Drug Policy

Has Bush Driven Teenagers Away From the Reefer?

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Citing the latest data from the Monitoring the Future Study, which were released today, the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) brags that "teen drug use is down sharply since 2001," thanks to "balanced anti-drug strategies being implemented at the Federal, State, and local levels." The press release includes a chart (right) showing the combined percentages of eighth-, 10th-, and 12th-graders who reported using illegal drugs in the previous month. Unfortunately for the ONDCP, these data do not jibe very well with the story it wants to tell: that drug use by teenagers went up during the allegedly soft-on-drugs Clinton administration and has declined under the tough-on-drugs Bush administration. Notice that the combined measure actually peaked in 1997, went down, stayed about the same for a couple years, went down again and then went up slightly before resuming the downward trend that began during the Clinton administration. If you look at the data for individual grades, you'll see that past-month use peaked in 1996 for eighth- and 10th-graders and in 1997 for 12th-graders. In all three grades it fell more or less steadily after the peak, with some minor fluctuations. The picture for past-year use looks very similar. Given these trends, the idea that teenagers are responding specifically to the Bush administration's policies does not seem very credible even on its face.

The ONDCP emphasizes that "use of methamphetamine has plummeted a staggering 64 percent since 2001." In fact, past-year use of methamphetamine in this survey has been falling since 1999, the first year the researchers asked specifically about meth, and past-month use has been falling since 2000. All this in the midst of a "methamphetamine epidemic."

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  1. The big climb starting in 92 has to be from some type of measurement or statistical issue, right? Drug use doesn’t double in 4 years and then reverse course.

    Also, this flies in the face of all logic. My personal drug use has increased as a result of reading news stories about Bush’s presidency. Must….numb….pain….pack….another…

  2. I think bush deserve some credit. Time spent doing abstinence class homework means less time on the doobie for today’s teens.

  3. Jacob Sullum,

    We all know there’s no such thing as an honest sex survey.

    Why do we think there’s such a thing as an honest drug survey?

    And why do we think teens, of all people, would be honest survey respondants?

  4. Only in the fantasy world of the ONDCP does any of their idiotic transparent propaganda affect the drug use of teens.

  5. What that chart shows me is the decline in expectations of anonymity.

  6. These types of studies annoy me to no end. Here’s one graph of a line going up then going down. Here’s another with a line going down, then going up. Correlation!!! So the higher the gas price, the lower the drug use. That’ll be 25k federal dollars please.

  7. “The ONDCP emphasizes that “use of methamphetamine has plummeted a staggering 64 percent since 2001.”

    Just like the crack epidemic of the 1980s. These things have a way of working themselves out. If a drug is truly dangerous, people will stop using it if for no other reason than it eventually kills everyone dumb enough to use it. Speed was all the rage in the 1970s until people started having heart attacks and grinding their teeth down as they slept. As a result it fell out of favor in the 1980s only to return in the 1990s as “meth”. Eventually people have realized, just like they did in the 1970s, that speed is a really sucky regreational drug and the “epidemic” has fallen off.

  8. ONDCP only needs two press releases.

    Drug use is going down! We need to stay the course in the War on Sanity Drugs. We are succeeding!

    Drug use is going up! We need to redouble our efforts in the War on Poor People Drugs. We can’t afford to fail!

    Pick the one that fits the particular study.

  9. Aren’t we a bunch of jaded observers regarding government pronouncements? I wonder why?

  10. Only in the fantasy world of the ONDCP does any of their idiotic transparent propaganda affect the drug use of teens.

    I’d be surprised if many thought their propoganda was effective. But they need to “do something” to keep their jobs. Reports like these are the result of that statist impulse, not the result of tireless drug warriors brandishing their most effective weapons.

  11. Ha. What Jozef said.

  12. ONDCP only needs two press releases.

    Drug use is going down! We need to stay the course redouble our efforts in the War on Sanity Drugs. We are succeeding!

    Drug use is going up! We need to redouble our efforts in the War on Poor People Drugs. We can’t afford to fail!

    Pick the one that fits the particular study.

    Fixed it for ya.

