- Rob Stewart, Drug Policy Foundation
On Thursday, June 18, the nonprofit Parents' Resource Institute for Drug Education (PRIDE, www.prideusa.org) released its annual, end-of-the-school-year surveys of adolescent drug use and gun possession.
PRIDE president Thomas Gleaton, top White House drug advisor Barry McCaffrey, and senators Paul Coverdell (R-GA), Charles Grassley (R-IA), and Joe Biden (D-DE) took part in the Capitol Hill press conference. The bipartisan group announced that the students overall reported a decrease in illegal drug use, including alcohol and nicotine. But the 11th PRIDE survey found that some of the older students, in particular 12th graders, reported slight but statistically significant increases for cigarettes, cocaine, uppers and downers, and designer drugs (PRIDE's terms).
The survey also shows that illegal drug use is less likely to be correlated with school activities, good grades, parental involvement and discipline, and "religiosity." About 30.1 percent of students said that their parents
Gleaton's statement about the drug use survey was guardedly optimistic. He attributed the decline in part to the 1996 presidential campaign debates and parental involvement. Gleaton said in a statement, "We have made remarkable progress in the past two years, but to return to drug use levels of 1990, we would have to cut today's usage in half."
Gleaton summarized his warning for USA Today (June 19, p. 6A) as follows: "When drug use drops out of view of the American people, that allows the bad guys to flourish again." But, according to the White House's Summer
PRIDE's survey of students and guns found that the percentage of students reporting that they carried guns with them to school had dropped 36 percent over the last five years -- to 3.8 percent for the 1997-1998 school year
The gun survey adds to the dark reputation of drugs. "With this volatile mixture of guns, bad attitudes, and drugs," Gleaton said, "it only takes one student to create a national nightmare like Jonesboro, Arkansas, or Springfield, Oregon." Students gunned down fellow students in both towns this year.
The PRIDE survey leaves the association of guns and drugs alone. There is no explanation about the black market's influence nor a suggestion that kids who break one set of laws are less inclined to be stopped by other laws banning a particular behavior.
(Rob Stewart is director of communications for the Drug Policy Foundation, and editor of DPF's Drug Policy Letter. You can find them on the web at http://www.dpf.org/.)