YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

America's War on Drugs

September 23, 1986

Embarking on the sunset of my 24th year with the Los Angeles Police Department, and the 19th year in narcotics enforcement, I understand completely the versatile innovations of so many in our professional arena.

Two articles on your Editorial Pages, one by Stephen Morse on Sept. 8, and the other by James Lieber on Sept. 14, fall in line with the national interest in the overwhelming drug problem confronting us.

Unfortunately, their plans have been tried and failed in our country as well as by foreign governments.

Their assumption in both articles that the war on drugs may be worse than the drug problem is at best absurd.

Programs of government control of heroin distribution failed in European countries. The reason: Medical control could not maintain the increased tolerance level addicts require. Hence, the black market of heroin sales soared in these countries, as did contagious addiction.

Next we see the Asian scene. Addicts in Vietnam, Laos and Thailand are seen in such abundance that they are ignored. These are addicts that are maintaining a daily level of two to three grams of 60% pure heroin.

Then in the United States we have had a synonymous treatment program that England titled "synthetic heroin-maintenance administration." The United States has simply titled the synthetic heroin distribution, "methadone maintenance." Methadone, while treating addicts for heroin addiction will transfer the addiction to methadone. Withdrawals can be more severe, infants born may be defective, severely addicted, or die.

Consider now a legal, controlled prescription drug, codeine. This combination with Doriden tablets caused another transfer of addiction more severe than heroin. This drug, still legally prescribed by doctors, finds itself en masse on the streets of Los Angeles and other communities at the same sleazy locations where other drugs are sold illegally.

This combination, termed "Loads," caused the known deaths of more than 100 Los Angeles County residents in 1981 and 1982. I remind you that this is a drug strictly controlled by the government.

I wish I could illustrate for all of us the proof, the irony of the drug problem: the broken lives in every line and profession, even including a few police officers; the broken families, teen suicides, and countless crime victims.

I wish I could walk these people through a scene in Hawthorne, in June, 1976--one I will never clear from my mind and daily thoughts. While I was assigned to a federal drug task force investigating a major heroin and cocaine distributor, his runner (a UCLA graduate), her husband and their 4-year-old son were brutally murdered over a drug power dispute.

An overview of the trend indicates that drugs are not going to disappear whether we have legal control and distribution or all-out military and civilian enforcement.

We can teach our children to make drugs unpopular and just say no, as the President and First Lady advise. But it would be naive to believe hard-core addicts are going to be saying no to drugs, legal or illegal, without some other alternate direction.

For a contemporary solution at best, let's support the government in the attack on drugs. Let's give our young children a break, one for their future and ours.


San Pedro

Los Angeles Times Articles