Joe Califano's Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse released results this week of a survey that asked 2,000 teens and 1,000 parents about attitudes and opinions on drugs and drug use. Among the least surprising, if most trumpeted results are findings that teens who have stable relationships with both parents are less likely to use drugs than those who describe their intra-familial relationships as antagonistic.
Bonnie Ross, a high school prevention, resource and intervention counselor in Oregon, told The Week Online that the issue of kids' parental relationships as a risk factor for substance abuse was a no-brainer.
"How much did they spend to do that survey?" she asked. "That conclusion would be a pretty obvious one for anyone who works with kids who use or abuse drugs. The money for that survey would have been better spent on resources for these kids. Stable connections, whether it be with parents, educators, coaches, any caring adult, really, serve as an anchor. Kids who feel disconnected and adrift in the world are more likely to seek escape and to engage in high-risk behaviors."
More interesting, but buried in the news coverage of the report, was the teens' response to a question about the availability of various substances. Specifically, teens were asked which was easier to obtain among cigarettes, beer and marijuana. While the overwhelming majority of teens listed cigarettes as the easiest, marijuana was a clear second. In fact, seven times as many teens (35%) listed the prohibited marijuana as easiest to obtain as listed beer (5%), which of course is legal and regulated.
Dr. Marsha Rosenbaum, Director of The Lindesmith Center-West, a drug policy think tank, told The Week Online that the availability of marijuana relative to alcohol is a product of a misguided policy.
"The question of availability is part of the larger question, that is, what are we getting for our money in the drug war," said Rosenbaum. "We're spending two thirds of our federal drug budget on efforts to keep drugs off the streets. The teenagers in this survey tell us how well that's working. It isn't."
"Interdiction has never worked, and will never work," she continued. "That is a given. If marijuana markets were operating under a system similar to alcohol, it would be more difficult for our kids to get access. People who support the status quo in drug policy often smear reform efforts by frightening people with the word "legalization," when in fact what reformers are talking about is regulation and control. Under prohibition, we have no control and thus we have kids who can buy marijuana at any age with no problem at all."