ABC special emphasizes drug dangers

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ABC News Closeup: `Alcohol & Cocaine - the Secret of Addiction' Tonight, 10-11 p.m. Documentary reported by ABC News correspondent Bill Blakemore. In case any more evidence is needed to prove the ill effects of alcohol and cocaine, this chilling and effective documentary should serve well. It's a data-loaded warning about newly discovered hazards of these two drugs - yes, alcohol is a drug.

There's new evidence about the extensiveness of the damage they do to brain and body, says this program, whose basic message comes early in ABC News correspondent Bill Blakemore's narration: ``...anyone who tries alcohol or cocaine is taking an even bigger risk than we previously thought.'' Scientists are convinced that many people inherit a genetic vulnerability to alcohol and cocaine, whose use creates a physical need that wasn't there before. Blakemore says, ``... science is showing us how the problem is often not with personality but the poison - to which some people happen to be born biologically more vulnerable.''

The damage done by these drugs - which science now measures by the cell and brain wave - is grimly but not luridly documented through interviews with both victims and scientists. You don't see drug and alcohol use or withdrawal itself, but former victims tell tales of degradation in drug ``shooting galleries'' and alcohol's destruction of family life. Driving home a few basic points seems the order of business. Charts, diagrams, laboratory scenes, and other background material flash on and off the screen as the talk goes on, but they're an effort - and a successful one - to enliven clinical material and a parade of talking heads.

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It's a tough show, but one that may be needed as an antidote to alluring ads for alcoholic beverages, and to a general social tolerance that - even in the face of the kind of data this program offers - still survives.

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