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Methamphetamine: Graphic Montana Scare Campaign May Not Work After All, Study Finds

The Montana Meth Project, an anti-methamphetamine campaign based around scary images of the perils of meth use, has been widely touted as a successful public health intervention. Its images showing the extreme consequences of using the popular stimulant "just once" have been touted by supporters as highly effective at deterring teen meth use, and it has even garnered state and federal funding and been adopted by other states based on those claims.

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/files/methcrystals.jpg
methamphetamine crystals
Not so fast, said the authors of a new study released this week. In Drugs, Money, and Graphic Ads: A Critical Review of the Montana Meth Project, published this month in the journal Prevention Science, researchers found that the ad campaign produced a number of negative consequences and challenged its impact on meth use rates in the state.

According to the study, teens who had been exposed to six months of the project's graphic ads were three times as likely to say they did not believe meth use was a risky behavior and four times more likely to strongly approve of regular meth use. Half of the teens said the ads exaggerated the dangers of meth use.

The Montana Meth Campaign and its proponents overlooked such unflattering results when presenting findings to the media and policymakers, the researchers said. Instead, the campaign portrayed its results in the most positive light possible.

The researchers also scoffed at claims the program had reduced meth use. "Meth use had been declining for at least six years before the ad campaign commenced, which suggests that factors other than the graphic ads cause reductions in meth use. Another issue is that the launch of the ad campaign coincided with restrictions on the sale of cold and flu medicines commonly used in the production of meth. This means that drug use could be declining due to decreased production of meth, rather than being the result of the ad campaign," said review author David Erceg-Hurn in a Society for Prevention Research news release Thursday.

Ereceg-Hurn also attacked the theoretical underpinnings of the campaign. "The idea behind the ad campaign is that teenagers take meth because they believe it is socially acceptable, and not risky, and the ads are meant to alter these perceptions," he said. "However, this theory is flawed because the Meth Project's own data shows that 98% of teenagers strongly disapproved of meth use and 97% thought using meth was risky before the campaign started," Erceg-Hurn said.

Spending government funds on Meth Project-style campaigns is a waste of money, Erceg-Hurn concluded. Or, in more diplomatic terms: "Based on current evidence, continued public funding and rollout of Montana-style anti-methamphetamine graphic ad campaign programs is inadvisable."

Southeast Asia Plans to be Drug-Free by 2015

The plan is to get all the kids to stop smoking and drinking, which will result in the elimination of all drug use within 6 years:

KUCHING, Dec 10 (Bernama) -- The International Federation of Non-governmental Organisations for the Prevention of Drug and Substance Abuse (IFNGO) has targeted a drug-free Asean by 2015 to counter the widespread abuse of "gateway drugs" among the region's younger generation, who are susceptible to the lure of alcohol and tobacco.

Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud said today children and the youth who were addicted to such "gateway drugs" provided the recruitment base for addiction to illicit drugs such as heroin and cocaine.

"Fighting the war against drugs is a formidable and difficult task. I am certain that with concerted effort from all members of the Asean IFNGO network, we can bear down on the problem of gateway drugs and achieve our goal of a drug-free Asean by 2015," he said. [Bernama.com]

And I am certain that by 2015 I will have, through deep concentration, mastered the art of levitation and learned to shoot laser beams from my eyes. If I fail, it will be everyone’s fault but my own.

Parents Are Using Drug Dogs on Their Own Children

I suppose it was just a matter of time:

Ali is a highly trained German shepherd that spent eight years on narcotics patrol with the New Jersey police force, hunting down drug smugglers at airports and drug dealers on inner-city streets. Post-retirement, he's working in the private sector, sniffing teenagers' bedrooms.

Ali and his handler are now working for a new company in New Jersey called Sniff Dogs.

The company, which also conducts business in Ohio, rents drug-sniffing canines to parents for $200 an hour. It was started this year by Debra Stone, who says her five trained dogs can detect heroin, cocaine, crystal meth and ecstasy.

The dogs' noses are so sensitive that they can smell a marijuana seed from up to 15 feet away and marijuana residue on clothing from drugs smoked two nights before.

One of the selling points of this service? Avoiding the kind of confrontation that comes with a drug test. [ABC News]

Yeah, unless Derrick walks in while you’re marching a snarling drug dog around his room. This is ridiculous. Anyway, it makes no sense to do it when your kid isn’t home. The drugs are usually on them, so there’s gonna be a confrontation after all. And subjecting your children to dog sniffs is at least as likely to provoke animosity as a urine test. Who are they kidding?

Parenting is hard and teenage drug abuse is almost impossible to handle exactly the right way. But bringing drug sniffing dogs into your house is just totally crazy, it really is. It’s the sort of approach that only occurs to parents whose over-the-top hysteria about drugs has already eliminated the possibility that their kids would actually tell them anything voluntarily.

