Distortion 10: Current drug policy protects American youth.
Untrue. Current drug policy harms America's young people in many ways.
a) Drug policy fails to keep drugs
away from children. More than half of high school students in
the US graduate having tried an illegal drug. It is common for
high schools in the USA and many middle schools to have multiple
drug dealers operating in the school, and nearly 90% of young
people say it is easy or fairly easy to buy illegal drugs.
[Source: Office of National Drug Control Policy, National Drug
Control Strategy: Budget Summary (Washington DC: US Government
Printing Office, 1992), pp. 212-214; Office of National Drug
Control Policy, National Drug Control Strategy: 2000 Annual
Report (Washington DC: US Government Printing Office, 2000),
p. 97, figure 4-2; Johnston, L., Bachman, J. & O'Malley, P.,
Monitoring the Future: National Survey Results on Drug
use, 1975-2000, Volume 1: Secondary School Students
(Bethesda, MD: NIDA, 2001),
p. 341, Table 9-6.]
b) American youth are not provided with
adequate information to prevent drug abuse. The most common drug
education program - DARE - has been shown to be ineffective and
counterproductive, encouraging drug use among certain populations,
yet it continues to receive large amounts of federal funding.
[Source: Lynam, Donald R., Milich, Richard, et al., "Project DARE: No Effects at 10-Year Follow-Up", Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology (Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, August 1999), Vol. 67, No. 4, 590-593
("Our results are consistent in documenting the absence of beneficial
effects associated with the DARE program. This was true whether
the outcome consisted of actual drug use or merely attitudes toward
drug use.... Thus, consistent with the earlier Clayton et al. (1996)
study, there appear to be no reliable short-term, long-term,
early adolescent, or young adult positive outcomes associated
with receiving the DARE intervention."); see also Ennett, S.T., et al., "How Effective Is Drug Abuse Resistance Education? A Meta-Analysis of Project DARE Outcome Evaluations," American Journal of Public Health, 84: 1394-1401 (1994); and Rosenbaum, Dennis, Assessing the Effects of School-based Drug Education: A Six Year Multilevel Analysis of Project DARE, Abstract (April 6, 1998).]
c) Young people are not provided
information on how to prevent or treat an overdose from illegal
drugs. As a result hundreds of young people die each year from
causes that could have been prevented. The drug war, because of
its punitive approach, has resulted in young people being afraid
to seek emergency medical services when they are needed.
[source: Sporer, Karl A., MD, "Acute Heroin Overdose," Annals of Internal Medicine (Washington, DC: American College of Physicians/American Society of Internal Medicine, April 6, 1999), Vol. 130, No. 7, p. 585; Zador, Deborah, Sandra Sunjic and Shane Dark, "Heroin-related deaths in New South Wales, 1992; toxicological findings and circumstances," Medical Journal of Australia, 1997, from the web at http://www.mja.com.au; Darke, Shane and Deborah Zador, "Fatal heroin 'overdose': A review," Addiction, 1996, Vol. 91, No. 12, pp. 1765-1772.]
The CDC reported a total of 15,852 "drug-induced" deaths in 2000. According to the Drug Abuse Warning Network's report, "Annual Medical Examiner Data 1999," 61.6% of drug abuse deaths were from overdose. The DAWN report, which details 11,651 drug abuse deaths in 1999, found that 53 young people aged 6-17 died of an overdose; additionally, 587 young people aged 18-25 died of overdose that year.
[Source: Minino, A.M., Smith, B.L., Centers for Disease Control, "Deaths: Preliminary Data for 2000," National Vital Statistics Reports, Vol. 49, No. 12 (Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics, Oct. 9, 2001), p. 17, table 2, from the web at
Office of Applied Studies, Substance Abuse and Mental Health
Services Administration, US Dept. of Health and Human Services, "Drug Abuse Warning Network Annual Medical Examiner Data 1999" (Rockville, MD: SAMHSA,
December 2000), p. 35, Table 2.02, and p. 37, Table 2.04.]
d) The drug war divides families.
Nearly two million young people in the US have one or both
parents incarcerated, many for non-violent drug offenses. This
results in many young people being put into the foster care
system and increases the likelihood of delinquency. Incarceration
also results in children being unable to visit parents as more
than half of parents incarcerated are over 100 miles away from
their last residence.
[source: Greenfield, Lawrence A., and Snell, Tracy L., US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Women Offenders (Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, December 1999), p. 8, Table 18. Mumola, Christopher J., US Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics, Incarcerated Parents and Their Children (Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, August 2000), p. 2. Mumola, Christopher J., US Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics, Incarcerated Parents and Their Children (Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, August 2000), p. 5
e) Many young Americans have their
lives ruined by drug enforcement. The number of offenders under
age 18 admitted to prison for drug offenses increased twelvefold
between 1985 to 1997. Under federal law, young people convicted
of a drug offense lose their right to federal college loans -
43,000 students were affected by this provision in 2001 -increasing
the likelihood that they will be undereducated and unable to
compete for good jobs.
[Source: Strom, Kevin J., US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Profile of State Prisoners Under Age 18, 1985-1997 (Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, February 2000), p. 4; Associated Press, Drug Convictions Still Bar Federal Student Loans, Dec. 29, 2001.]
f) Many young people get involved
in drug selling because there are no other job opportunities
available, not to finance their own drug use. US Dept. of Justice
research shows that MANY would gladly give up drugs for a
legitimate job, even at relatively low wages, if one were
[Source: Huff, C. Ronald, National Institute of Justice, Research In Brief, "Comparing the Criminal Behavior of Youth Gangs and At-Risk Youths" (Washington, DC: US Dept. of Justice, Oct. 1998), p. 2 ("Neither gang nor nongang drug sellers reported using the profits to buy drugs, except in Broward County, where gang members spent 20 percent of their earnings and nongang interviewees spent 5 percent of their profits to buy drugs. Both gang members and at-risk youth reported that it would require average wages of $15 to $17 an hour to get them to stop selling drugs. While this figure reflected the median, it should be noted that about 25 percent of those sampled would accept wages of about $6 to $7 per hour -- not much more than many fast-food restaurants pay today. They are tired of living with the fear that accompanies drug sales. However, as these young people often pointed out, it is difficult for them to find full-time work with one employer. It is also true, of course, that once one has a criminal record, it is more difficult to obtain regular employment.")
Research funded by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute shows that drug dealing plays a substantial role in the local economies of poorer urban neighborhoods because of the lack of other job opportunities.
[Source: Hagedorn, John M., PhD, "The Business of Drug Dealing in Milwaukee" (Milwaukee, WI: Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, 1998), p. 3 ("At least 10% of all male Latinos and African-Americans aged 18-29 living in these two [surveyed] neighborhoods are supported to some extent by the drug economy.")]
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