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CLAIM VII: ALCOHOL HAS CAUSED SIGNIFICANT HEALTH, SOCIAL AND CRIME PROBLEMS IN THIS COUNTRY, AND LEGALIZED DRUGS WOULD ONLY MAKE THE SITUATION WORSE

DEA Statement

Many legalization advocates are fond of comparing the use of alcohol with the use of drugs, yet draw faulty conclusions from the comparison. People often consume small amounts of wine or beer as a beverage and do not necessarily drink to the point of mental impairment. This is not true of drug use, where the whole point of use is intoxication. A more accurate analogy would be to compare drug use to drunkenness. Yet even that analogy is weak, because drugs are far more addictive than alcohol, and have no cultural or social value. Dr. Mitchell Rosenthal points out, for example, that only 10 percent of drinkers become alcoholics, while up to 75 percent of regular illicit drug users become addicted.

The Facts

The point of use of alcohol is intoxication, just as it is for the illegal drugs. Even small amounts of alcohol will relax a person or change their mood. This is intoxication, it is just a mild intoxication. If you don't want the intoxication, there is very little reason to drink alcoholic wine or beer instead of their non-alcoholic versions. The alcoholic versions are the major sellers so it is a fair assumption that most alcohol drinkers want the mild intoxication which comes from a couple of beers.

Most users of most drugs want a relatively mild intoxication from their drug of choice. That is one of the main reasons that wine and beer outsell the harder beverages, and why most illegal drug use is the use of marijuana.

This argument is a distortion in itself because it lumps all illicit drugs together, as if they had the same capacity to addict. Clearly, there are major differences between drugs such as heroin, cocaine, and marijuana, and Dr. Rosenthal is irresponsible not to point them out.

Dr. Rosenthal's figures could not possibly be true, based on the DEA's own evidence shown above in their chart showing the supposed drop in drug use. The DEA's own figures shows the number of regular drug users is far higher than the number of addicts and always has been. By the DEA's own figures at least 85 percent are not addicted, and at least 70 percent are gainfully employed.

DEA Statement

Proponents of legalization note--correctly--that alcohol kills many more Americans than do illegal drugs and currently exact social and financial costs that are higher as well. Advocates claim that many people do not use alcohol, and that many Americans may also choose to forego drugs. Like treatment programs available for alcohol addicted people, treatment for drug addicts should be more widely available.

The Facts

The DEA admits that alcohol causes far more damage than the illegal drugs but they don't seem to propose that we bring back alcohol Prohibition.

What the DEA does not say is the degree to which alcohol and tobacco cause more damage than illegal drugs.

DEA Statement

The experts assembled at the AntiLegalization Forum pointed to already overburdened health care and social systems that are unable to address all the problems associated with alcohol use. Instead of compounding these problems, and acknowledging the crime problems made worse by alcohol use, the group stated that legalizing drugs would create undue burdens on the criminal, health and social service systems.

The Facts

The group points out that the "already overburdened health care and social systems . . . are unable to address all the problems associated with alcohol use", yet no one proposes that we bring back alcohol Prohibition as the best approach to the problem.

DEA Statement

Alcohol use in this country has taken a tremendous physical toll on Americans, not to mention the social problems that have resulted from its use. Legalization proponents would have us compound our problems by creating a new class of drug addicted Americans. Again, how much are we willing to tolerate? To pay for?

The Facts

Should we bring back alcohol Prohibition as a means of dealing with alcohol problems? Clearly not. The message of Prohibition is clear: Alcohol is bad, but Prohibition is worse.

DEA Statement

Look at the problems that alcohol abuse has wrought. In the 1920s those advocating the repeal of Prohibition argued that crime and other social ills would be alleviated if alcohol were legal. Has that happened? We now have approximately 11 million alcoholics or problem drinkers in this country whose behavior has contributed to lost productivity in the workplace, fetal defects, traffic fatalities, domestic violence and other crime. If drugs were made legal, the numbers and the problems would swell.

The Facts

Is the DEA arguing that the best approach to the alcohol problems is to bring back Prohibition? Why not?

DEA Statement

The simple fact is that if drugs are made legal, more people will use drugs. There will be higher health and social costs; there will be more crime. Some facts which help to confirm the observations of the forum participants may be used in debates:

The Facts

The Wickersham Commission, which was originally formed to improve alcohol Prohibition, found that alcohol use fell in the first year of Prohibition but rose every year thereafter.

DEA Statement

In a May, 1993 report titled "Survey of State Prison Inmates," the Bureau of Justice Statistics states that 32% of inmates committed their offense under the influence of alcohol. Slightly more than twofifths of inmates convicted of homicide or assault committed their current offense under the influence of alcohol or of alcohol with drugs.

The Facts

This is another curious argument. It is clear that the biggest problem here is alcohol, as the DEA itself states. If the DEA was really consistent in their position, they would advocate the return of alcohol prohibition.

DEA Statement

According to the 1993 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, about 11 million Americans were heavy drinkers in 1993 (drinking five or more drinks per occasion on five or more days in the past 30 days). Heavy alcohol use has changed little since 1985, when there were 12 million heavy drinkers.

The Facts

Assuming the figures are accurate, it would obviously not be a sensible approach to the problem to attempt throw all these people in prison.

DEA Statement

The same report indicates that "of the 11 million heavy drinkers in 1993, 26 percent (3 million) were also current illicit drug users." The report goes on to say that "Current smokers are more likely to be heavy drinkers and illicit drug users. Among smokers in 1993, 11 percent were heavy drinkers and 12 percent were illicit drug users."

The Facts

The DEA seems to be trying to make the discredited argument about "gateway drugs". That is, they used to contend that some drugs, by some as-yet-unexplained process, naturally created a craving for totally unrelated drugs in people who had never used drugs before. This was a holdover from their earlier, plainer and even more easily discredited argument that marijuana leads to heroin. (Which, by the way, was in direct contradiction to Harry Anslinger's testimony before Congress when marijuana was outlawed.)

People who engage in one form of risky behavior often engage in other risky behaviors. That is the only thing that these kinds of statistics could show.

DEA Statement

In a 1993 report by Brandeis University, it was estimated that the United States spent $10.5 billion on health care related to alcohol use.

The Facts

Then why shouldn't we bring back Prohibition as the best way to deal with the problem?

DEA Statement

Alcohol is blamed for between $140 and $210 billion per year in lost productivity.

The Facts

Then why shouldn't we bring back Prohibition as the best way to deal with the problem?

DEA Statement

17,461 people were killed in alcohol related traffic incidents in 1993.

The Facts

That is almost as many people as the American Medical Association estimates were killed by all illegal drugs from all causes combined. Clearly, if the DEA wanted to do something about the real drug problem, it would be of more benefit to concentrate their enforcement efforts on alcohol.

DEA Statement

Michigan's Director of the Office of Drug Control Policy, Robert Peterson, states that "It is estimated that alcohol abuse costs the nation $100 billion per year and over 300 lives per day, an amount that the $18 billion in state and federal excise tax revenue does not begin to cover."

The Facts

And yet no one contends that throwing wine and beer drinkers in prison is a sensible approach to this problem.


 

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