  13. An interesting incongruity with the statist neocons in the white house and real conservatives in middle America. Half (possible a little over half, not sure) of the states with legalized Marijuana or other loosened regulations for medical Marijuana and such are red states. The first one to legalize and legalize almost completely I might add, was Alaska. Anyone care to discuss?

  14. “We’ve gotta protect our phoney baloney jobs, gentlemen!” — Governor William J. Le Petomane

  15. “””Speed was all the rage in the 1970s until people started having heart attacks and grinding their teeth down as they slept. As a result it fell out of favor in the 1980s only to return in the 1990s as “meth”. “””

    Uh, not really true. Speed in the 70’s were perscription drugs. That’s back in the days when docs would write scrips for all kinds of mothers little helpers. Anphetamines, valumn, and such. My neighbors truck driving dad was nicknamed “Benny” by his peers. It wasn’t till later in life that learned the meaning of Benny. Speed use was very common among jobs that required long hours back then. Such as the medical community and transportation industry. When the doctors stopped prescribing them, the black market stuff took over.

  16. I’d say GWB& co. have succeeded in reducing the number of teenagers willing to report past month dope usage.

    Seeing the Feds hound doctors and patients in their insatiable quest to persecute the WOD might just reduce the willingness to confess to the same crimes committed for the fun of it. No amount of assurance of anonymity will overcome the fear of a big brother fed willing to spy on Americans.

  17. TrickyVic,
    Speed has enjoyed a waxing and waning popularity in various subcultures since the 40’s

  18. Speed has enjoyed a waxing and waning popularity in various subcultures since the 40’s

    To be more precise – All drugs have enjoyed a waxing and waning popularity in various subcultures since time began.

    Nothing to see here folks. Move along.

  19. Has Bush Driven Teenagers Away From the Reefer?

    I’d assume they’re resorting to strong drink to cope with his continued reign.

  20. What that chart shows me is the decline in expectations of anonymity.

    I personally would be far more wary of reporting my drug use now, as opposed to 5 years ago.

    People understand that, nowadays:

    a) Everything is databased, and
    b) Gov’t can subpoena said databases.

    So why risk it?

    Once again from personal experience, it seems to me that a lot more people are open about their drug use that in the past.

  21. What that chart shows me is the decline in expectations of anonymity.

    This is what I came in here to say. Jozef beat me to it.

  22. Tricky Vic,

    I meant the black market stuff. The black market stuff was a big deal in the 70s. The perscription stuff is still out there. The air force gives it to its pilots.

  23. Warren,

    My post had nothing to do with how far back speed, or drugs were used. I agree with J Sub D on that. I was addressing the popularity of speed in the 70’s and (not so obvious) the decline of it’s popularity when doctors stopped writing scripts, the same goes with valumn use in the 70’s. When the doc stopped prescribing the real stuff, people started making crap. If you could by a bag of coca leaves, Cocaine use would decline.

  24. Ah, John, Ok.

    I don’t remember black market speed in the 70s. Most my parents friends, and my friends parents had scripts. So for us, it was raiding a parents legal stash.

  25. My grandfather once groused that a politician would, “take credit for god’s rain and blame the drought on the other guy.”

    (This was before global warming when the idea that political choices effected the weather was considered silly.)

    Politicians like to claim credit for everything good whether they did anything or not. Unfortunately, we seem to take such claims seriously, especially in economics.

    I think most phenomenon putter along their own course driven by large scale technological, economic and social change driven by the aggregate of billions which no individual or government controls.

  26. Who stole my apostrophes? 🙂

  27. Quiz time!

    A quick Google of the “Monitoring the Future” group will show that they receive all their funding from…

    A) Groups of concerned parents and former drug addicts
    B) Homey the Clown
    C) Various University research centers
    D) The Executive Branch of the Federal Government

    Please use a #2 pencil…

  28. Speaking of the 70s, how is it the Reason hasn’t had one post on the Led Zeppelin reunion last night? I thought Gillespie was going to make the magazine more cultural? The only music posts there ever are is freaking Weigel posting on Nerd Rock.

