Wednesday, October 30, 2002

Drug policy begins a slow move into rationality.

A national shift from incarceration to treatment has the potential to save much more than dollars. More than 8 million of America's 75 million children have a parent or parents addicted to drugs or alcohol. Parental drug addiction fuels the foster care system; it feeds the juvenile justice system. It affects welfare caseloads, school performance and child health. And parental addiction is self-perpetuating: Up to 70 percent of the children of addicts become addicted to drugs themselves.
Does large-scale treatment work as an approach to drug addiction? We don't know, because we've never tried it. But as the casualties of our decades-long war on drugs continue to fill not only our nation's prisons but its foster homes, group homes and juvenile halls, there's plenty of evidence that the alternative has failed the children it was meant to serve.

Despite years of disappointment and betrayal, children of addicts will likely tell you they are willing to give their parents another chance. Three decades into a failed war on drugs, voters may finally be ready to do the same.

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