A Failure by Any Measure

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As Brian Doherty notes, the Marijuana Policy Project is calling attention to the contradiction between the results of the latest Monitoring the Future Study, released last week, and those of a similar survey unveiled in August. The Monitoring the Future data, produced by University of Michigan researchers under contract with the National Institute on Drug Abuse, show either a decline or no change in drug use among students in the eighth, 10th, and 12th grades between 2002 and 2003. By contrast, the PRIDE Survey found an overall increase in drug use among adolescents, including substantial increases in past-month pot smoking (from 4.7 percent to 7.1 percent) and heroin use (from 1 percent to 1.6 percent) among junior high school students.

Not surprisingly, the University of Michigan presented the Montoring the Future results as good news. "Ecstasy use falls for second year in row, overall teen drug use drops," said the headline on last week's press release. More impressive was the positive spin that PRIDE Surveys managed to put on an increase in drug use by teenagers: "'03 Student Drug Use Consistent With 5- and 10-Year Averages."

Whichever results are closer to the truth, MPP notes, federal drug warriors have not even come close to the goal set by Congress, which in 1998 charged the Office of National Drug Control Policy with reducing past-month drug use among adolescents to 3 percent by the end of this year. Judging by these surveys, the current rate is at least five times that. Data from the 2002 National Survey on Drug Use and Health are a little more encouraging, indicating a rate that's only four times the official target.

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  1. federal drug warriors have not even come close to the goal set by Congress, which in 1998 charged the Office of National Drug Control Policy with reducing past-month drug use among adolescents to 3 percent by the end of this year

    What a surprise. The ad campaign they waged told me that in buying pot, I’m supporting terrorists. Those damned Vermont farmer-terrorists. Then, they told kids that you shouldn’t get caught smoking pot (or you’ll get grounded), and that if you’re high and your 3-year old charge falls in a pool, the parents will “understand” if you tell them you were smoking pot. Of course, if you’re busy talking on the phone, or you’re watching TV or playing video games, a 3-year old can’t fall in a pool. Blame it on the drugs. The fact that the hypothetical “you” were doing anything at all other than watching the child near the pool has nothing to do with it.

    When they deliver a message that warrants being taken seriously, I’m sure they’ll see an improvement. Until then, they need to keep working, because this, “there is no moral loophole” bullshit doesn’t fool anybody, especially not kids.

  2. Well obviouslly if they only had more funding to fight the drug war it would have been more successful. If only the government stole more of my money for such a good cause I think they could win this war.

    There must be a whole cottage industry based solely on producing vague drug policy evaluations that simultaneously show just enough hope not to abandon a program (by government standards of course), but just enough failure to make a request for more money seem plausible.

  3. just enough failure

    The three-word cornerstone of government activity. Has a government ever succeeded in accomplishing anything, as opposed to merely concluding it?

  4. I’m always suspicious of drug use statistics based on surveys of schoolchildren. Back in the early ’60s when I was in elementary school, all the students got a drug survey to take. We were assured it was anonymous and private, but to a wannabe class cutup, it was quite a laugh. There were drugs listed I’d never heard of, and I thought it would be funny to say “Yes” to some of them. No doubt some other pranksters did, too.

    To this day I wonder if anyone really believed there was a gang of opium smokers at Green Acres Elementary in Warren, Michigan….

  5. There were drugs listed I’d never heard of, and I thought it would be funny to say “Yes” to some of them.

    I did this in high school, in the ’80s. We had a drug survey and a bunch of us answered “yes” to some of the questions just for laughs. Glue sniffing? Yes! Cocaine? Yes!

    In reality, I’d never even *seen* cocaine.

  6. Here in Florida, Drug Czar James McDonough has been quoted as saying that student surveys are carefully studied and ‘improbable’ responses are eliminated.

    In other words, at least a portion of the respondents who say YES I USE THESE DRUGS are eliminated from the statistics.

  7. The media reported accurately. The very small percentages of the middle schoolers reporting drug use had a small change in numbers (2.4 & 0.6).

    Why do we deny,or ignore all the hyprocrisy regarding drug use? Media regularly protrays drug use as common place, whether protrayed in positive or negative roles. Jay Leno jokes nightly about Kevin using weed, and they smile about it and the audience applauds in a matter that is approving, or at least not condemning. What kind of message is that?

    What can be done about that?

    Pot use should be tied to the evils of cigarette smoking, (most pot heads have or do smoke)or pot smoking will in some way replace the tobacco habit.

  8. The answer is that citizens have to take a hard line in favor of sanity, common sense, and fundamental liberty:

    1. Defeat the drug warriors at the polls.
    2. Replace the drug warriors with officials who are pledged to end the drug war, and replace the replacements as often as it takes to get some real action on this front.
    3. As jurors, refuse to convict on any drug charge.

    I think that the drug war is so out of hand that even citizens who supported the war at one time or another may now be open to the idea that we need “tough love” and citizen discipline in the voting booth and the jury box, to rid ourselves of the grief and corruption that the “evolved” drug war has brought us. When the cure is worse than the disease, a patient has a right to refuse the treatment. If you haven’t started refusing yet, now is a good time.

  9. In the immediately preceding posting, I used the word “evolved.” Having thought about it for a few days, I realize that I misspoke, and that the proper word to have used on that occasion was “metastasized.”

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