What Is It About the Bush Administration That Makes Teenagers Want to Drop Acid?


The Office of National Drug Control Policy brags that the latest Monitoring the Future Study, the results of which were released today, "shows that in 2008, illicit drug use among youth continued to decline." That's a questionable interpretation of the numbers, which actually show that past-month use of illegal drugs rose among eighth-graders and 12th-graders while falling among 10th-graders. But mainly drug czar John Walters wants to take credit for "a 25 percent reduction in overall youth drug use over the past seven years." As I explained last week, that sounds plausible only if you overlook the fact that drug use among teenagers began to decline years before George W. Bush took office.

And if Walters wants to take credit for every drop in drug use that occurs on his watch, he'll have to take the blame for the enormous increases in past-month LSD use among high school seniors and  past-month methamphetamine use among sophomores, both of which nearly doubled between 2007 and 2008 (hitting a whopping 1.1 percent and 0.7 percent, respectively). It's a shame he has to go out on such a note of failure.

Here's an interesting fact noticed by Bruce Mirken of the Marijuana Policy Project: If a high school sophomore reported smoking in the previous month, the dried plant material in his cigarette was more likely to have been marijuana (13.8 percent) than tobacco (12.3 percent). The latter is still more popular than the former among eighth-graders and high school seniors, but just barely. Mirken draws a lesson about prohibition's effectiveness at keeping kids away from drugs:

According to the new survey, current (i.e. past 30 days) marijuana use has nearly doubled among  8th graders since 1991, from 3.2 percent to 5.8 percent, with big increases among 10th and 12th graders,  too. During that same period, cigarette use dropped like a rock, with current cigarette smoking dropping from 14.3 percent to 6.8 percent among 8th graders, and dramatic drops in the older grades as well….

What the data show is that prohibition for adults is neither necessary nor effective at reducing use among kids. Last year over 775,000 Americans were arrested for possession of marijuana while zero were arrested for possession of cigarettes.

The 2008 Monitoring the Future data are available here (PDF).