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Education and Free Choice Kick the Habit

By Cap'n O

Mountain was a burly, powerful, big-hearted guy who, when we were teens, often saved me when Fat Tony, a nasty drug-addict slob, decided he needed someone less than half his size to punch around.

Even if the bullet hadn't shattered his skull during a holdup, Mountain never would have made it out of his late-20s. Drugs had turned him into a glazed-eyed, zombie-like creature who couldn't have fought off an 11-year-old.

And even though I hated Fat Tony, it still wasn't fun to see him lying in that coffin. A drug overdose got Tony in his mid-20s.

A deadly combination of heroin and booze one night saw to it that Jimmy Mac never made it into his 20s. Tommy was a nice guy who, because of drugs, lived a relatively worthless life. Narcotics put Tommy out of his misery a few years ago. Littleman, a world-class shoplifter, got into a drug and booze induced stupor one night and slammed his car into a massive steel I-beam. The beam won. Littleman died.

They were friends. Anyone in America these days can tell the same story of the ranks of youthful pals decimated by drug use. So I'm ambivalent when I hear people like City Councilor Ruth Adams say that we should think about legalizing drugs.

Mountain and the others filled their bodies with drugs even though the substances were illegal. How fast would they have killed themselves if drugs were legal? On the other hand, even though they were illegal, my friends managed to buy drugs as easily as if they were cough drops.

Substances like tobacco, booze, butter, coffee and bacon will kill us if abused long enough, yet they're legal. Frank died at 58 after a 30-year habit of sneaking out to the garage to guzzle hard liquor. Will's liver stopped working at age 45. It could no longer take the daily saturation of beer and Southern Comfort.

But compared to booze and nicotine, heroin, cocaine and other narcotics are what atom bombs are to hand grenades. Take a massive, single dose of booze or smokes and you'll recover. Do the same with heroin, and you're dead.

And I believe that people are free to kill themselves any way they want. Some do it quickly with drugs. Others string it out with heavy alcohol abuse. The majority of people torture themselves to death through marriage or cheering for losing sports teams.

But in the end, I agree with Adams. Tommy, Tony, Mountain and the others weren't criminals. They were just pathetic, screwed up, uneducated kids who wanted to get high and have a few laughs and who had no idea what they were getting involved in when they swigged that first brew, puffed the first joint or licked that first dot of acid. The crime may be that they didn't know.

Decriminalize drug use. The people who snort and shoot are no more criminals than are those who smoke or drink too much. What we need is not more jail time for drug users but a massive educational program about the dangers of drugs, tobacco and booze. It needs to start in kindergarten and never stop. We must indoctrinate kids as to how dangerous, evil, stupid and wasteful drug abuse is. Throwing them in jail will cure nothing.

Adams was right to complain that we're spending billions of dollars on new prison beds, most of which are being taken up by drug users. Our federal prisons are being filled up, strange to say, with marijuana users. Pot smokers get stiffer prison terms than murderers and rapists.

Americans aren't stupid. If given truthful health information beginning at an early age, most will make the right choices and avoid drug abuse. That is the only way--through education and free choice--that this nation will kick its sickening habit.

But if we do legalize drugs, each pack should contain a picture to indicate the danger of drug use. I've still got a photo of Tony in that coffin.

--Cap'n O

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