Ronald Siegel's theory on drugs ("Artificial Paradise," by Bob Sipchen, Aug. 14) was interesting and correct when stating "Just say no" is woefully inadequate. I also agree that every society, from the most primitive to the most sophisticated has had a need to alter consciousness--like the great American ritual of getting drunk on New Year's Eve.
However, Siegel does not seem to take into account the fact that most people alter consciousness only occasionally--like one takes an aspirin for a headache. But there are those in our society who become addicted to substances very quickly and they are no longer trying to alter their consciousness but need the drug of choice simply to function.
Perhaps if research could be done on what makes the addict unable to pop a pill, smoke a joint, take a drink, without becoming the drug's slave, we would save hundreds of thousands from heartbreak and despair. It seems that research in that area would be more productive than looking for the impossible--a "safe" drug that would not cause addiction.