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Reaction to Girl's Fatal Prom Night Overdose

June 02, 2002

Re "Tustin Teen in Coma After Overdose on Prom Night," May 21:

By setting a zero-tolerance policy on substance abuse, the Tustin Unified School District needs to understand something: Demonizing the use of alcohol, putting it in the same category as drug abuse, makes illicit drugs all that more attractive to students. No amount of breath-sniffing, purse-checking and pat-downs can reveal a concealed dose of a drug like Ecstasy, unless, of course, they propose doing strip searches and blood tests before school dances.

It's easier for a kid to get Ecstasy than it is to find an adult to buy a bottle of rum. With zero tolerance, more kids are choosing to use illicit drugs rather than drink because it is easier to get away with it. Rather than simply preaching substance-abuse abstinence, school boards need to promote drug education that is based on the reality that illegal drug use exists.

Students need to learn they can never be sure about what is in the drug they are buying, and about how abusing drugs, or using them in combinations, can cause irreparable brain damage or death.

Grant Saltarelli

Los Angeles

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Re "Teen's One-Night Mistake Carried a High Price," Dana Parsons, May 22:

Dana Parsons asks if there's "anything new to say about what can happen" when people use drugs. Apparently there is: In both his column and in two articles written about the incident, important facts about how this tragedy could have been prevented were omitted.

Had Cathy Isford not mixed two dehydrating drugs, not taken such large doses of both of the two drugs, had she tested the MDMA pills she took, or even drank enough water, it's probable that she would still be alive.

MDMA use is less risky than other activities that no one would even think of questioning. Statistics compiled in the United Kingdom show that the risk of dying as a result of taking MDMA is about 1 in 5 million. To put this in context, the risk of dying as a result of a horseback-riding accident is about 1 in 3 million.

It's not surprising that The Times' objectivity has been compromised by the distortion resulting from the war on some drugs, this horribly misguided declaration of war by our country's government on her own people. But it is disappointing.

Use of or abstinence from a drug is a complicated and personal decision. Both The Times and the government should share the responsibility to deliver information to enable people to make this decision rationally and as safely as possible. Balance is badly needed. The Times should be able to avoid encouraging drug use while still providing information that could save lives.

Dan Ancona

Santa Barbara

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