spobLast year, a landmark study released by the National Institutes of Health estimated that for 1995, the overall societal costs of alcohol abuse and alcoholism were more than 50 percent higher than the costs to society of illegal drug use. The study put the societal price tag for alcohol abuse at $167 billion, compared with $110 billion for illegal drug use.

McCaffrey agrees that alcohol has a more detrimental impact on the nation than illicit drugs: “Undoubtedly, alcohol is the principal drug abuse problem in America today,” McCaffrey told an alcohol policy conference in 1997. In fact, when McCaffrey was first appointed drug czar, he asked Congress to include alcohol in the office’s mandate. Congress said no.

Government statistics strongly suggest that alcohol abuse may contribute more to crime than drugs do. The most recent Bureau of Justice Statistics report found that more than …