Pubdate: Wed, 04 Oct 2000
Source: Herald American (NY)
Copyright: 2000, Syracuse Herald American
Contact:  P.O. Box 4915, Syracuse, N.Y. 13221-4915
Author: Nicolas Eyle
Note: Nicolas Eyle is the Executive Director of ReconsiDer - Forum On Drug Policy


How are we doing in the war on drugs? The government's figures are out. The 1999 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse and the Performance Measures of Effectiveness , show the usual. According to the 1999 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, an estimated 2.3 million people tried marijuana for the first time during 1998, which amounts to about 6,400 new marijuana smokers a day. Among youth age 12 to 17, the perceived risk of marijuana use went down from 30.8 percent in 1998 to 29.0 percent in 1999.

The annual report also indicated that although the statistics were not significant, marijuana use increased for adults ages 18-25 from 13.8 percent in 1998 to 16.4 percent in 1999 and that marijuana decreased for youths aged 12-17 from 8.3 percent in 1998 to 7.0 percent in 1999.

But the survey results among people 18 to 25 -- who are among those most likely to commit crimes -- showed a worsening problem, at least recently. Use of illicit drugs by that group rose 28 percent in two years; that is, 14.7 percent reported drug use in 1997, compared with 18.8 percent in 1999.

A statement issued with the findings predicted that those in the 18-to-25 group, "which includes many of those who formed their attitudes about drug use and began to use them in the early 1990's," will continue to use drugs at a relatively high rate as they age. This is pure politics at work. Did those kids who started using drugs in the early 1990's (pre-Clinton) not go through the DARE program ? Didn't they hear endless messages urging them to "just say no" ? After all, the messages from Reagan and Bush were no different from Clinton's.

Because of suspicions that the drug war is not really working, Congress has required the White House drug czar to provide specific reports on the government's effectiveness in fighting drugs. The reports, entitled "Performance Measures of Effectiveness" were touted by Gen. McCaffrey, as an "enormous analytical undertaking." He claimed that it was a "management tool to shape and refine our national drug control efforts." In the 1999 report, McCaffrey wrote, "This report demonstrates that the Strategy is working." One of his major claims in support of this statement is that after 5 years of weakening in 12th grader attitudes about the riskiness of marijuana use, there was a one-year turnaround measured in 1998. Another important trend supporting his claim the "policy is working" is that Federal anti-drug spending is increasing!

Yet the data in the appendix to the report notes that deaths from drugs have doubled, that 8th grader use of cocaine, LSD, and marijuana had roughly tripled over 5 years, that the prices of heroin and cocaine continued to fall while purity increased. Clearly, the claim that the policy is working is propaganda.

"We have a long way to go," Dr. Shalala said, "miles to go in our journey to a drug free America."

And it might help to shorten the journey if we got on the right road !

Nicolas Eyle, Executive Director

ReconsiDer: Forum On Drug Policy

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