Jeffrey A. Schaler, Ph.D.

Schaler, J.A. (1992, January 25). Drinking and driving.
The Washington Post, Letters to the Editor, p. A18.

Colman McCarthy states that "drunk driving deserves full prosecution and major penalties" ["Winning the Fight Against Alcoholism," op-ed, Jan 4]. He then suggests that the drop in alcohol-related traffic deaths and number of drunk young drivers killed between 1982 and 1988 is attributable "to non-punitive treatment programs" coupled with legal sanctions.

There is no evidence to support this assertion. Extensive studies of the alcoholic and drinking-driver populations show that the two are not identical, in spite of the fact that most people arrested for drinking-driver offenses are referred to medical treatment for their criminal behavior.

In fact, higher drunk-driving recidivism rates are consistently associated with those persons receiving treatment for alcoholism compared with those receiving normal legal sanctions. At best, the difference between treatment and no treatment for these offenses is not statistically significant.

Drunken driving does not stem involuntarily from a mythical disease Mr. McCarthy and alcohol-addiction counselor James McKelvey call alcoholism.

There is no reason to believe that treatment for alcoholism cures criminal behavior.

Silver Spring