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Crusade on Drugs Urged by Reagans : Only 'Massive Change' in Attitudes Will Prevail, President Tells Nation

September 15, 1986|MAURA DOLAN | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — President Reagan, in an unusual joint address with his wife, Nancy, called on the nation Sunday to mobilize in a national crusade against drugs and pledged to ask for tougher criminal penalties and more research and treatment programs in what he called "another war for our freedom."

With the First Lady at his side, Reagan said he will unveil specific proposals today to bring federal anti-drug spending to $3 billion. But he offered no new measures Sunday and cautioned that only a "massive change in national attitudes" will prevail over drugs.

Lacing his speech with images of battle, Reagan denounced drug use as anti-American and an insult to the generations who fought and died for the country in wars past.

"Now we're in another war for our freedom and it's time for all of us to pull together again," he said.

Family to Family

The President and Mrs. Reagan spoke from their private living room in the family quarters of the White House, saying they were addressing the nation as parents and grandparents, "from our family to yours," as the President put it.

It was the second joint address by the couple in four years. In October, 1982, Nancy Reagan joined her husband in his weekly radio address to declare her concerns about drug use among children.

As First Lady, Mrs. Reagan has singled out drug abuse as her prime concern. But the issue only reached the top of the national agenda in recent weeks, following the cocaine-induced deaths of athletes Len Bias and Don Rogers. In a year of congressional elections and few new throbbing national issues, drug abuse has become the latest and hottest theme on the campaign trail, one that White House advisers have urged the President to embrace.

Both the Reagans reminded viewers that children are now returning to the classroom after summer vacation and warned that their future may be clouded because of drugs.

"Drugs are menacing our society," the President said. "They're threatening our values and undercutting our institutions. They're killing our children."

The President called on labor unions, businesses, athletic organizations and the film industry to join the crusade. He said he understands that drugs are a temptation and offered some advice.

'You Are Americans'

"Please remember this when your courage is tested: You are Americans," Reagan said. "You are the product of the freest society mankind has ever known. No one--ever--has the right to destroy your dreams and shatter your life."

During the 20-minute address, Reagan also laid special emphasis on the parts to be played by individuals and voluntary associations: "If your friend or neighbor or a family member has a drug or alcohol problem," he said, "don't turn the other way. Go to his help or to hers. Get others involved with you--clubs, service groups and community organizations--and provide support and strength."

The President introduced the First Lady at the start of the address and then turned the spotlight on her in the middle of it. Mrs. Reagan, twice noting that she spoke as a mother, declared there is "no moral middle ground" in the war against drugs.

"Indifference is not an option," she said. "We want you to help us create an outspoken intolerance for drug use. For the sake of our children, I implore each of you to be unyielding and inflexible in your opposition to drugs."

She warned that drug offenders are "ingenious."

"They work every day to plot a new and better way to steal our children's lives . . . ," she said.

Single Out 'Crack'

At one point, she addressed herself to teen-agers--"my young friends"--and urged them once again to "just say no." Both the President and Mrs. Reagan singled out "crack," a potent form of cocaine, as a major threat. The President called it "explosively destructive" and an "uncontrolled fire."

The House last week passed a bill calling for $2 billion to fight drugs next year. Reagan is expected to propose far less--between $300 million and $500 million in new money over the next two years. In addition, $500 million from existing programs would be shifted to the anti-drug campaign.

Total federal spending for drug abuse programs has grown from $1.1 billion in 1981 to $1.56 billion in 1985, according to a report by the General Accounting Office, an investigative arm of Congress. But money for drug prevention and treatment programs declined.

Since 1981, federal spending for treatment and prevention has dropped 16%, to $333 million in 1985. By contrast, spending for drug law enforcement programs rose 72%, to $1.22 billion during that period.

Many drug abuse programs have long waiting lists. In Los Angeles County, for example, there are only two centers with 40 beds for teen-age drug users.

Supports Drug Tests

In a television interview aired earlier Sunday, Mrs. Reagan said she supported drug testing for government employees and those private employees, such as automobile assembly-line workers, whose drug use could lead to others' deaths.

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