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The War On People In Pain
John Tierney writes in The New York Times that the DEA is taking the easy way out -- at the expense of pain sufferers:

During the war on drugs in the 1980's and 1990's, federal and local agents risked their lives going after drug gangs on the streets. As their budgets for drug enforcement soared, they arrested hundreds of thousands of people annually and filled a quarter of American prison cells with drug offenders.

But what did they have to show for it? Drugs remained as available as ever on the streets - and actually got a lot cheaper. The street price of heroin and cocaine dropped by more than half in the last two decades. Dealers just went on dealing, not only lowering their prices but also selling stronger, purer versions of heroin, cocaine and marijuana.

Given this record, and the pressure from Congress to show results, it's understandable that the Drug Enforcement Administration and local police departments hit on a new strategy: defining deviancy up. Federal and local authorities shifted their focus to doctors and the new scourge of OxyContin and similar painkillers, known generally as opioids.

As quarry for D.E.A. agents, doctors offered several advantages over crack dealers. They were not armed. They were listed in the phone book. They kept office hours and records of their transactions. And unlike the typical crack dealer living with his mother, they had valuable assets that could be seized and shared by the federal, state and local agencies fighting the drug war.

I don't mean to suggest that the doctors were all blameless, or that OxyContin wasn't being diverted to the black market and being abused. But the problem wasn't nearly as bad as federal and local authorities made it out to be.

You gotta feel for those DEA guys. I mean, imagine how terrifying it must be, knowing that any minute, your quarry is sure to double-park their Mercedes.

Posted by aalkon at July 25, 2005 8:44 AM

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