It is to the credit of the highly reputable Drug Abuse Council, a private agency for the study of psychoactive drugs, that...



It is to the credit of the highly reputable Drug Abuse Council, a private agency for the study of psychoactive drugs, that they emphatically point out how often ""facts"" about drugs are either unproven or non-existent. Many Americans believe, for example, that to use heroin is to be addicted to it; yet there is good reason to think that compulsive users are in the minority, compared to ""chippers""--non-addicted users. Many of the alleged dangers of marijuana--chromosomal breaks, sexual dysfunction, diminished immunological defenses, ""amotivational"" syndrome--are similarly distorted or unproven. On the other hand, there is evidence that ""get tough"" laws (such as New York State's Rockefeller-sponsored statute) do not work, and that decriminalization of marijuana possession, pioneered in Oregon, has not led to a major upswing in use. The Council affirms that the human race is given to experiment with psychoactive drugs, and that the number of such substances will probably increase in the future. What to do? The Council laudably takes the full measure of the situation, reviewing past history and examining contemporary conditions in other cultures, and also weighing in the long-standing American ""belief that certain drugs are inherently evil and can be controlled by criminal law."" Then, rather than prescribing legislation or dictating future policy, the Council sets forth a variety of options, calculating the effect of each on attitudes, behavior, the national economy, and the incidence of crime. (A paper on heroin options, for example, discusses the consequences of alternatives ranging from total prohibition to making heroin available as an over-the-counter drug.) Other fine, independently written papers center on the Federal government's response to illicit drugs; drug enforcement efforts; public attitudes and education; and heroin, marijuana, and cocaine in particular. A longish chapter summarizing the report precedes the individual contributions. While some might wish that the Council had taken a stronger advocacy stance, this was not their intent. Instead they have admirably demonstrated how a reasoned and intelligent approach to issues can clear a path through a field notorious for its murk and mire.

Pub Date: April 1, 1980


Page Count: -

Publisher: Free Press/Macmillan

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1980