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There are two ways that drug use gets covered by the American media. They either take a thoughtful approach to a complex problem or foster hysteria supported by quotes from cops and Drug Enforcement Administration officials.
This morning’s Washington Post takes both routes. In the front section, David Brown offers a well-documented examination of Baltimore’s massive reduction in drug addiction and overdose deaths. The recipe for this success, writes Brown, was the mixture of education, treatment, a needle-exchange program, and even training for addicts and their families in CPR and how to use naloxone, an injected medicine that can stave off an overdose death, à la Pulp Fiction. (Brown reports 194 total deaths have been avoided by the injection.)
Funding for these efforts, reports Brown, comes from Republican bogeyman George Soros. The kingpin has pumped $50 million into Baltimore in the last eight years.
Or you can just scare the shit out of people. A story on the front page of the Metro section by Michael E. Ruane and Paul Duggan liberally quotes a DEA spokesperson and Len Bias’ mother to tell readers that the Maryland basketball star’s 1986 death is the reason that cocaine use declined in subsequent years—and if we can just remind kids how dangerous coke is they won’t touch it. The words “treatment” and “education” do not appear.
Ruane didn’t immediately return a phone call, and Duggan won’t comment, but Brown says the two sections didn’t communicate before the stories ran. But just because they were different, he says, doesn’t mean one was right and one was wrong. “I thought [Ruane and Duggan’s article] was a touching story about a very serious problem,” he says. “They’re two completely different stories; one is about scientific research on an entire population, and the other one is about essentially 100 pieces of anecdotal evidence of what happens when someone loses control of drug use.”
ADDENDUM, 7:05 P.M.: Former CP editor Jack Shafer points out that we called bullshit on the “legacy of grown-up children born to crack-addicted mothers, called crack babies,” years ago. Almost 15 years ago, in fact.