How worthwhile is the "data" when it comes to kids and drug use? See today's press release from the Marijuana Policy Project, headlined "Teen Drug Surveys Contradict Each Other." An excerpt:
Results from the 2003 Monitoring the Future survey of teen drug use, released today, show a trend directly opposite to that seen in the National PRIDE Survey, released in late August. The two annual youth surveys have been designated by Congress as measures of the success of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy's (ONDCP's) efforts to reduce teen drug use.
While Monitoring the Future, conducted by University of Michigan researchers and funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, indicates a decrease in teen use of marijuana and other drugs, the privately-funded PRIDE Survey showed a sharp rise in drug use: Monthly use of marijuana by junior-high students rose 51 percent from 2002 to 2003, and monthly use of heroin rose 60 percent. Despite the differences, both surveys confirm that ONDCP has failed by a large margin to meet goals set for it by Congress. Full PRIDE Survey results are available at http://www.pridesurveys.com.
"Apparently, Drug Czar John Walters only likes to publicize surveys that make federal policies look good, while ignoring everything else," said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, D.C. "Walters was strangely silent about this year's PRIDE Survey, though he touted it last year. The taxpayers deserve an honest discussion of the differences between these two surveys, because the bulk of the data suggest our current policies are failing. The only thing these results tell us for sure is that ONDCP has spectacularly failed to meet Congressional goals."
It has never struck me as likely that surveying teenagers about drug use is apt to result in accurate answers, with motivations for lying in every direction, from fear of punishment to desire to mess with people's heads to general disdain for this sort of time-wasting nonsense. So it doesn't surprise me a bit to find two such surveys coming up with such wildly varying results. Such surveying is more a consumption expense for bureaucrats than an investment in human knowledge.