  29. “The big climb starting in 92 has to be from some type of measurement or statistical issue, right? Drug use doesn’t double in 4 years and then reverse course.”

    Bill Clinton…

  30. “…I personally would be far more wary of reporting my drug use now, as opposed to 5 years ago.”

    I switched physicians 2 years ago and I’m afraid to tell the new Dr about my fondness for fatties. If I tell him then that info would probably end up in a searchable government database somewhere. Or maybe I’m just being paranoid.

  31. “I don’t remember black market speed in the 70s. Most my parents friends, and my friends parents had scripts. So for us, it was raiding a parents legal stash.”

    My parents never had speed. But for whatever reason they both refused to take pain pills and just left them in the cabinet. The records on what happened to said pills are, however, perminently sealed.

  32. Brian C. Bennett’s website is a fantastic source for visual representation of the ONDCP/DOJ/MTF numbers regarding the WOD.

    In particular he showcases where the ONDCP/DEA lies about stats or cherry picks them for press releases.

    For example, Jacob makes a valid point with:

    All this in the midst of a “methamphetamine epidemic.”

    But the graph of (meth)amphetamine use by year shows it in a way that smacks you upside the head. Clearly the amphetamine numbers never really rose to amount to anything near an “epidemic” with regular users (used within the last month) consistently holding at 2-3% of the population surveyed for the last 20 years.

  33. In contrast, when I was a teenager filling out these sorts of questionnaires, I would lie and say that I was more sexually active and that I used drugs. I suspect a lot of my peers did the same.
    Do people really trust the results of these tests?

  34. I switched physicians 2 years ago and I’m afraid to tell the new Dr about my fondness for fatties.

    You like fat chicks? You, sir, are reprehensible.

  35. “Uh, not really true. Speed in the 70’s were perscription drugs.”

    No. It was called crystal. It looked a lot like crack. We cut it up on mirrors and then snorted it.

  36. Or maybe I’m just being paranoid.

    Heh. You need to smoke better stuff.

  37. “The only music posts there ever are is freaking Weigel posting on Nerd Rock.”

    Weigel is what Weigel does.

  38. A) Groups of concerned parents and former drug addicts
    B) Homey the Clown
    C) Various University research centers
    D) The Executive Branch of the Federal Government

    Taktix®, you cynical bastard. A positive attribute in modern America, I might add. I was too lazy to to the intensive googling, but I suspected that somehow the Feds (NIH) might be somehow involved. Thanks for doing the mouse work for me.

  39. Kwix,

    Clearly the amphetamine numbers never really rose to amount to anything near an “epidemic” with regular users (used within the last month) consistently holding at 2-3% of the population surveyed for the last 20 years.

    I don’t think that tells the entire story. Amphetamine use evolved over that time changing from people taking prescription drugs to those consuming home cooked versions.

    The location also changed. Much of the hysteria over meth comes from small rural communities who encountered the externalities of illegal drug use for the first time in 90’s when home cooked meth became a big thing in rural areas.

    The pattern of usage is as important as the raw number of users.

  40. J sub D:

    Taktix?, you cynical bastard.

    Dude, you just made my year 😀

  41. Keep Dope Alive !!!

  42. “…You like fat chicks? You, sir, are reprehensible.”

    Only because they are illegal.

  43. Based on my memories of high school (’76-’80), even the reported peak rate of 20% represents a decline of around 200- 300%.

    Seriously, I remember me and my buddies running through a list of our classmates and coming up with a pretty small percentage that didn’t spark up on a regular basis.

  44. Based on my memories of high school (’76-’80), even the reported peak rate of 20% represents a decline of around 200- 300%

    Dude, a decline of > 100% ? What kind of math did they teach you in high school?

  45. Standard ONDCP tactical misdirection.

    “Look, everyone, our policies are totally working! Fewer and fewer people are using drugs!”

    While at the same time, out of the other side of their mouths:

    “We are in the midst of a drug epidemic! New and tougher laws are needed! The scourge of the evil weed must be wiped from this planet! Give more taxpayer-supplied billions for our totally awesome War on Drugs that the government doesn’t want people to use!”

