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The not-so-hidden secret about the Office of National Drug Control Policy's efforts to waste billions of tax dollars telling teens to “Just Say Yo” is that teens aren't even the prime users of drugs. Teens just don't vote, and can't pay for lobbyists, so they are an easy target. Suburban moms have more disposable income, and based on the suburban communities I've visited, I'd say they have a strong need to self-medicate to alleviate their boredom.

Mike Males: This Is Your Brain on Drugs, Dad

It’s time to end the obsession with hyping teenage drug use.

WHEN releasing last week’s Monitoring the Future survey on drug use, John P. Walters, the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, boasted that “broad” declines in teenage drug use promise “enormous beneficial consequences not only for our children now, but for the rest of their lives.” Actually, anybody who has looked carefully at the report and other recent federal studies would see a dramatically different picture: skyrocketing illicit drug abuse and related deaths among teenagers and adults alike.
What the Monitoring the Future report does have right is that teenagers remain the least part of America’s burgeoning drug abuse crisis. Today, after 20 years, hundreds of billions of dollars, and millions of arrests and imprisonments in the war on drugs, America’s rate of drug-related deaths, hospital emergencies, crime and social ills stand at record highs.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of Americans dying from the abuse of illegal drugs has leaped by 400 percent in the last two decades, reaching a record 28,000 in 2004. The F.B.I. reported that drug arrests reached an all-time high of 1.8 million in 2005. The Drug Abuse Warning Network, a federal agency that compiles statistics on hospital emergency cases caused by illicit drug abuse, says that number rose to 940,000 in 2004 — a huge increase over the last quarter century.

Why are so few Americans aware of these troubling trends? One reason is that today’s drug abusers are simply the “wrong” group. As David Musto, a psychiatry professor at Yale and historian of drug abuse, points out, wars on drugs have traditionally depended on “linkage between a drug and a feared or rejected group within society.” Today, however, the fastest-growing population of drug abusers is white, middle-aged Americans. This is a powerful mainstream constituency, and unlike with teenagers or urban minorities, it is hard for the government or the news media to present these drug users as a grave threat to the nation.

By the way, what sort of drugs kill? Mike Males lumps all drugs in the same category for some (obvious) reason. Not marijuana, obviously, nor the psychedelics. I'm guessing heroin, amphetamine, and/or cocaine, and actually not even the drugs themselves, but street concoctions containing low percentages of active substance, and plenty of household chemical filler. Regulation of drugs now illegal would certainly reduce the number of deaths. Ed Brecher's classic book (apparently out of print): Licit and Illicit Drugs mentions the fact that one of the founders (Dr. William Halsted) of Johns Hopkins was a lifetime morphine/heroin addict who shot up before each surgery, and who lived to a ripe old age of 70.

Peter Guither has some additional points about this OpEd, including:

Another passage struck me not just as a repudiation of the ONDCP's reliance on MTF data, but surprising in its potential implications.
I compared teenage drug use trends reported annually by Monitoring the Future since the 1970s with trends for other behaviors and with federal crime, health and education statistics. In years in which a higher percentage of high school seniors told the survey takers they used illicit drugs, teenagers consistently reported and experienced lower rates of crime, murder, drug-related hospital emergencies and deaths, suicides, H.I.V. infection, school dropouts, delinquency, pregnancy, violence, theft in and outside of school, and fights with parents, employers and teachers.

It's an interesting, though somewhat disjointed OpEd -- a little too enamored with the significance of DAWN and other emergency room data, a little too accepting of the link between drugs and crime, and lacking any mention of the link between prohibition and crime.

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Good ole Peter, at it again. He was in charge of the I.S.U. Theatre box office when I attended there. He is alittle disjointed in his arguements and conclusions, but he is tireless and always had the students first in his mind. Often taking the fall, as our "facilty advisor," for our poor behavior and youthful indulgences.

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This page contains a single entry by Seth A. published on January 3, 2007 9:26 AM.

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