The Christian Science Monitor reports that today, the Bush administration will tout the 11 percent drop in teen drug use between 2001 and 2003 as it rolls out its annual Drug Control Strategy.
There’s no question that there’s a reason to celebrate, say experts. The causes for the drop, are varied – they range from personal experience to an intense media campaign funded in part by the federal government. But experts worry that the good news may mask some troubling trends in the recreational drug culture.
“When drug use goes down we tend to forget that a new generation of drug users comes of age every year,” says David Rosenbloom, executive director of Join Together, a substance abuse prevention network in Boston. “When our perception of harm goes down, drug use tends to go up.”
In the past three years, frightening drug stories circulated in schools, were highlighted on “Oprah,” and touted in TV ads. The combination has helped bring down the use of the once surging drug Ecstasy for the second straight year. A study released by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America last week found it was down 25 percent in 2003.
“Clearly, the drop in Ecstasy use reflects a change in attitudes,” says Steve Pasierb, president and CEO of the Partnership, a non-profit drug prevention media program. “But we can’t forget that 2 million teenagers in America still tried this drug last year – we can’t take our eye off of it.”
Experts credit the concerted efforts of the Partnership’s focused and aggressive advertising and the Office of National Drug Control Policy support for the findings of the two recent surveys that report an overall drop in drug use from marijuana to methamphetamines for the second year in a row. And it finally has statistical significance. In 1998, 51 percent of all teens reported experimenting with an illegal drug. In 2003, it was down to 46 percent.
But substance experts see warnings woven in with the positive data.