With a Drug Czar like John Walters, Who Needs Osama?
Mike Males, c Youth Today, June 2004
†††††††††††††††††† Nothing enrages Office of National Drug Control Policy zealots--especially its current director, John Walters--like a teenager who smokes marijuana and doesnít suffer.
†††††††††††††††††† Unfortunately for Walters, teens who smoke pot moderately and donít flunk out, disown parents, become heroin junkies, and overdose behind dumpsters comprise the vast majority of youthful drug users. Of the 100 million Americans who first tried marijuana as adolescents, 97 million-plus never gatewayed into dope fiends--or even regular pot smokers.
†††††††††††††††††† Since most teenage marijuana users arenít hurting themselves, ONDCPís obsession is finding ways for government to harm them--by arrest, school expulsion, college loan bans, needless addiction treatment, ads branding them baby killers and terrorist accomplices... and now, mandatory drug testing.
†††††††††††††††††† ONDCPís School Drug Testing Summit in Fresno, California, in March--which permitted only advocates of student drug-testing to speak--conjured images of hordes of pupils self-destructing on drugs. Ignored were federal reports show low rates of teenage deaths, crime, and hospital emergency treatments caused by illicit-drug abuse.
†††††††††††††††††† In fact, these reportsí figures strongly argue that school should leave students alone and test parents, teachers, administrators, coaches, and other role models instead. A 40 year-old is three times more likely to suffer serious illegal-drug abuse problems than a 16 year-old is.
†††††††††††††††††† But ONDCP has never cared about reality. Its speakers freely admitted testing wouldnít catch hard-drug users (heroin, cocaine, and speed metabolize too quickly for tests to detect) or deter hardcore potheads (who drop out or devise ways to beat tests) anyway.
†††††††††††††††††† No, ONDCPís prey is occasional teenage users of marijuana, whose residue remains detectable for weeks. Why? Because they ARENíT suffering. Monitoring the Future surveys find students who use only marijuana are virtually indistinguishable from abstainers. Dammit, we canít even tell whether they use drugs at all unless we make them pee in a bottle.
†††††††††††††††††† For when it comes to wrecking the lives of moderate, non-suffering, non-problem drug users--while letting hardcore junkies keep on shooting up, robbing, killing, and dying--Walters is king.
†††††††††††††††††† During Waltersí first tenure as a top federal drug policymaker from 1985 to 1992, he and drug czar William Bennett declared that stopping drug ďuse itselfĒ was ONDCPís policy priority. Addicts? Let Ďem suffer for their sins.
†††††††††††††††††† Their mean-spirited idiocy launched 20 years of drug-war calamity. While other Western countries contained drug problems with sensible social and health measures, Americaís drug abuse skyrocketed. During Waltersí reign, drug-related hospital emergencies rose 30 percent, deaths jumped 53 percent, and murders soared 132 percent.
†††††††††††††††††† The drug-war ideology Walters perpetuates has inflicted unspeakable suffering on aging Baby Boomers. Today, 80 percent of illegal-drug death and hospital ER cases are over age 35. The never-mentioned history of todayís middle-age drug crisis is ugly.
†††††††††††††††††† In the 1970s, the Nixon administrationís crackdown on Vietnam troopsí marijuana use (including thousands of arrests and discharges) provoked a wholesale switch to heroin--more concealable, no smoke, less detectable in tests.
†††††††††††††††††† Returning troops, four in 10 heroin-addicted, were discharged without treatment. They formed the core of escalating 1980s and Ď90s heroin, cocaine, speed, polydrug, and drug-alcohol scourges. Todayís drug abuse crises were not caused by young, casual marijuana smokers taking up harder drugs, but aging hard-drug abusers whose relapses stem from Vietnam-era stresses.
†††††††††††††††††† Since dogmatic deception and massive failure are key qualifications to be drug czar, Walters is back at ONDCPís helm--and with him, more addiction and death.
†††††††††††††††††† Federal figures show drug-related deaths jumped to 22,300 and hospital emergency cases to 670,000 in 2002, both record peaks. America now suffers our worst drug crisis ever, with fatality rates three to 10 times higher than Canadaís and Europeís.
†††††††††††††††††† Unsatisfied with the damage his warped policies caused older generations, Walters now seeks to extend his destruction into the next one.
†††††††††††††††††† Initial evaluations of modern school drug testing show history repeating itself. Monitoring the Futureís research team studied 900 schools over five years. Their updated October 2003 report found school drug testing worthless, with one troubling exception: Students subjected to random drug testing reported a bit less casual marijuana use but significantly more use of other drugs.
†††††††††††††††††† If Congress continues allowing Walters to wreak ideological incompetence on drug policy, he may well create something we donít have now--a genuine teenage drug crisis. Because more suffering is exactly what drug-war hardliners want.
Mike Males teaches sociology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. http://home.earthlink.net/~mmales
214 College Eight
University of California
Santa Cruz, CA 95064