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Washington DC 20037
For release: April 24, 1998
For additional information:
George Getz, Press Secretary
Phone: (202) 333-0008 Ext. 222

Legal drugs are five times deadlier than illegal drugs, says embarrassing new study

WASHINGTON, DC -- Doctors kill far more people every year than drug pushers do -- a surprising fact that should make sensible Americans start to question the War on Drugs, the Libertarian Party said today.

Last week, the New England Journal of Medicine reported that properly prescribed legal drugs kill 106,000 Americans every year -- 20 times more than illegal drugs do.

"Are politicians going to declare a War on Medicine?" asked Steve Dasbach, Libertarian Party chairman. "Of course not. So why are we spending $17 billion on the War on Drugs, arresting millions of people, and restricting civil liberties -- all to try to solve a problem that's only one-fifth as dangerous as modern medicine?"

The study found that correctly prescribed medications claim 106,000 lives a year because of toxic reactions. By comparison, only 5,212 Americans die annually from illegal drugs like heroin and cocaine, according to the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration.

"This means that doctor-prescribed drugs kill 20 times more people every year than drugs peddled on street corners," said Dasbach. "Of course, more people take prescription medication than illegal drugs, so higher death totals are expected. But the point is that the health consequences of illegal drugs are vastly overstated by politicians -- apparently to justify the costly government program they call the War on Drugs."

In fact, Dasbach pointed out, the government admits that aspirin killed twice as many people last year as PCP and LSD combined!

"But don't expect a War on Aspirin," Dasbach said. "The government is less interested in protecting lives than in protecting the jobs of the government bureaucrats and law enforcement personnel who are on the Drug Prohibition payroll.

"For example, marijuana has caused no deaths, yet the government arrested 641,642 Americans last year on marijuana-related offenses, and is threatening to prosecute doctors who prescribe marijuana for victims of AIDS and cancer," he noted.

The fact is, the real health threat comes not from drugs, but from drug prohibition, Dasbach said.

"As Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman says, 5,000 Americans are killed every year solely due to prohibition-spawned violence -- meaning that outlawing drugs kills as many Americans every year as the drugs
themselves," he said.

Dasbach emphasized that the Libertarian Party doesn't condone drug use.

"Too many lives have been ruined by drugs, whether legal or illegal --and we mourn a lost life, no matter what the cause," he said. "But when the government arbitrarily decides which drugs to outlaw, it transforms a personal tragedy into a national disaster and turns a medical problem into a moral crusade.

"Politicians who focus obsessively on the drug war -- while ignoring the fact that other medical problems are far more deadly -- have lost their grip on reality. As this new study makes clear, the War on Drugs has more to do with political posturing than with public health -- and that's why it's time to end it."

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