My turn: Drug testing students won't solve Juneau's drug problem

Posted: Sunday, May 17, 2009

When people ask what I would do about the present drug epidemic, my first response would be to try not to make it worse. About drug testing in particular, I suggest Richard C. Cowan's article "How the Narcs Created Crack: A War Against Ourselves" (National Review, Dec. 5, 1986).

Cowan introduces the "Iron Law of Prohibition" which says that the more vigorously substances are persecuted the more concentrated they become. It's worth noting that crack, heroin, cocaine, angel dust and meth are all still around, even though their status as epidemics has fallen off the front page.

It's also worth noting that at least three of the so-called Drug Czars - Robert DuPont, Carlton Turner and D. Ian MacDonald - left their national positions and went into the private sector selling drug testing kits. It's very lucrative.

Drug testing was something John Walters, head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy under President George W. Bush, campaigned vigorously for. Walters wanted drug screening to be part of every medical examination for everybody, just like taking your blood pressure.

Everyone, including kids, knows if you take heroin, oxy, cocaine and other drugs that can kill you, you'll test negative in 8-48 hours. Marijuana has never had a recorded fatal overdose, but fat soluble metabolites may test positive for 30 days. The Juneau drug testing plan is to "test for everything," including marijuana. We can't test for everything since everything isn't invented yet. But even if we could, when you Google "beating a drug test" you get a million and a quarter hits.

In my mind the problem isn't permissiveness with the kids, but permissiveness with the drug companies. In 2002, the top 10 pharmaceutical companies made more profit than the other 490 companies in the Fortune 500 combined. From 2000 to 2004, retail sales of commonly abused drugs - such as OxyContin and psychotropics - more than doubled in America. An army of more than 100,000 drug reps works to get doctors to write more prescriptions. They sell us the poison. They sell us the antidote.

A drug war and pulling down our pants for drug testing won't solve that. The drug war has made our country the world's leading jailer, but convicts can still get illegal drugs in maximum security prisons.

As Cowan predicted "We are not going to be drug free. Just unfree."

• Dick Callahan is a Juneau resident.

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