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Who Is Addicted to What?

- Abstract

Barbara Ehrenreich, the Honorary Chair of the Democratic Socialists of America, is a journalist of considerable verve whose “field” is nothing less than the sins and foibles of the entire society, and the culture, in which she finds herself. Her scrappy mordancy of style and her broad interests have carried her all the way from the columns of Mother Jones on the far Left to the back page of Time, on which she periodically produces that magazine’s “Essay” feature. In a recent Time essay (February 28) entitled “Kicking the Big One,” she turns her colorful attention to the problem of drugs.

“An evil,” she begins, “grips America, a life-sapping, drug-related habit.” The evil she refers to is not drugs themselves but the country’s continued insistence on prohibiting them. In her view this nourishes “a low-minded culture of winks and smirks,” and it also siphons off “the resources that might be better used for drug treatment or prevention.” As she sees it, along with heroin and nicotine, drug prohibition is itself an addiction that is “hell to kick.” She recognizes that legalization would not be cost-free—so voracious is the American appetite for drugs—but prohibition has proved to be an even more debilitating social toxin.

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