Stephen S. Rosenfeld's commentary "It's Not Enough to Cut Off Drugs" [op-ed, Aug. 28] raises the question of what is a balanced equation for dealing with the drug problem. No one argues that the drug situation requires both a demand and supply strategy, and I agree that the ratio of demand-side efforts needs to be better balanced in terms of the supply-side initiatives. But Mr. Rosenfeld has not recognized how that imbalance may have come about.
Mr. Rosenfeld discussed the Nixon administration's efforts to squelch the flow of "French Connection" heroin and noted that it resulted in what Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, one of the architects of the initiative, now terms "at most a brief success." The nature and extent of that success should not be minimized.
Opium and heroin production did not stop elsewhere, but the initiative curtailed opium cultivation in Turkey, while at the same time promoting coordinated law enforcement against those manufacturing, distributing and trafficking in French Connection heroin. The French Connection has never reemerged in any manner remotely resembling its former strength. The fundamental nature of the illicit drug trade has not changed since that time, and what worked then can work again if a similar model is designed and implemented.
In dealing with the demand side of the equation during that time, the methadone treatment programs were somewhat effective as the heroin supplies from Europe slowed, but methadone brought its own demons. The surge of higher-purity, cheaper heroin from Southeast Asia during the mid-'70s made the work of the treatment and demand-reduction programs more difficult and resource-competitive.
Thirty years ago the number of players engaged in the supply-side effort was limited to three or four federal agencies. For Mr. Nixon, even that limited number of agencies was too many and in 1973 he moved to consolidate the U.S. drug law enforcement program by creating the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Since that time, however, the number and type of agencies that have become part of the counter-drug strategy have increased substantially. The roles and missions of many of those now on the supply side should be analyzed to see if there is a case for "right sizing" this area. This may free resources for the demand-side initiatives, which are an essential part of the drug-fighting equation.
MATTHEW J. MAHER
The writer is a retired DEA agent.
Stephen S. Rosenfeld's comments on drug strategy offered little comfort to me. While Mr. Rosenfeld is correct to describe the inability of punitive policies to end drug problems, his hope that treatment will serve as a magic bullet in the drug war is misguided.
No doubt treatment is less expensive than incarceration, and it may be more effective in addressing drug problems, but that's a long stretch from being a solution. As addiction researchers such as Stanton Peele have pointed out for years, more people stop drug use on their own than through treatment programs. And while it's true that the federal drug budget has favored interdiction over treatment and prevention, the amount of money being spent on treatment has still risen dramatically in recent years.
Mr. Rosenfeld and others may see treatment research only in a positive context, but there can be a dark side. Let us not forget that psychiatry was used as a weapon against those who disagreed with state policies in the former Soviet Union. Will it also be used against those who don't respect the U.S. government determinations about which drugs are "good" (such as alcohol) and which drugs are "bad" (such as marijuana)?