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Moyers on Addiction Picture
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Premiere: Tuesday, March 31, 1998; 10-11 p.m. (ET)

In the final hour, CLOSE TO HOME focuses on the public policy challenge of addiction. Despite federal spending that now exceeds $16 billion annually, the war on drugs has failed to reduce the rate of addiction to illegal drugs. Meanwhile, more Americans are addicted to alcohol and tobacco than to all illegal drugs combined. Conflicting messages -- some promoting drug use, others condemning it -- have left American policy towards addictive substances at an impasse.

Movie link: The Politics of Addiction

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Today, many people are seeking to change policy from a criminal paradigm to a public health model. One of the most surprising developments in recent years is Arizona's Proposition 200. Advocated by a coalition of individuals across the political spectrum and approved by a nearly two-to-one margin in one of America's most conservative states, Proposition 200 mandated treatment for non-violent drug offenders. Moyers talks with some of these offenders in a tent city erected in the desert near Phoenix to hold prisoners overflowing from the county jail.

In this hour, Moyers also looks at how doctors and advocates achieved a cultural transformation in the American public's attitude towards smoking and how doctors and activists, including Moyers's own son, are now advocating a public health approach that focuses on addiction as a disease that can be treated, though not cured. Interviews are featured with Democratic Senator Paul Wellstone and Republican Congressman Jim Ramstad, both from Minnesota, who have taken leading roles on Capitol Hill in seeking insurance parity for addiction. Representative Ramstad is a recovering alcoholic and wants to create a national commission to combat alcoholism. Moyers also hears from General Barry McCaffrey, Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, who believes that America must view addiction like "cancer affecting American society," and he talks with Dr. David Kessler, a pediatrician who led the Food and Drug Administration's attempts to regulate tobacco as a drug. Also participating in this hour is Alpha Estes Brown, Ph.D., a pastor and community leader -- and a recovering addict himself -- in Washington, D.C., where what he calls "a culture of addiction" has exacted a devastating toll on the poor. Brown and others believe that the key to change is to create a recovery movement by mobilizing people who have firsthand knowledge of the problem.

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