Drug use dropping

Published: Saturday, January 24, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 23, 2004 at 10:46 p.m.

Good news from the much-maligned "war on drugs." A new study shows drug use among American teenagers has dropped markedly in the past two years.

It wasn't uniform. Cocaine and heroin usage leveled off between 2001 and 2003, but it had previously dropped considerably from where it was in the late 1990s. But marijuana usage was down 11 percent, and some other drugs - including LSD, Ecstasy and amphetamines - also dipped.

The study was sponsored by the federal government and conducted by the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan. Lloyd Johnson, who administered the survey for the institute, credited the reductions to the realization by more young people that drugs are dangerous. The government has sponsored a strong anti-drug media campaign to deliver that message.

"This survey shows that when we push back against the drug problem, it gets smaller," John Walters, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, told reporters when the survey was released recently. "Fewer teens are using drugs because of the deliberate and serious messages they have received about the dangers of drugs from their parents, leaders and prevention efforts like our National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign."

Even the use of legal drugs is slipping. The number of students in the survey who said they had ever been drunk dropped 11 percent, while those who had ever smoked tobacco was down 18 percent.

Clearly, something good is happening, and a logical place to look is government policy. According to The Washington Post, the Office of National Drug Control Policy said the decline in teen drug use shown by the latest survey exceeded the first of two goals set by the Bush administration last year. President Bush's first National Drug Control Strategy in February 2002 called for reducing youth drug use by 10 percent in two years and 25 percent in five years.

"This is a siren call to drug dealers and the naysayers out there who say we're losing the drug war," said Karen Tandy, head of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

It's hard to argue with that. The so-called war on drugs has been fought unevenly over so many years that many have despaired of it ever succeeding. The latest evidence indicates that prevention efforts are essential. If there's no demand, there's no supply.

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