DRCNetDrug Reform Coordination Network


Drug Policy Reformers Respond to "Monitoring the Future" Study

Tomorrow, Dec. 19, US "drug czar" Barry McCaffrey is scheduled to announce the results of the "Monitoring the Future" self- report survey of legal and illegal drug use, in a press conference in Washington, DC. The survey is expected to confirm that drug use by teenagers has continued to increase. McCaffrey is expected to take the opportunity to call for more of the same failed strategies and to justify the Clinton administration's drug war escalations, including drug testing of teenagers for driver's licenses, drug testing of parolees and probationers, and further expansion of the failing DARE program. It is also thought that McCaffrey might attempt to case blame on the California and Arizona initiatives, even though drug use has been on the rise for over four years, and the bulk of data from the survey I from before the initiatives were even on the ballot.

A coalition of drug policy reform groups and scientists has responded to the survey by calling for a fundamental reevaluation of the nation's approach to substance abuse. An east coast press conference, held by drug policy reform groups, will take place at the Rayburn Office Building, room #2237, at 2:00 pm EST, in Washington, DC. This will follow on the heels of Gen. McCaffrey's Press conference at noon in the auditorium of the FAA building. A west coast press conference, held by well-known research scientists, will take place at the San Francisco Press Club at 11:00 am PST.

The following bulletin includes:

1) DRCNet press release;

2) Press release by coalition of drug policy groups;

3) Press release by coalition of research scientists; and

4) Press release by the Drug Policy Foundation.

The full statement made by research scientists and the list of signatories can be accessed via the DRCNet DARE site at http://www.drcnet.org/DARE on the world-wide-web and will be posted in a subsequent bulletin.

Please note that the groups represented are independent of one another and don't necessarily endorse all positions taken by all the other listed groups. DRCNet is making this information available as a public service and is not formally associated with the researchers named herein.

1) DRCNet Press Release

For Release on Wed. December 18, 1996
Contact: David Borden or Adam J. Smith,
(202) 362-0030


WASHINGTON, Dec. 18 -- The University of Michigan's 1996 "Monitoring the Future Study," a self-report survey of legal and illegal drug use by 8th, 10th, and 12th graders, to be released on Thursday, is expected to confirm that the trend toward more widespread drug use among teenagers is continuing. This result occurs in the face of the largest number of juvenile drug arrests in our nation's history (URC), and despite the fact that "no-use" based drug education efforts, such as DARE, and programs like it, are virtually ubiquitous in our schools.

"A policy of Prohibition insures that these substances will be sold in our schools, on our playgrounds and in our streets" DRCNet Assistant Director Adam J. Smith said. "I worked with teenagers in New York City for over a decade and doubt that there were any who could not get access to illicit substances. In fact, often the dealers themselves were underage. The very policy that is supposed to protect our children has had the effect of pushing the drug trade into their hands."

In fact, previous editions of the "Monitoring the Future Survey" have found that 80% of high school seniors, on a consistent basis, rank marijuana as either "fairly easy" or "very easy" to procure. "Prohibition, by its very nature, increases access and abuse by young people. It was true under alcohol Prohibition and it is true today." Said David Borden, DRCNet Director. To highlight this, Borden points to the observation of Colonel William L. Barker, head of Northern Division, Salvation Army. Quoted in the St. Cloud, Minn., Daily Times, February 9, 1925 Colonel Barker said:

"Prohibition has diverted the energies of the Salvation Army from the drunkard in the gutter to the boys and girls in their teens. The work of the Army has completely hanged in the past five years since the drug era came into being, and Prohibition has so materially affected society that we have girls in our rescue homes who are 14 and 15 years old, while 10 years ago the youngest was in the early twenties."

In addition to the failure of Prohibition to keep these substances out of the hands of young people, Borden questioned the effectiveness of American drug education programs such as Drug Abuse Resistance Education ("DARE"). "It is outrageous that scientifically sound studies showing the failure of official drug education have been shelved. As in other areas of the War on Drugs, the truth doesn't fit in very well with efforts to perpetuate the status quo."

http://www.drcnet.org/DARE on the world-wide-web.

2) Press Release by Coalition

Press Advisory
For Immediate Release
December 18, 1996


On The East Coast:
Contact Eric Sterling, (202) 835-9075

On Thursday, December 1996, a coalition of drug policy groups will hold a press conference to respond to the administration's drug policy initiatives and the release of data on teenage drug use by the Monitoring the Future Project earlier in the day. The press conference will be held at the 2237 Rayburn House Office Building, Independence Avenue and South Capitol Street, SW, (Room 2237) at 2:00 p.m. Eastern time. Among the organizations participating include: Common Sense for Drug Policy, The Criminal Justice Policy Foundation, Drug Reform Coordination Network, The Marijuana Policy Project, NORML and The Partnership for Responsible Drug Information.

Kevin B. Zeese, President of Common Sense for Drug Policy said, "The rise in teenage drug use is tied to a national drug policy that has been counterproductive, at best. We need more than a law enforcement-dominated approach that has clogged our penal institutions with non-violent offenders, corrupted many law enforcement officers, and failed to reduce drug trafficking."

3) Press Release by Research Scientists

On the West Coast:
Contact: Michael Shellenberger,
(415) 255-1946


On Thursday, December 19, 1996, 11 a.m., Pacific time at the San Francisco Press Club, 555 Post at Mason, a group of scientists and researchers will point to the rise in adolescent drug use as further evidence that existing drug education programs like DARE have failed and must be reevaluated.

In a statement released today, drug education researchers, including authors of major studies on the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program and California's Drug, Alcohol, and Tobacco Education (DATE) programs, say the government must begin a process of "seriously reevaluating" drug education programs aimed at young people.

