Pill Palaces?

'Drug-infested schools'

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An August report from the Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) announced that 80 percent of America's high school students and 44 percent of its middle schoolers "attend drug-infested schools." CASA President Joseph Califano described these schools as "marijuana marts and pill palaces" where "school days have become school daze" and "drug use, sale and possession" are "part of the fabric"—"as much a part of the curriculum as math or English."

Which was perfectly accurate, assuming that math instruction is limited to a single equation and English consists of reading one sentence from The Great Gatsby. According to CASA's definition, a single student observing a single joint or a single flask is enough to make an entire school "drug-infested." If a student participating in CASA's National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse said he "personally witnessed illegal drug use, illegal drug dealing, illegal drug possession, students drunk and/or students high on [school] grounds," his school was deemed "drug-infested."

Given how broad the definition was, it's surprising only 80 percent of high schools qualified. Then again, since a school was considered "drug-free" if a student said he hadn't noticed any drugs, a large enough sample might show that every school in America is both "drug-infested" and "drug-free," depending on whom you ask.

CASA warned that students attending "drug-infested" schools were more likely to use drugs than students attending "drug-free" schools. In other words, students who said they had witnessed drug use were more likely to be drug users than students who said they hadn't. Maybe that's because students are helpless victims of peer pressure who blindly copy the drug use they see. Or it could be that students who use drugs tend to hang out with other drug users.

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