Update: In response to this comment, I don't think the point is really to help parents who are already dealing with a drug abuse problem in their home. At that point, you don't need a drug dog to tell you what you already know. If you start doing stuff like that, your kid just won't bring it in the house. One of the mothers quoted in the story is using the dog as an extra precaution even though her kids seem fine. And that's weird. Seriously. If your kids say they're not using drugs and they're happy and doing well in school, etc. and yet you're still marching drug dogs around their rooms...you're the one with a problem.

DEA Thrills Schoolchildren With Awesome Drug War Parade

Sometimes, with all the innocent people being killed, it’s easy to forget how much fun the drug war can be:

Educators in West Seattle may have discovered a new way to control 484 wildly cheering children: a burly federal agent wearing camouflage and brandishing a bullhorn.

It was unclear who was having more fun, the kids or the cops, at the culmination Thursday of several days of drug prevention programs at the Holy Rosary School in West Seattle.

The three letter agencies were there: DEA, ICE, FBI. As children wearing red sweaters and blue pants or tartan skirts lined 42nd Avenue Southwest, agents in raid jackets, swat gear and even hazardous-material suits slapped palms with the pumped-up youngsters. Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent Jodie Underwood -- dressed in black and packing her service revolver -- looked armed and dangerous until she turned toward a bunch of 8-year- olds with a grin on her face and asked: "Are you guys having fun?" [Seattle Post-Intelligencer]

Well, at least the cops and a bunch of 8-year-olds are having a good time.

Latin America: UNODC Head Again Blames Drugs -- Not Drug Prohibition -- for Crime and Violence

UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) executive director Antonio Maria Costa used the occasion of the October 8 meeting of Ministers Responsible for Public Safety in Mexico City to again blame the drug trade for the crime and violence caused by drug prohibition. In so doing, he also took a pot-shot at drug reformers, calling them the "pro-drug lobby."

"As a hemisphere, the Americas face the world's biggest drug problem," Costa told the assembled drug fighters in a speech opening the event." Whether we measure it in hectares of cultivation, tons of production, its market value or even by the gruesome number of people killed in the dirty trade," the drug crisis affecting the security of the ordinary people in the area is huge.

"Your citizens indeed say that what they fear the most is not terrorism, not climate change, not a financial crisis. It is public safety. And in the Americas, the biggest threat to public safety comes from drug trafficking and the violence perpetrated by organized crime," he stated.

But Costa ignored the incontrovertible fact that the threat to public order and safety from illicit drug trafficking is a direct result of drug prohibition, which creates the conditions in which such lawlessness and violence thrives, and not of some property inherent to currently proscribed drugs. He blamed everything from urban violence in the US to Canadian biker gangs to Mexican drug wars to Colombia's insurgency and Brazil's drug "commandos," on "drug crime," not drug prohibition.

And even as more and more Latin American governments, tired of trying to achieve UN and US drug policy goals, ponder drug decriminalization and/or legalization (see related story here), Costa sounded the tocsin about the temptations of legalization. "At this point, we know what some people -- the pro-drug lobby, for example -- would say: 'Legalize drugs and crime will disappear.' In other words, while facing an undeniably tough problem, we are invited to accept it, hide our head in the sand and make it legal."

In the face of decades of failed international drug control policies that rely on prohibition enforcement, demand reduction, and to a lesser degree, drug treatment and prevention, Costa called for more of the same, although he seemed to admit that the world could not enforce its way to total sobriety. "Until more resources are put into drug treatment and prevention as well as viable alternatives for illicit crops, narco-traffickers will continue to ply their lucrative and deadly trade across the Western hemisphere," Costa warned.

Study: Drug Czar’s Billion Dollar Anti-Drug Ad Campaign is a Failure

The drug czar likes to claim that we criticize his ad campaign because we want more kids to use marijuana. Will he say the same about researchers hired by Congress?

Despite investing $1 billion in a massive anti-drug campaign, a controversial new study suggests that the push has failed to help the United States win the war on drugs.

A congressionally mandated study released today concluded that the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign launched in the late 1990s to encourage young people to stay away from drugs "is unlikely to have had favorable effects on youths."

In fact, the study's authors assert that anti-drug ads may have unwittingly delivered the message that other kids were doing drugs, inadvertently slowing measured progress that was being made to curb marijuana use among teenagers.

"Youths who saw the campaign ads took from them the message that their peers were using marijuana," the report suggests as a possible reason for its findings. "In turn, those who came to believe that their peers were using marijuana were more likely to initiate use themselves." [ABC News]

Ironically, if reformers actually wanted more kids to use marijuana, we’d support the drug czar’s ad campaign. His propaganda appears to have encouraged use among those viewing the ads, even as marijuana use among America’s youth was decreasing overall. Based on the data, it's entirely possible that youth drug use would be even lower – and U.S. taxpayers would be $1 billion richer – if the drug czar had never run these ads in the first place.

