Drug Trade in Schools

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Drug gangs using schoolchildren in deals

United Kingdom
The Birmingham Post (UK)

Gateway Theory Debunked...Again

A 12 year study from the university of Pittsburgh pokes yet another whole in the wet paper napkin known as the "gateway theory."


Investigators said that environmental factors (e.g., a greater exposure to illegal drugs in their neighborhoods) as well as subjects' "proneness to deviancy" were the two characteristics that most commonly predicted substance abuse.

"This evidence supports what's known as the common liability model ... [which] states [that] the likelihood that someone will transition to the use of illegal drugs is determined not by the preceding use of a particular drug, but instead by the user's individual tendencies and environmental circumstances," investigators stated in a press release. They added, "The emphasis on the drugs themselves, rather than other, more important factors that shape a person's behavior, has been detrimental to drug policy and prevention programs."

No kidding. It's such a perfectly logical conclusion, it's hard to understand why anyone thought otherwise. Especially since one study after another has shown the exact same thing.

It shouldn't take 12 years of research by respected social scientists to tell us that trying one drug can't possibly have the psycho-pharmacological effect of making you want some different drug you've never tried before. Marijuana grows on trees. It's ubiquitous. That's why people try it first.

As for the "environmental factors" that actually are useful in predicting behavior, much thanks is owed to drug prohibition for creating a criminal subculture through which illicit drugs are widely available to young people. As a high school student, I had potential access to a far greater variety of drugs than I do now as professional drug policy reform activist. Alcohol was the one thing you couldn't get easily.

Inevitably, the "gateway theory" will not die a sudden death today. It will live on in the form of anecdotal accounts from marijuana "victims" whose progression into addiction will be taken out of context. It's a shame that so many people who are genuinely concerned about the drug problems facing America's youth nonetheless insist on misunderstanding basic facts about drug use.

Imagine the progress that could be achieved overnight if research such the Pittsburgh study were used to make policy.

United States

Ineffective Drug Czar Endorses Failing Prevention Program

DRUG POLICY ALLIANCE www.drugpolicy.org FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, October 17, 2006 Contact: Tony Newman 646-335-5384, Bill Piper 202-669-6430 Ineffective Drug Czar Endorses Failing Prevention Program Gives Award to Montana Anti-Meth Ad Campaign, Even Though Evidence Shows Campaign is a Failure Advocates Say Drug Treatment and Honest Drug Education More Effective Than Scare Tactics U.S. Drug Czar John Walters presented the popular, but ineffective, Montana Meth Project with a certificate of recognition from the White House yesterday, citing the private anti-meth advertising campaign as one of the nation's “most powerful and creative anti-drug programs.” Mr. Walters declared that the campaign’s message “is resonating with teens,” even though the campaign’s own internal evaluations concluded the program is having no impact on teen meth use. “I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that an ineffective drug czar is giving an award to an ineffective program,” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, the nation’s leading drug policy reform organization. “Once again, the Drug Czar is pushing feel-good projects that don’t work instead of honest information that is more effective at keeping young people safe.” The Montana Meth Project uses graphic pictures and scare tactics to frighten teens away from using meth. In one ad, a young woman is shown literally plucking out all her eyebrows while on meth. In another, a young woman says that even trying meth just once will lead to addiction and prostitution. Yet these kinds of ads have been proven to fail. From decades of research, we know which kinds of prevention messages will backfire by doing more harm than good: scare tactics, over-use of authority figures, talking down to young people, and conveying messages or ideas that are misleading, extremist, or do not conform with young people’s own perceptions and experiences. “Once teens think they are being lied to, they stop listening to all prevention messages,” Piper said. Numerous prevention experts have criticized the ads in the press, and cited the ad campaign as an example of how not to prevent drug abuse. Not surprisingly, the Montana Meth Project’s own internal evaluations, released in April, found that, after spending millions of dollars on ads, Montana teens are actually less likely to associate using meth with “great” or “moderate” risk. In fact, the number of Montana teens who reported that there was “no risk” to regular meth use actually increased by five percent. The biggest irony may be that the White House’s own anti-drug ads have been proven a failure. Despite spending over a billion dollars trying to scare teens, six government studies have found that the government’s ads are not reducing teen drug use. Several studies have suggested that the ads might actually be making teens more likely to use drugs. Drug policy experts say the single most effective step policymakers can take to prevent drug abuse is to increase funding for treatment programs. Currently, close to half of those who seek treatment cannot obtain it because of long waiting lists and lack of funding. California is leading the way in getting treatment to people addicted to methamphetamine. California’s voter-mandated treatment-instead-of-incarceration initiative, Proposition 36, is successfully treating ten times more methamphetamine users each year than the state's "drug court" system reaches, according to drug court data. The government can help reduce adult methamphetamine abuse by ensuring adults have alternatives to drug use, most notably by increasing employment and educational opportunities and strengthening families. The most effective way to help people who are already abusing meth is to make substance abuse treatment widely available to all who need it. “The Montana Meth Project should drastically change the content and flavor of its ad campaign,” said Piper. “Of course, we’re never going to be able to significantly reduce meth abuse until we make treatment available to all who need it, whenever they need it, and as often as they need it.”
United States

