Letters To The Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

October 21, 2003

Addicts still face a stigma that blocks recovery

I read Steve Chapman's column "Drug abuse as disability" (Opinion * Commentary, Oct. 14) and believe that he failed to be thorough.

First and foremost, addiction is classified as a disease by the American Medical Association. It is not a "largely self-inflicted" problem, as Mr. Chapman suggests it is.

Addiction is a physical compulsion combined with a mental obsession. When a person takes that first drink or drug (prescribed or otherwise), he or she does not say, "I'm going to be an addict." Addiction is a process. And unfortunately, most people never know they are addicts until the compulsion and obsession are controlling their lives.

To deny an addict in recovery equal employment opportunity must be against the law. I don't deny that addicts can and do suffer relapses, just like sufferers of any other disease. But what about all the addicts who never relapse?

And indeed, many recovering addicts are highly successful and respected members of today's society.

Kim Kennedy

Timonium

It's not only American law that has changed its direction regarding addiction in recent decades; medicine has, too. The Journal of the American Medical Association has stated that addiction to alcohol and other drugs is a chronic disease that can be treated as effectively as asthma, diabetes and high blood pressure.

Steve Chapman's fears are misplaced. He should be more concerned about the 6.5 million American workers who haven't been treated for their alcohol problems instead of perpetuating the stigma that prevents many of them from seeking help.

Eric Goplerud

Washington

The writer is director of Ensuring Solutions to Alcohol Problems at the George Washington University Medical Center.

Don't give taxpayers the bill for treatment

In response to Dan Rodricks' column "Addicts should be as lucky as Limbaugh" (Oct. 16), I would note that Rush Limbaugh's fans aren't paying for a share of his drug treatment expenses. But that is exactly what Mr. Rodricks is suggesting all Americans do for other drug abusers and addicts. And I think there are many who understand this difference.

Mr. Limbaugh's hero, Ronald Reagan, attempted to stem the tide of increasing federal spending by placing more responsibilities on state and local governments. He believed that it was at these grass-roots levels that responsibility and accountability could be aligned. That theory is still correct today.

And why should taxpayers of Maryland funnel their monies to Washington to pay for drug programs in Los Angeles or New York?

Edward J. Bielarski

Allentown, Pa.

Limbaugh can alter image of addiction

At the risk of being labeled a "liberal wimp" ("Liberals give Limbaugh empathy instead of the derision he's due," Opinion * Commentary, Oct. 16), I do want Rush Limbaugh to get well really soon.

With an audience estimated at 20 million weekly, imagine the incredible impact he could have upon his return to the conservative airways.

Mr. Limbaugh will now have the power to transform the widely held criminal perspective on drug abuse into an understanding that substance abuse is primarily a medical and public health problem.

Dr. William Sciarillo

Lutherville

Rights of Christians seem to be forgotten

Congress is now considering whether saying a prayer at mealtime at U.S. military academies should be illegal ("GOP bill backs meal prayer," Oct. 13), and the Supreme Court is deciding whether to keep "one nation under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance ("Pledge case to be heard by High Court," Oct. 15).

The American Civil Liberties Union says such religious rituals impose on individual rights. But Christians seem to be the only group in America who do not have rights. We have been asked not to display manger scenes at Christmas, prayers have been taken out of our public schools and the Ten Commandments can't be displayed in public buildings.

As a citizen of this country, why can't I display my belief in God and do this freely?

Ronald Stearn

Belcamp

Traffic tie-ups mar marathon

As a result of the marathon in Baltimore on Saturday, I spent a marathon session - one hour and 15 minutes (10:25 to 11:40 a.m.) - sitting in my car at the corner of Howard and 28th streets, waiting to head east.

I'd gotten off Interstate 83 at 28th Street and proceeded to Howard Street, where a police officer stopped me at the intersection. As the cars mounted behind me, I waited and waited, but the officer would not stop the flow of runners down Howard Street or even let one or two cars proceed when there was a brief break in the flow of runners.

I presume that the reason that the officer would not stop the runners is that it would have affected their final times, but the runners crossing 28th Street half an hour or an hour behind the leaders obviously had no chance of winning the race anyway. The runners had all the rights; the drivers, who had not been warned to stay off 28th Street, had none.

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