Press Release: Innovative Drug Prevention DVD, Just4Teens, Premiered at Oct 8th Event

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 1, 2008 Contact: Reena Szczepanski (505) 699-0798 or Jeanne Block (505) 983-3277 Innovative Drug Prevention DVD, Just4Teens, Now Available to Teachers, Counselors, and Prevention Specialists in New Mexico Community Comes Together to Address Methamphetamine and Other Drugs at Santa Fe DVD Premiere Event on October 8 Video, Facilitator’s Guide, and Upcoming Statewide Trainings to Focus on Effective Drug Prevention Strategies for New Mexico Santa Fe - Drug Policy Alliance New Mexico (DPANM) is proud to announce the release of Just4Teens: Let’s Talk about Meth and Other Drugs, an innovative drug education DVD that serves as a tool for teachers, counselors, prevention specialists, and parents to initiate an open, honest discussion with young people about drugs and drug use. The video will premiere October 8 at Warehouse 21 in Santa Fe. Doors open at 6 p.m. Following the video screening, a panel of DPANM staff, local youth, and adults working with young people will discuss drugs, drug prevention, and resources available in Santa Fe. “DPANM is offering educators and teens an innovative drug prevention resource with the Just4Teens video and Facilitator’s Guide,” said Reena Szczepanski, director of DPANM. “For over 25 years drug prevention has meant using scare tactics and ‘just say no’ messages. These strategies are failing our young people, and it is time for our community to embrace effective drug prevention.” The Just4Teens DVD includes a 15-minute video and a 14-page Facilitator’s Guide. The DVD and Guide can be used to supplement current prevention programs. Teachers and other adults can use this tool to start in-depth conversations about drugs and drug use in their after school program, classroom, or other youth group. In addition to providing the video for free to residents in New Mexico, DPANM will be conducting free train-the-trainer drug education workshops in 2008 and 2009 around the state. “Effective drug prevention is more than just showing a video,” said Jeanne Block, Methamphetamine Project coordinator with DPANM. “The trainings will provide people who work with youth the tools, resources, and strategies they need to make a difference in the lives of young people.” DPANM will be hosting Just4Teens video premiere events in communities around New Mexico, including Albuquerque, Alamogordo, and Farmington. The educational DVD was produced through the support of a U.S. Department of Justice grant championed by Sen. Jeff Bingaman.
Location: 
Santa Fe, NM
United States

Public Opinion: Three-Quarters of Likely Voters Believe Drug War is Failing and More than One-Quarter Favor Legalization, Zogby Poll Finds

According to a Zogby/Inter-American Dialogue poll released Thursday, more than three-quarters of likely voters polled said America's drug war is a failure. That is a sharp contrast with current US and state drug policies. The poll also found significant differences between US policy in the hemisphere and what respondents would like to see.

On drug policy, 76% believe the US war on drugs is failing. That included the vast majority of Democrats (86%) and independents (81%) and even a majority of Republicans (61%). Among Barack Obama supporters, 89% agreed, and among John McCain supporters 61% agreed. While it is not clear that a belief that the war on drugs is failing suggests support for drug reform -- it could include those who believe it is failing because we have not tried hard enough -- it does suggest an emerging consensus that the current path is the wrong one.

When asked what was the best way to confront drug use and the international drug trade, respondents were split. Some 27% of likely voters said legalizing some drugs was the best approach (Obama supporters 34%, McCain supporters 20%); 25% said stopping drugs at the border (Obama supporters 12%, McCain supporters 39%); 19% said reducing demand through treatment and education; and 13% said crop eradication in source countries was the best approach.

The poll was by no means limited to drug policy. On other hemispheric issues, it found that 60% believe the US should revise its policies toward Cuba, 67% support a path to citizenship for tax-paying undocumented immigrants who learn English, 46% believe the US should seek to improve ties with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez (10% want to completely break relations), 54% believe the US should lower tariffs on Brazilian ethanol, and 42% believe the North American Free Trade Agreement should be revised.

"The poll results indicate that American public opinion is far more open and flexible on issues of importance for US relations with Latin America than current policy would suggest," noted Peter Hakim, the President of the Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington think tank that collaborated with Zogby International on the poll. "It also suggests, however, that public opinion may not be all that relevant in decisions regarding policy issues of greatest concern to Latin America -- that these may be largely determined by smaller groups with intense sentiments about the issues," he said in a press release accompanying the poll results.

"While there are significant differences between Obama and McCain supporters on most issues, the poll suggests that the general public agrees on ethanol tariffs, temporary workers, and the failure of the drug war -- these are important issues in hemispheric relations that the next US president will have an opportunity to deal with," Hakim added.

