Asa Hutchinson has
served since August 2001 as director of the U.S. Drug Enforcement
Administration, the federal governments law-enforcement arm
to battle illegal drugs. Hutchinson, 51, served as a lawyer in Arkansas
for 21 years before being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.
Hutchinson recently talked with News Editor John W. Kennedy about
topics ranging from new types of drugs in America to his Christian
PE: In what way is
drug enforcement a good-versus-evil situation?
you look at the founding fathers or the preamble to the Constitution,
one of the first principles of our government was to establish justice.
It is essential for the goodness of America that we have law enforcement
and we are a nation under the rule of law. Thats what separates
us from anarchy and really gives the framework for democracy to
work and freedom to survive.
PE: How has terrorism
changed drug enforcement?
has given more responsibility to the DEA. Drugs are not just illegal
and harmful; now we know they are a means to fund terrorism.
PE: What role do parents
play in preventing drug abuse by children?
are not just the first line of defense, but really the only defense.
If parents dont exercise responsibility, were just plugging
holes. Drug use among teenagers is diminished when parents have
meals with them once a day, spend time with them, talk to them and
go to church with them on Sunday.
PE: What role do Christian
rehabilitation programs such as Teen Challenge play in the anti-drug
treatment programs that involve the faith-based community are the
ones with the most success, whether youre talking about alcohol
addiction or methamphetamine addiction. Its difficult to overcome
without some component of faith.
PE: Why is there an
attraction to drugs such as Ecstasy?
draw for those who traffic in it is the huge profit. You can make
an Ecstasy pill for 25 cents and sell it on the street for $25.
When it is targeted to young people, young people sometimes like
to live on the margins and take risks. It creates enormous health
consequences and it can be deadly.
PE: In some quarters
there is a growing sentiment that certain drugs, especially marijuana,
should be decriminalized. Why is that not a good idea?
is a harmful substance. We underestimate the damage that can be
done by marijuana. The level of THC, the addictive substance in
marijuana, is much higher now than it was in the 1970s and therefore
its much more dangerous. I wish those who talk about legalizing
marijuana could come with me to Judge [James] Doyles courtroom
outside Chicago [in Kane County]. He asked 15 heroin addicts how
they started and they all said they started with marijuana.
PE: Does the amount
of legal medication we take have anything to do with how we view
is a connection there. Prescription drugs are subject to being abused,
but they serve a legitimate purpose and we want to make sure they
are available for those who are suffering. But when teenagers see
prescription drugs and then they see an Ecstasy pill, somehow they
think its not as harmful as a heroin dose. Its a real
education challenge for us. The addict population is misusing painkillers,
especially OxyContin. As an opiate substitute its simply a
new way to get the same drug.
PE: Is the term "drug
war" a misnomer? Will we ever win such a battle?
those in the law-enforcement trenches its very dangerous and
its a war in many respects. But when you think of war, it
has a beginning and an end. The fact is there will always be illegal
drugs from generation to generation. As long as there are depression,
greed and teenagers, there will be a challenge.
PE: Is drug abuse
only a teenage problem?
have seen many people who are addicted still struggling into their
40s and 50s. Recently I saw an accountant who was going through
a difficult time and all of a sudden he became addicted to drugs
at 50. Although the greatest challenge is with young people, no
one is age exempt.
PE: How can Christians
pray about drug enforcement?
would encourage people to pray for the truth. There are a lot of
myths out there. Those with an agenda of legalization argue that
theres no success, when in fact there is a lot of success.
They argue that marijuana is harmless, when in fact there is much
danger. They argue that there are no new ideas and there are. We
want the truth to be out there.
Also, people can pray
for the safety of the brave men and women in law enforcement who
are risking their lives every day.
And also for the sacrifice
of those engaged in treatment and have such incredible ministry
with young people, helping them to make right decisions.
Its a great privilege
to work with Attorney General John Ashcroft. Hes a great leader
for the Justice Department and a real motivator for those engaged
in fighting drugs. The faith side of things is very important.
PE: Tell me about
your own Christian faith.
grateful that my parents instilled in me an appreciation for church
and having a relationship with God as I was growing up. It has made
a tremendous impact on my life and the values I developed. A pastor
in rural Arkansas invested a great deal of energy in young people
and through his ministry my faith grew and set me on a stronger
path through life.