"The survey results released by the Department of Health and Human Services are further proof of our contention that U.S. drug education programs have failed," said Dr. Joel Brown, the author of the most comprehensive evaluation of drug education programs to date and the only major study to involve extensive interviews with young people.

The research of Brown and others concludes that teenagers overwhelmingly reject the "no-use" message and scare tactics approaches of programs like DATE and DARE. Research on educational practices and adolescent development suggest that effective drug education would focus on the capabilities, not inabilities, of young people, and foster awareness and responsibility.

"For the health of America's young people -- and for the future of America -- it is critical that the Clinton Administration and Congress seriously reevaluate existing drug education programs," Brown said. The research scientists who signed the statement have stressed that they are speaking as concerned individuals and not necessarily on behalf of their institutions or employers.

Fayetteville, NC, Oakland, CA and Seattle, WA are all cities that have already dropped the DARE program and are seeking alternatives.

(For the full statement and list of signatories to the research scientists' letter, a discussion of DARE, and links to DARE research online, including the DATE study, visit http://www.drcnet.org/DARE on the world-wide-web.

4) Press Release by the Drug Policy Foundation

Statement from The Drug Policy Foundation
For release on Wed., Dec. 18, 1996


WASHINGTON, Dec. 18 - With the release of a youth drug use survey expected tomorrow, the Drug Policy Foundation cautioned policy-makers not to use survey results to justify harsher penalties for young drug offenders.

On Thursday, the University of Michigan is scheduled to release its 1996 "Monitoring the Future Study." The MTF Study is a self-report survey of legal and illegal drug use by 8th, 10th, and 12th graders. The study is expected to show an increase in student drug use, part of a trend that has been reported since 1992 by 8th graders and 1993 by the older students.

"It is a rule inside the Beltway that increases in illegal drug use -- especially when teenagers report such increases -- lead to bad policy decisions," DPF President Arnold S. Trebach said. "The way politicians use drug use surveys has been to ratchet up the drug war. From 1992 to 1995, juvenile drug arrests have more than doubled. In fact, there are more juvenile arrests today than when youth drug use was at its peak in 1979.

"Gen. Barry McCaffrey says he doesn't want to arrest our way out of the drug problem, but it sure looks like we are trying to. Gen. McCaffrey is a hoax. He started out gently, but is now wasting tax dollars stating the obvious to justify an outmoded drug war. Drug use trends are cyclical. We don't need to stage an unwinnable war against the ebb and flow of drug use, but we do need more effective drug policies." McCaffrey is the director of the White House Office on National Drug Control Policy.

Trebach continued, "The first lesson to learn from rising teen drug use trends is that we must re-evaluate drug education programs. The students who began reporting increased drug use were the ones saturated with prevention education and public service announcements against drugs."

Sandee Burbank, creator of the drug education materials for Mothers Against Misuse and Abuse in Oregon, agrees: "The reasons for changing drug use patterns are many and complex. However, the scare tactics coming from DARE and the Partnership for a Drug-Free America has not established credibility among our kids. We need to tell kids the truth, which means judging all drugs -- legal and illegal -- by the same standard in order to reduce the harms involved."

Trebach, who is also a professor at American University, added, "But we are learning that 'just say no' can create a backlash. A 1995 survey of drug education programs in California schools found that older students lose respect for a one-dimensional message like 'just say no,' even though that message has its place."

Trebach said, "The second lesson is that prohibition has not been effective in keeping drugs like marijuana away from teenagers. Since it began in 1975, 'Monitoring the Future' has recorded that over 80 percent of high school seniors consistently report that marijuana is either 'fairly easy' or 'very easy' to get."

In addition to the MTF survey of drug availability, the Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University found in a survey released in September that teenagers ranked cigarettes and marijuana as much more easy to buy than beer. While 42 percent of 17 year-olds said that marijuana was easiest to buy, only 9 percent thought beer was easiest to buy.

"Prohibition is guilty of false advertising when it claims to keep marijuana away from young people," Trebach said. "It is no surprise that marijuana is easy for young people to buy when that drug's market is completely unregulated."

Trebach continued, "Each year, pundits treat the drug use surveys as the only barometer of drug policy success. The surveys are only a part of the picture. Our message to youth needs context. We must focus resources on real threats to young people, such as black market violence and AIDS. No kid has died just from using marijuana. The surveys are misleading because they tell us nothing about the violence spawned by the illegal drug trade and the 'handgun chic' that prohibition promotes among youth."

Trebach referred to research by Carnegie Mellon University Prof. Alfred Blumstein demonstrating that the drug trade has encouraged young people to carry guns as a status symbol, to settle disputes, and for personal protection.

Trebach concluded, "The key to understanding drug use trends is knowing that they are not entirely responsive to government policies and speechmaking. Trends fluctuate with increases followed by decreases and vice versa. More police and more prisons and more scare tactics are not going to change that fact. Policy-makers need to accept that fact and apply it."

# # #


1. Mothers Against Misuse and Abuse (MAMA) was founded in 1982 by Sandee Burbank to provide comprehensive information about drugs, including alcohol and tobacco. MAMA can be reached at (541) 298-1031; e-mail: [email protected].

2. Joel Brown et al., "Listening to the Students," Summer 1996 Drug Policy Letter, pp. 20-25.

3. "Alfred Blumstein: Youth, Guns, and the Drug Trade," Summer 1996 Drug Policy Letter, pp. 28-30.

4. Marsha Rosenbaum, "Kids, Drugs, and Drug Education," August 1996 National Council on Crime and Delinquency Policy Statement. Dr. Rosenbaum can by reached at The Lindesmith Center in San Francisco at (415) 921-4987. NCCD can be reached in San Francisco at (415) 896-6223, and in Washington, DC, at (202) 638-0556.

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