The cocaine threat

Cocaine runners have allegedly been delivering their insidious cargo to a dozen offices of members of Congress. The authorities must bring out the facts and prosecute any wrongdoers discovered. It would be unconscionable for any representatives of the people or their staffs to tolerate an illegal substance that is inflicting such physical and moral harm on the nation.

The rising toll of cocaine among Americans in general must not be overlooked in the focus on Capitol Hill and various highly visible athletes and entertainers. According to recent statistics, the rate of cocaine-related deaths rose fourfold from 1976 to 1981 - to 19.1 per 10,000. The rate of hospital treatment went up sixfold between 1975 and 1981 - to 600 per 10,000 admissions. These figures accompanied a doubling of users in 1978-79 over the previous year - to almost 10 million.

Authorities are making efforts to control the cocaine traffic. Just last month 614 pounds of pure cocaine, worth some $200 million in ''street value,'' were seized on Long Island. An investigation of Washington cocaine dealing has been underway for some time.

But criminals are tempted to continue the traffic as long as individuals give in to the false attraction of the drug. Recently in Massachusetts a man charged with conspiring to distribute cocaine committed suicide, leaving a note that sought to deter young people from his downward path of drug use. ''My mom and dad were so right when they said one bad habit leads to another,'' he wrote.

People more in the public eye ought to consider what their example says to young people. It is a sign of extraordinary demoralization that many professional football players are reported to substitute the easy ''thrill'' of cocaine for the hard-won exhilaration of gaining a touchdown or making a great defensive play. The usage has gone so far as to cause concern about possible corruption of the game by gamblers giving players drugs.

In some fields of entertainment it is said that the availability of drugs is part of the deal for performance. The notion has sprung up that there is something chic and not too dangerous about cocaine.

The statistics say otherwise.

To prevent their mounting further, there should be more of the shining examples of celebrities who have shaken the addiction. There should be house-cleaning by the sports or entertainment organizations that have let cocaine flourish. There should be penalties for any violations found on Capitol Hill no less than for violations elsewhere. There should be educational efforts to expose the full threat of the substance; moral guidance through home and religion to expose the damage to character wrought by drug dependency.

The issue is as profound as living up to man's true identity as a child of God. It is as simple as one bad habit leading to another.

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