Not Asking the Basic Questions

The North Hunterdon district in Clinton Township in southern New Jersey is debating their substance abuse policy, according to the Courier News. The discussion comes amidst recognition that the school has drug use. Senior Jad Walther think it's on the rise; he told the News that "he sees drugs being sold near lockers or in hallways when teachers aren't around." As is the usual, basic questions are not being asked:
  1. Given that there is not a single drug free high school in the country (an exaggeration, perhaps, but not much of one), will North Hunterdon-Voorhees Regional High School succeed where all others have failed?
  2. Why is it that this one vice among all the others in which humans (including young people) are wont to indulge takes the form of a criminal underground trade literally running out of the school, from the lockers?
  3. If it's so easy for kids to get away with not only using but also selling drugs -- merely waiting until a teacher is not around -- is it realistic to think that further crackdowns will do the trick -- if it's that easy?
  4. Won't the drug selling just move somewhere else if they do crack down inside the schools? Perhaps getting taken over by especially dangerous people in especially dangerous places?
The obvious point that drugs are being sold out of school lockers, by kids to other kids, because they are illegal and only because they are illegal. There is not a major, school-locker-based, criminal trade in alcohol, even though it is illegal for minors (and even though many of the under-age manage to get it). Alcohol abuse is an issue, but it is not a cause of black market violence, of criminal economic conduct inside school buildings, or of temptation through the profit motive to get involved in crime. My recommendation to North Hunterdon is, whatever else they attempt with regards to drug policy, they also enact a resolution calling on Congress and the state of New Jersey to legalize drugs. At a minimum they should start asking the basic questions. Letters to the editor go to: [email protected]
Clinton Township, NJ
United States

Maryland Marijuana Gumballs

Marijuana-filled gumballs, apparently known as "greenades," drew the attention of the DEA after they became available at Ellicott City's Howard High school in Howard, County, Maryland, not far outside Washington, according to DC-area paper The Examiner.
“It’s a new idea and it’s new to the DEA,” said Gregory Lee, a retired supervisory special agent of the Drug Enforcement Agency, who had never heard of anyone packaging marijuana in such a way before. “When it comes to drug-dealing, you’re only limited by your imagination.”
I agree with that last statement -- but what does that say about either the efficacy of drug enforcement efforts or the impact of drug prohibition laws? Because the drugs are illegal, there is no possibility for regulation to control the form in which they are made available -- "hence Greenades" -- and because the drugs are illegal, there is no possibility for regulation to control where and when and by whom the drugs get sold -- hence high school students selling drugs in the schools to other kids. And the endless possibilities for innovation in packaging drugs mean there also must be endless possibilities for hiding drugs too. Or we could legalize the drugs and mostly end this craziness... The Examiner accepts letters at:
Main Office/Letters to the Editor 1015 15th St. NW Suite 500 Washington, DC 20005 (202) 903-2000 [email protected]
Ellicott City, MD
United States

Editorial: Do We Really Want to Help Kids Find the Drug Dealers?

