War on Drugs

Jeff Sessions Wants to Bring Back 'Just Say No'

At a speech in Manchester, Sessions called anti-drug campaigns of the '80s and '90s the "most effective solution."


Attorney General Jeff Sessions laid out a three-pronged approach to combatting illicit drug use today at the New Hampshire Youth Summit on Opioid Awareness.

"There are three main ways to fight back against this problem," Sessions said in his prepared remarks. "Prevention, criminal enforcement and treatment."

In contast with federal drug officials under Obama, Sessions doesn't seem too keen on treatment:

Treatment is also important, but treatment often comes too late. Individuals have already lost their jobs and flunked their tests. Then the struggle to defeat addiction can be a long process – and it can fail. Experts will tell you that recovery is not certain. For many, addiction can be a death sentence.

I have seen families spend all their savings and retirement money on treatment programs for their children—just to see these programs sometimes fail.

Ramped-up enforcement, however, is something he's much more enthusiastic about: "The President has issued an Executive Order to the Department of Justice to dismantle these organizations and gangs. We are going to get rid of them. Of that you can be sure."

Sessions also called for a revival of late 80s/early 90s anti-drug marketing, the most famous example of which is former First Lady Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No" campaign:

The most effective solution in the 1980s and early '90s—when, for example, we saw a significant decline in teen drug use—was the Prevention Campaign. People began to stop using drugs. Drug users were not cool. Crime fell dramatically, and addiction fell too.

The National Institute for Drug Abuse reported this past December—as in, three months ago—that past-year use of illicit drugs among eighth, 10th, and 12th graders "continu[es] to decline to the lowest level in the history of the survey." Meanwhile, buckets of studies have shown that Just Say No-era anti-drug programming doesn't work.