols that will bring compulsive substance abuse under control, keep people in recovery and drastically reduce the cruel impact of addictive behavior.
As Dr. Sally Satel so cogently argues, drug and alcohol abuse do have an element of choice, and we must hold chronic addicts responsible for their behavior. That is key to the "magic" of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. However, many classic diseases such as diabetes, obesity, cancer from tobacco use, sexually transmitted diseases and illness caused by improper diet, lack of exercise or even not wearing seat belts have a volitional element. The sensible policy solution to all of these disorders is science-based prevention and education as well as comprehensive medical and therapeutic care.
I am proud to be associated with Dr. Mitch Rosenthal of Phoenix House, the largest nonprofit alcohol and drug treatment institution in the country, as well as Dr. Barry Karlin and CRC Health Corp., the largest provider of for-profit services. If you have a loved one or employee confronting the chaos and devastation of addiction, you must get that person into treatment. You may save his or her life and bring under control the self-destructive behavior that wrecks families and communities.

U.S. Army (retired)
National drug policy director, 1996-2001
Washington I am disappointed that The Washington Times would print such an uneducated screed as Mr. Schaler's letter. Obviously he has been spared the awful experience of living with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder (aka manic depression) or obsessive-compulsive disorder. These are real, often life-threatening, diseases. They are not, as he suggests, metaphorical diseases caused by character flaws. Medications are available that mitigate many of the symptoms of these diseases, but there are no cures.
Many diseases with no known cures for example, cancer, diabetes and HIV have generously funded programs to combat them. We should no more stop searching for the causes of these diseases than we should stop trying to discover what causes potentially deadly mental illnesses.
I suggest that Mr. Schaler get the facts and some compassion before he spouts such ignorant drivel. Perhaps he should watch the movie "A Beautiful Mind." Then he might come to better understand the tortured lives of schizophrenics, who certainly are not faking it.
May God bless Mr. Schaler and his family with continued mental health.

Montgomery Village, Md.

Applauding going to pot

Former NFL center Mark Stepnoski has more courage than 99 percent of the elected and appointed officials in Washington, as well as those in the mass media who avoid discussing legalizing marijuana because they're afraid to lose access to government officials ("Fired up," Sports, yesterday ). Particularly sad are those public figures, such as Al Gore and Newt Gingrich, who realize that marijuana is not public enemy No. 1 but continue to hide their true opinions to avoid controversy.
The "land of the free" has the largest prison population in the world, and a great chunk of it is due to marijuana-related arrests. The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution is virtually gone thanks to attacks against probable cause and an increase in civil asset forfeiture. And what do we have to show for it? After all these years, access to drugs is still easy.
People like Mark Stepnoski, Paul McCartney, Gary Johnson and even Barney Frank are willing to take public positions against the worst aspects of the war on drugs, even though doing so results in mostly negative attacks against them. Their courage is truly inspiring.

Salt Lake City

Steel tariffs, pro and con

The editorial endorsing the existing steel tariffs completely ignores the devastating consequences the tariffs have had on steel-consuming companies in the United States ("The steel tariffs," Editorial, Monday). Before declaring the steel tariffs a success, a closer look at the downside of tariffs is in order.
The steel tariffs have led to price increases, supply disruptions and massive business and financial losses to steel consumers in the United States. Many downstream industries are faced with the choice of going out of business or moving overseas, resulting in many thousands of American manufacturing workers losing their jobs. The tariff policy creates a situation in which steel producers are protected from competition while their customers must continue to compete in the global marketplace against foreign rivals with access to world-priced steel.
I also must take exception to the editorial's statement that the steel industry "could become dependent on tariff protection." Could become dependent? The U.S. steel industry has been shielded from international competition via tariffs, quotas, duties, voluntary restraint agreements and other trade restrictions by presidential administrations dating to Lyndon B. Johnson's. The latest bid by steel producers to expand tariffs to developing countries is yet more evidence that no amount of trade protection will ever satisfy steel producers.
Instead of considering new tariffs that would further damage steel users, the Bush administration needs to take a closer look at evidence of widespread damage to the economy caused by the tariffs. The only way to end this cycle of protection is to encourage steel producers to compete in the global market [-] like their customers do every day.

JON E. JENSONPresidentConsuming Industries Trade Action CoalitionIndependence, Ohio

I applaud The Washington Times for recognizing the wisdom of President Bush's imposition of temporary steel tariffs.The steel industry is using this temporary reprieve from low-cost, often illegally dumped imports to restructure and consolidate. Many inefficient steel companies have gone out of business (30 at last count), leaving the survivors with the opportunity to improve their order books at increased transaction prices, thus providing much-needed capital for modernization.
Unfortunately, serious economic problems still will face those survivors when the tariffs expire in 2005. A look at this nation's November trade deficit a record $40 billion provides a view of the future for all of American industry, not just steel.
The trade figures show that goods manufactured in the United States are not very competitive versus those manufactured abroad. The American steel-consuming industries knew this and fought the steel tariffs without success.
Without the steel tariffs, our nation would have become totally dependent on foreign steel, whose prices would escalate gradually once American competition was sidelined.
American steel-consuming industries only would have postponed the inevitable if they had won against the steel tariffs and wasn't it the American steel-consuming industries' decision to buy cheap, illegally dumped foreign steel that added to the domestic steel companies' near extinction?
Yet, government subsidies are not the answer to correcting the trade imbalance if we want to preserve our freedom and independence because such subsidies are socialistic. Imposing high permanent tariffs or quotas on imports is protectionism and contrary to our free-market philosophy.
So, what is the answer? Improved productivity has saved the day in the past, but can it overcome the challenges this new global economy poses? With our trading partners unlikely to lower their trade barriers, can we stem the rising trade deficit and restore the health of our economy? Tax cuts will help, but we still face seemingly insurmountable challenges from socialist and communist economies that are the low-cost producers on the global stage. Prosperity at home is threatened unless we can find a way to balance our trade deficit without compromising our principles and way of life.

North Olmsted, Ohio

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