A Failure by Any Measure


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.