  46. WHILE THE DRUG USE HAS FALLEN, THE NUMBER OF TECHNICAL VIRGINS HAS SKYROCKETED!

    IT’S A WIN-WIN!

    more on T.V.

  47. I don’t think that tells the entire story. Amphetamine use evolved over that time changing from people taking prescription drugs to those consuming home cooked versions.

    Errm, it doesn’t really matter whether the drug is diverted prescription or “home cooked”, particularly in regard to to the MTF questionnaire. In regards to diverted drugs, minors are the largest market for licit methamphetamine (adderall). In all likelyhood diverted methamphetamine still count for a high percentage of illicit use among participants in the MTF survey, however that question is not asked so I have no numbers to support it.

    The location also changed. Much of the hysteria over meth comes from small rural communities who encountered the externalities of illegal drug use for the first time in 90’s when home cooked meth became a big thing in rural areas.

    This is a load of bullshit. The Hell’s Angles have been making and distributing meth to “rural” America for the last three decades, since the passage of the Controlled Substances Act in 1970 curtailed the legal production of injectable, lab made, meth.

    The hysteria developed when the media began spreading the myth of the “Meth Epidemic” and local police agencies, smelling a cash cow, endorsed it whole heartedly.

  48. The hysteria developed when the media began spreading the myth of the “Meth Epidemic” and local police agencies, smelling a cash cow, endorsed it whole heartedly.

    By my reckoning we’ve got 9 months before the NEWEST DRUG SCOURGE is discovered by the media, then hyped by the pundits, followed by an overreaction by the politicians, subsequently the NEWEST DRUG SCOURGE will be debunked by rational people and finally forgotten. The whole process takes ~18 months.

    I’d ignore the whole thing except for the humor value in the hysteria.

  49. I take special exception to the “Meth Epidemic” because underground meth labs do have the potential to explode violently.

    But that’s all the more reason to have it made in real labs by professional chemists rather than Jim Bob’s trailer out by the overpass.

    In honor of this thread, I am going to go smoke and watch hockey. Go Pens!

  50. P.S. No offense to the poster nam’d Jim Bob…

  51. Look, it’s real simple:

    The 18 to 25 demographic has seen what all that coke did to Bush’s brain, and it scared them off drugs in a big way.

  52. “Uh, not really true. Speed in the 70’s were perscription[sic] drugs.”

    No. It was called crystal. It looked a lot like crack. We cut it up on mirrors and then snorted it.

    And it was also known as Crystal Meth, or Methamphetamine, or, in my hood, as crank.

    From Wiki, some interesting trivia

    during World War II when the German military dispensed it under the trade name Pervitin…Chocolates dosed with methamphetamine were known as Fliegerschokolade (“flyer’s chocolate”) when given to pilots, or Panzerschokolade (“tanker’s chocolate”) when given to tank crews.

  53. “I switched physicians 2 years ago and I’m afraid to tell the new Dr about my fondness for fatties. If I tell him then that info would probably end up in a searchable government database somewhere. Or maybe I’m just being paranoid.”

    Be careful, not just because of the government, insurance companies also will deny coverage for illegal drug use.

    ….Slight change of thought….

    If drug use is so low, explain the high price of high grade cannabis. My opinion, the price is what the market will bear for the given commodity. Business must be good in the connoisseur cannabis trade, must be drug war failure.

  54. Teens are less likely to admit they use drugs when the government is more likely to punish them harshly for it.

    So ‘The War on Admitting to Illegal Drug Use’ is an unqualified success.

  55. What that chart shows me is the decline in expectations of anonymity.

    Ding ding!

  56. Dude, a decline of > 100% ? What kind of math did they teach you in high school?

    Well, law school purged any math not necessary to calculate bills from my head.

    I was thinking that, since an increase from 20% to 40% is a 100% increase, a decrease from 60% to 20% would be a 200% decrease. Actually, it would be a decrease of umm, /takes off shoes to do calculation/ 66%.

  57. _________ is going down! We need to stay the course in the War. We are succeeding!

    _________ is going up! We need to redouble our efforts in the War. We can’t afford to fail!

    Yeah, you can’t trust people who use logic like that.

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