The Numbers Don't Lie—That's the Drug Czar's Job

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"DRUG CZAR HAILS SIGNIFICANT DECLINE IN TEEN DRUG USE," says the headline above a press release issued yesterday by the Office of National Drug Control Policy. "Youth Drug Use Hits 'Lowest Level in Years.'" ONDCP Director John P. Walters explains:

"Teen drug use is once again headed in the right direction–down. This survey confirms that our drug prevention efforts are working, and that when we work together and push back, the drug problem gets smaller. Drug use by our young people is headed down to levels that we haven't seen in years. This is very good news for communities across America."

Walters is referring to the Monitoring the Future Study, which surveys students in the eighth, 10th, and 12th grades. You would not guess from his description that drug use has been "headed in the right direction" since 1997.

Admitting that the downward trend began during the allegedly soft-on-drugs Clinton administration would contradict the narrative pushed by Walters and other Republican drug warriors: that drug use rises under Democrats, who are not really serious about persecuting people for their taste in psychoactive chemicals, and falls under Republicans, who know that zero tolerance is the only way to go. Not only does this account exaggerate the imperceptible policy differences between the two parties; it does not fit the data.

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