The Wall Street Journal , January 8, 2008, p. A19. Reprinted on Stanton's Blog on January 10, 2008.
Getting Real About Drugs Is Best Harm Prevention
Drug Policy Alliance, New York
Dr. Alan Blum's letter shows why drug prevention efforts fail to reach so many of our youth ("Medical Consequences of Recreational Drug Use," Jan. 4).
Mr. Blum criticizes Stanton Peele's editorial for advocating honest drug education instead of scare tactics. Mr. Blum claims that even a single episode of drug use can have serious adverse heath consequences. He then implies that Mr. Peele would back away from urging adolescents not to smoke cigarettes, since most smokers will eventually quit.
Mr. Blum appears to share the philosophy of many abstinence-only programs that try to scare teens out of ever even trying drugs by highlighting phony horror stories such as "Try marijuana and you may become a homeless heroin addict." Yet despite 20 years of "Just Say No" D.A.R.E. programs, half of all 18-year-olds will have tried marijuana before they graduate. And for most of those who try it or have friends or family members who have, there are no nightmare experiences that our "experts" predict. This leads to many teens ignoring all the information told them by people in authority who have now lost their credibility.
One area of substantial progress when it comes to young people and drugs is the campaign against cigarette smoking. This campaign has treated teens with respect and has given honest information about its true consequences. Most teens have seen the harm of cigarette smoking in the lives of their loved ones.
Honest drug information that respects teens enough to give it to them straight gets results. Dishonest information that tries to scare them with propaganda that conflicts with their real-life experiences leads to dismissal and failure.