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Rose Richard

Bill Clinton did it. So did George W. Bush. They both lied about their drug histories. Any pot head will tell you that once you put that pipe/bong/joint up to your lips, there’s no going back. You inhale for a long time. Maybe he just didn’t exhale and forgot the whole experience.

George W. Bush was accused of snorting up Columbian marching powder, but never even addressed this problem. I think it’s safe to say that most college students experiment with drugs at one point or another. I can name precious few of my friends who could tell me they haven’t done a drug and have me believe them.

There is nothing wrong with admitting your drug history. What’s worse is lying about it, and then telling the whole country that not only are drugs bad, but should be fought with some of the most inane tactics possible.

Let’s take some of the post Sept. 11 Ad Council anti-drug public service announcements. These ads contain some of the most blatant jingoism of the post-terrorist attack era. One ad spoofs the Master Card commercials by telling us how much Uzis and plastique cost, and how if you buy drugs, you sponsor terrorists. Another ad juxtaposes teens making offhand statements about what they did over the weekend, and finishing up with glib statements about helping to blow up buildings.

Obviously, they are aiming these ads at the recreational user. The investment banker who snorts a line of coke on Friday to loosen up at a bar, the college students who gather ’round a bong before enjoying a screening of Half Baked or even the teenager who scores some X before the big Paul Oakenfold “rave.”

These people are not hardcore addicts. These people do not change the very shape of their lives around a chemical. They can control their level of use. These ads do not target a population for which drugs have a much more central role.

I’m not sure that most drug addicts, alcohol or otherwise, can control the role the drugs play in their lives, even if the anti-terror/drug commercials make them feel guilty. Instead, these commercials further stigmatize those who use drugs as totally irresponsible individuals who are intent on the destruction of the American Way of Life. Whatever that means.

To those who care to look deeper, drug addiction is not irresponsibility. It is a dangerous disease that slowly pecks away at a person’s quality of life, in addition to all the lives they touch. Most drug addicts would rather not be that way. Who wants the pain and agony of a heroin withdrawal? Where once there was choice, for these people, there is mental and physical dependence on a drug. And all of a sudden, all of the Sept. 11ths in the world won’t make them stop.

What does it take to end the ceaseless craving? It takes committed individuals who care. Those who can see past the person the addicted individual has become and see a person worth redeeming, not demonizing. They don’t want to be “causing” terrorism (even though I suspect that our own government has more to do with the drug trade than any junkie). They want to feel better. Whether it’s figuring out the medical way to treat addicts, or if it’s searching their minds for thread of hope to hang a sober life on, addicts need people to pay attention to their needs.

We can’t just shut away street junkies and itinerant alcoholics as the misfits of society. We can’t blame them for terrorism, because we have a role in their addiction too. The sanctimonious ads created by the administration of a man who says he thinks drugs are bad because it will get him the votes of rich old white men create a larger problem than they can ever hope to solve. They are allowing we Americans to deny our role in undoing an unattractive problem that has plagued us for years.