Is Joseph Califano a Gateway Drug?

Mike Males

Copyright Youth Today, April 2002

            What happens when America’s most irresponsible flimflammers on teenage sex (Kaiser Family Foundation) and drug use (Joseph Califano Jr.’s Center on Addition and Substance Abuse) team up? A junk-science survey wildly exaggerating modest teen-risk percentages to 50...73...yes, even 89%!

            Kaiser’s survey for CASA found fewer than 5% of senior high school students ever had sex after using drugs or alcohol. That makes teens safer than grownups! Can’t use that. So, Kaiser applied timeworn numbers-boosting scams. First: lump 15-17 year-olds with adults ages 18-24 (five times more likely to have had boozy sex than high schoolers). Trumpet married-couple and one-time behaviors (even years ago) as dire perils. And, the biggie: highlight students’ vague guesses as to whether “people my age” (whoever that is) mix drinking and sex “a lot” (whatever that means).

            Presto! Five percent (of 15-17 year-olds who admit having unprotected sex after using alcohol or drugs) balloons to 89% (of 15-24 year-olds asked whether someone “my age” might). As always, the press clarions the cooked-up numbers as “alarming teenage risk.” Another institutional-media fraud in Califano’s and Kaiser’s tireless crusade to convince youths that wanton drunkenness, drugging, and sex are perfectly normal adolescent behaviors--which, if teens believe it and initiate such “normalities” accordingly, makes Joseph Califano a “gateway drug.”

            Yet... with record millions of intoxicated teens sexing up, how can the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy be crediting its client programs’ “strong 'abstinence first' message as well as information about birth control” for the “record” decline in teen births? As NCTPT and fellow lobbies proudly announced, there were 51,000 fewer teen births in 2000 than in 1991. As they failed to announce, this decline consisted of 63,000 FEWER births to MARRIED teens and 12,000 MORE births to UNWED teens. Adults were worse: marital births down 120,000, unwed births up 125,000.

            Please, sex education programmers lecturing teens to wait until marriage and welfare reformers shaming “illegitimate” childbearing, explain how your get-tough policies and “strong abstinence” messages deterred married couples from having babies while boosting unwed childbearing. The same “personal responsibility” champions who lambasted 1.2 million unwed births annually in the early 1990s as a catastrophic “epidemic” now smile on 1.3 million unwed births (a record high) in 2000 as success?

            Speaking of character-challenged, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy’s latest advertisements reviling teenage drug experimenters as terrorist collaborators represent pure moral cowardice. If ONDCP wants to demonize druggies for abetting assassins, stop bullying 15 year-olds and pick on someone your own size. Vilify presidents (starting with the incumbent), Congressmembers, and Supreme Court justices who snorted or a toked. Berate middle-aged, middle-American grownups, our worst illegal-drug abusers. Remember: silence is acceptance!

            Televise ONDCP director John Walters confessing: “I help fund terrorism! I push disastrous polices fostering skyrocketing addiction and murder! In 1983, when the War on Drugs began, drug abuse sent 300,000 Americans to hospital emergency rooms and 3,500 to morgues. After my calamitous 1980s tenure as chief ONDCP strategist, drug abuse exploded to 400,000 hospital emergencies and 8,000 deaths. In 2000, as Washington mindlessly perpetuated my failed ideas, drug abuse surged to a record 600,000 hospital emergencies and 12,000 deaths! Yes, I help keep addicts’ and taxpayers’ cash flowing to killers, drug-thugs, and fossilized drug-war interests (the real reason the drug war persists) by concocting phony diversions attacking youngsters and medical-marijuana patients.”

            Shameful? It’s criminal. The United States suffers by far the worst health, addiction, and violence scourges of any Western nation. Our social policies are a pathetic joke. Officials and selfish interests exacerbate both travesties by peddling moralistic chicanery as science, foisting crowd-pleasing “messages” instead of sound policy, and beating up powerless scapegoats to hide high-level derelictions. Until we get serious by dumping the Califanos, Kaisers, drug czars, National Offices and Campaigns, all the politically-warped institutions exploiting vital national issues as commodities and their junk-science roadshows, America will remain woefully weak within.


Mike Males, Justice Policy Institute senior researcher, teaches sociology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Webpage:


Mike Males

P.O. Box 7842

Santa Cruz, CA 95061-7842


Tel:  831/426-7099

Fax:  same (please call first)