Mayor Barry's press secretary Lurma Rackley is absolutely right {letter, Aug. 7}. People addicted to alcohol, cocaine, etc. deserve our compassion and our support because they have a serious problem (or more probably serious problems).

Mr. Barry has my support and my compassion but not my vote. I don't want him as my mayor. Would you hire a drug-impaired doctor to care for you? A drug-impaired lawyer to defend you?

I admit that I could feel more compassion for Mr. Barry. I would have felt much more kindly toward him had he admitted his problem and not dragged our city through this painful trauma. JAKOB EFSEN Washington

Three serious flaws scream out from Lurma Rackley's condemnation of The Post's criticism of Marion Barry's so-called "casual" cocaine use {"Drugs Matter," editorial, Aug. 3} and her plea for compassion for the mayor. First, alcohol and cigarettes, whatever their comparable ill effects, are legal. Cocaine is illegal. Laws do "change from year to year" as Lurma Rackley suggests, but that is no reason to sympathize with those who break them today. Once Mr. Barry pays for breaking the law -- as all other citizens must pay -- compassion may be more readily available.

Second, Lurma Rackley assumes that our society sympathizes with alcohol and nicotine users and addicts. In fact, the contrary is true; witness the increasing bans on cigarette smoking and the stiff penalties for alcohol abuse in the workplace and on the highways and for bars that serve minors.

Finally, the attitude that Lurma Rackley exhibits in her letter may reflect the very frame of mind that undermines true rehabilitation and enables users to continue. Without the "criticism" and "lack of sympathy" that The Post, the city and, in fact, the nation have heaped on Mr. Barry, one wonders if he would have recognized his problem. Perhaps too many people for too many years were showing too much compassion and not enough outrage at Mr. Barry's behavior. CAROLYN MATTHEWS Gaithersburg

I read with great curiosity Lurma Rackley's letter to the editor.

Sympathy for the mayor's plight as a recovering cocaine user? Yes, certainly. But I can only shake my head when I think of all the crack and cocaine addicts who have gone through Lorton during the mayor's term in office. Where was the sympathy for their plight? Where was the money needed for programs to help our youth escape the degradation of drugs and incarceration?

It seems a tad self-serving and late in the day now for the mayor to be raising this issue. ED KOREN Staff Attorney ACLU National Prison Project Washington