A White House Addicted to Dope Dogma

Mike Males
April 1, 1999

If the White House was serious in its vow to get a “bang for the buck” in newly announced anti-drug efforts, it would abolish its own Office of National Drug Control Policy. Since the office was created in 1989, drug-related deaths, hospital emergency cases and other drug abuse indexes have skyrocketed. After retired General Barry McCaffrey took command in 1996, abuse of the illicits targeted most in his War on Drugs — heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana — soared to record peaks, according to the latest Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) reports.

After spending 200 billion federal dollars and arresting 12 million to fight drugs over the last decade, America is suffering its worst drug disaster ever. Even the meaningless measure McCaffrey obsesses over, teenage drug use, was declining before the drug war escalated — 21 percent of high school seniors reported monthly use in 1988, down from 39 percent in 1979 — but rose markedly after, to 26 percent in the newest (1998) survey.

Abject failure has spawned abject prevarication. Europeans made McCaffrey a laughingstock when he declared on a junket there last summer that The Netherlands’ liberal marijuana policies are causing rising drug deaths (Dutch drug fatalities are plummeting as America’s skyrocket) and a murder rate double that of the U.S. (the U.S. rate is eight times higher). Safely back home where the press sanctifies his fibs, McCaffrey declared that American adults’ drug abuse had been cut in half since 1979, while federal reports show it has exploded. Vice President Al Gore, positioning for Campaign 2000, claimed success in cutting teenage drug use, only weeks after the White House deplored new surveys showing that “youth drug increase persists.”

The latest policy that Gore unveiled squanders two-thirds of its budget on failed policing strategies. It perpetuates a $200 million advertising crusade designed to aggrandize McCaffrey’s office and the Partnership for a Drug-Free America while terrorizing suburban parents with thoughts that their cherubs lead secret lives of doped debauchery. Mom may think her eighth-grade towhead is at school, a friend’s house or soccer practice, but actually the little wastoid is getting stoned at all the above. Two truthful ads we’ll never see: (a) three times more teens go to hospital emergency rooms due to effects of over-the-counter drugs (that the Partnership’s big- pharmaceutical funders dispense) than from all illicit drugs combined, and (b) Mom is a dozen times more likely than Junior to have drug habit. The reality that anti-drug warriors suppress shows up in DAWN studies, arrest records, treatment rosters and drug use surveys: there is no teenage or young adult drug problem of any significant magnitude. California’s most recent, 1997 drug-death figures are typical: teens ages 19 and younger, 37; adults ages 20 and older, 2,297.

The unpalatable truth is that today’s drug crisis is a crisis among aging Baby Boomers. Six of seven drug deaths and emergency room cases are over age 30. The eruptions in hard-drug and alcohol addictions, violent and property crime, domestic violence, child abuse and murder of children by parents and other adults over the last two decades represent far greater dangers to our kids than does teenage pot smoking.

Menaced by a generation of adults suffering record drug malaise and a Drug War indulging denial thereof, kids have designed their own survival strategies. They are avoiding the hard stuff, which is why adolescents are safer from overdoses or drunken driving casualties than are their parents.

Even though teens’ use of milder drugs such as marijuana and beer do not predict problems now or in the future, young people are drawing ridiculous punishments from “zero tolerance” crusaders. Youth deserve not more hypocrisy, but a policy of “zero tolerance” for the adult abuses, scapegoating, lies and denials of the War on Drugs.

Males, Mike. "A White House Addicted to Dope Dogma." Youth Today, April 1999, p. 47.

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