DURHAM, N. C. — President Reagan Monday praised the efforts of private industry and students to reduce the use of illegal drugs in the United States and said that "workers, employers, students, teachers are all saying 'no' to drugs and alcohol."
The President, attending a drug abuse forum here, indicated support for private efforts to fight drug abuse in the workplace and told a largely student audience that "the crusade against drugs will be won, not on the shores (by interdiction), but in the heart of America."
"If students, workers, executives, professionals--if all of us decide that there is no place for . . . enslavement (by) illegal drugs in this land of the free, then we will win and drugs will lose," the President said.
Reagan spoke at a forum, entitled "Substance Abuse in the Workplace--Strategies for the 1990s," at Duke University. He met privately with a group of business executives before addressing the seminar, attended by several thousand people at a university field house.
Although the barely two-hour visit to North Carolina focused entirely on the problems of drug abuse--a theme that Reagan, whose wife, Nancy, is active in anti-drug work, has stressed in recent speeches--the trip brought Reagan back to the South, a key battleground in the presidential election campaign.
Although the political focus Monday was on Iowa and its party caucuses, Reagan's appearance here served to turn some attention in the region to the White House and Reagan's Republican allies, one month before the Super Tuesday primary elections throughout the South.
His visit attracted a protest by about 200 students, who voiced opposition to his support for the anti-Sandinista rebels in Nicaragua. In a reference to allegations that money from drug smuggling has helped finance the guerrillas, one held up a sign that read: "Contra thugs peddle drugs."
Unlike recent occasions in which protesters have been kept at great distances from the President, the demonstrators here were allowed within a few feet of the route Reagan's limousine followed as it left Cameron Indoor Stadium, where he spoke. The crowed booed as he drove past.
In his speech, the President, who favors drug-testing of federal employees in safety and security positions, indicated support for efforts by private businesses to root out drug abuse in their firms.
"Now, I've heard critics say employers have no business looking for drug abuse in the work place," Reagan said. "But, when you pin the critics down, too often they seem to be among the handful who still believe that drug abuse is a 'victimless' crime."
In challenging this idea, Reagan said:
"The drug user is a victim. His employer is a victim. His fellow employees are victims. The family that depends on his wages are victims. And America, which is only as strong and as competitive as all of us together, America is the victim."
"It would be hard to find any crime with more victims than drug abuse," the President said.
He said that the daylong meeting at Duke, in which state officials, business executives, educators and physicians took part, "proves that we no longer shrug off illegal drug use" and that "Americans in all walks of life have seen the truth about drugs."