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A Rational Approach to Formulating Public Policy on Substance Abuse

Trunkey, Donald D. MD; Bonnono, Carol RN, CEN

Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery: September 2005 - Volume 59 - Issue 3 - p S61-S66
doi: 10.1097/01.ta.0000176046.87147.c5
Session 1

Unlike alcohol, which is legal and regulated, current public policy makes drugs such as heroin, cocaine, methamphetamines, and marijuana illegal. This article summarizes the history of drug and alcohol use in the United States, compares our public policies on alcohol to those on drugs, and shows the direct link between alcohol or drug use and crime, corruption, violence, and health problems in other countries and in our own. A rational approach to formulating a workable public policy is presented.

From the Division of General Surgery (D.D.T.) and Department of Emergency Medicine (C.B.), Oregon Health and Science University, Portland, Oregon.

Submitted for publication January 24, 2005.

Accepted for publication February 1, 2005.

This article was written for the proceedings from a conference entitled “Alcohol and Other Drug Problems Among Hospitalized Trauma Patients: Controlling Complications, Mortality, and Trauma Recidivism” in Washington, DC, May 28–30, 2003. It does not reflect the official policy or opinions of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and does not constitute an endorsement of the individuals or their programs—by CDC, HHS, or the federal government—and none should be inferred.

Address for reprints: Donald D. Trunkey, MD, Division of General Surgery, Oregon Health & Science University, 3181 SW Sam Jackson Park Rd., L223A, Portland, Oregon 97239; email:

© 2005 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.