Concerned Citizen Launches "Drugs Bring Death" Campaign

A bold new anti-drug campaign has emerged in Lima, OH, the site of a shocking drug raid gone wrong in which the SWAT team killed Tarika Wilson -- an unarmed mother of six -- and shot her baby:

For about four hours, Jesse Lowe stood silently by himself holding a cardboard sign with three words scrawled in black marker: "Drugs Bring Death."

His message wasn't aimed just at the dealers or residents of the neighborhood scarred by shootings and fear. He wanted the city to hear him.

In the months since, Lowe's solitary protest has drawn together black and white, rich and poor in a city simmering with anger since a white police officer shot and killed a black woman and wounded her baby during a drug raid. The officer faces trial Monday on negligent homicide and negligent assault charges.

Upwards of 100 people have shown up at many of the nine rallies he's put together, waving "Drugs Bring Death" signs. They've handed out thousands of stickers, T-shirts and signs that now blanket the city midway between Toledo and Dayton. A billboard company donated space on four signs, and businesses have supplied food for the rallies.

"The courage of one man is spreading to everyone," said police Maj. Kevin Martin. "This is what the solution has to be. As police, we're limited in what we can do." [AP]

This is the same department that posted an image on its website that was threatening to the public and even positioned snipers over a peaceful public protest against their own violent tactics.

Of course, it should come as no surprise that in a town plagued by aggressive drug war policing, law enforcement would rally around a man who blames drugs and not the drug war for the suffering that surrounds him. Yet it was police who killed Tarika Wilson and who've kept their mouths clamped shut as the community cried out for answers. Across the nation, police are killing innocent people through needlessly confrontational paramilitary drug raids. It's a disturbing trend that will surely grow worse if we continue to blame drugs themselves for the preventable consequences of overzealous narcotics enforcement. Just look at the effect Lowe's campaign is already having:

"I don't know what caused Jesse to go out there, but thank God," said Bob Horton, a minister. He listens to a police radio scanner at home and has noticed a change in the neighborhood.

"People are calling in more when they see something," he said. "They didn't use to do that."

Unfortunately, the more calls police receive about suspected drug activity, the more mistakes will be made and the more innocent people will be killed. That is just the inevitable consequence of declaring war within our own communities. You get just exactly what you ask for, except, of course, any lasting peace and security.

So while I don't fault Jesse Lowe at all for spreading the message his challenging life has taught him, it's frustrating to see the discussion of drug abuse boiled down to such a simple soundbite. It is precisely the "Drugs Bring Death" mentality that fosters tolerance for the excessive drug war violence carried out by our own public servants. It is that sense of morbid inevitability that prevents too many of us from envisioning an answer beyond the endless war taking place in our own streets.

As long as the drug war continues, there will be no control, no security and no solution. If communities can muster the bravery to stand up to the dealers on their block, let's hope they'll someday join us in challenging the laws that created those enemies and recognize at long last that drugs are only as dangerous as we allow them to be.

The Drug War Doesn't Reduce Drug Use. Drug Users Reduce Drug Use.

Blogger and biomedical research scientist DrugMonkey asks drug war critics to explain declining rates of drug use over the last several years.

…for those of you who insist vociferously that the War on Drugs (considered inclusively with the Just Say No, D.A.R.E, main-stream media reporting, and all that stuff that is frequently rolled into a whole by the legalization crowd) is an abject failure...

for those of you who insist vociferously that you cannot tell teenagers anything about the dangers of recreational drugs and expect them to listen to you...

I would like these data explained to me.

There are many ways to respond to this and I wasn't surprised to find Pete Guither in the comments section with some good points. I guess I'd begin by observing that the existence of a massive often-brutal campaign to end drug use simply doesn't mean that said campaign is responsible when drug use declines. The drug czar has an obnoxious tendency to claim success by comparing current drug use rates to their highest point in history, which isn't exactly helpful.

But if there is one point that I think really illustrates the absurdity of crediting the drug war at large for the reductions in drug use we've seen, it is this: rates of alcohol and tobacco use have fallen in virtual lockstep with these declines in illegal drug use. That happened without any effort to eradicate the manufacturing of those substances, without interdicting the supply, without revoking financial aid for college from those found in possession, without mandatory minimums, drug-sniffing dogs, or student drug testing (which doesn't look for tobacco and utterly sucks at detecting alcohol).

The drug czar has actually gone so far as to imply that the war on illegal drugs somehow reduced alcohol and tobacco use, I guess through some sort of reverse gateway theory that he didn't flesh out for obvious reasons. But even if someone were to buy that argument (at tremendous risk of becoming an idiot), it would still be true that we were able to reduce consumption of our two most harmful drugs without deploying against them any of the costly, destructive and controversial tactics that characterize our modern drug war.

I would like that explained to me.

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