Alcoholism remains a major menace to society

It's good that the acting director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy is a recovering alcoholic, as am I. Unfortunately, the remainder of the article, "National drug policy official asks recovering addicts to speak up," (April 18), dwelt almost exclusively about heroin. Heroin may make good copy, but the real killer (after tobacco) is alcohol.

In addition to the disruption to their own lives, alcoholics upset the lives of scores around them. The broken homes, heartbreak, abuse, crime and mayhem that darken each day's news are all too often caused by alcoholism. Alcohol's not going away, however; prohibition didn't work (nor has banning any drug).

One solution: insisting on abstinence until age 21 is not only ineffective, it's nonsensical to expect kids to abstain completely, then drink knowledgeably and responsibly. In some European countries children are given small amounts of watered-down wine almost from birth; perhaps teaching our kids how to drink would make them wiser drinkers when older. Also, educating them on how alcohol affects both body and mind could forewarn them against binge drinking, DUI, and more.

Since roughly 10 percent of drinkers become alcoholics, let's teach kids that succumbing to alcoholism isn't shameful, it's an illness. Treatment isn't just effective, one can emerge from it better than before touching alcohol.

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