David Borden, Executive Director

David Borden's usual Thursday evening editing session
One of this week's drug war news items is a legislative effort in the state of Maine to create a committee to study the possibility of a registry, accessible to the general public, of people who have been convicted repeatedly of drug offenses. Supporters have portrayed the idea as a way to help families protect their children from people in Maine who may want to provide drugs to them.

Even using drug war logic (generally a bad idea), this idea fails pretty decisively. Most kids don't start using drugs because they are offered them by professional dealers. Most kids start using drugs because they are offered them by other kids -- kids who are providing either for social reasons or because they have gotten involved in the criminal enterprise, but in either case not the repeatedly convicted adults who would pop up on the state's web site. It's also important to remember that most drug dealers never get caught, hence will never appear in the registry for that reason.

So while a registry would enable parents to be aware of some fraction of the serious drug dealers out there, it will miss (and perhaps divert attention from) the more common pathways through which drugs might get into the hands of their children. Furthermore, the same unstoppable economic process that turns any bust of a dealer into a job opportunity for new dealers, must also apply, at least partly, to any repeat dealers who lose business because some parents were able to keep their children clear of any given dealer -- if the kids are determined or even just willing, they'll wind up getting their drugs from someone else.

Most glaring, however, is an argument that was pointed out in a "practice" blog post by a member of our staff, Scott Morgan, on our soon-to-be-released new web site. Scott used a similar registry in Tennessee, limited to methamphetamine offenders, to show how usable it would be (perhaps is) to any young people, in any given county in the state, wishing to find leads on people in their county who might be able to sell them meth or other drugs -- an outcome exactly the opposite of what the registry purports to want to prevent.

The main difference (no pun intended) between Tennessee's registry and Maine's proposed registry, other than Maine's including all illegal drugs, is that Maine's is to be limited to "habitual" drug offenders, people who have been convicted of drug dealing multiple times. But repeat offenders are exactly the people who are the most likely to offend yet again -- the most usable listings for kids or others wanting to locate drug sellers conveniently narrowed down. But widening the registry to include all drug offenders won't help either -- because increasing the number of listings would also increase the registry's usability to kids wanting to find dealers. Either way you can't get around the idea that a drug offender registry is effectively a taxpayer-subsidized advertising campaign supporting drug dealing.

In the end, we must return to the issue that the primary way young people start to get involved in drug use is through the influence of other kids -- in many instances buying the drugs from other kids, in the schools. This is one of the factors that has led to an increased prevalence of handguns in schools -- where the underground market goes, so also tend to go weapons.

But it need not be that way. While use of alcohol by minors is a big issue (alcohol is just as much of a drug as any of the others, and a rather destructive one), at least kids are not buying it from other kids, in the school, from people who carry guns. That situation exists with the illegal drugs precisely because we have banned them. With drug legalization, the criminal problems associated with the trade in drugs would largely vanish -- no more armed drug trade in the schools, no more turf wars or open air markets.

And while the harm from the use of the drugs themselves will not simply disappear when prohibition is ended, the sheer level of destructiveness currently associated with addiction in particular would also drop substantially, as users would no longer be subject to the random impurities, and fluctuations in purity, that currently lead to poisonings and overdoses; and the high street prices drugs currently have would also drop, enabling many if not most addicts who are now driven to extreme behaviors like theft and prostitution to get the money to buy drugs to at least afford the habit through legal means of earning. Escalating the failed policy of prohibition won't accomplish this.

In the meanwhile let's at least cool it with these hare-brained ideas like drug offender registries. The continued stigmatization of people who have already been punished ought to be enough reason. But if it's not, the incredibly poor logic behind this idea ought to be. Do we really want to help kids find the drug dealers? I don't.

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