Drug Prevention

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Pot, Aliens, and ONDCP

Seth Stevenson at Slate is in love with the new ONDCP ad in which a pot-smoker's girlfriend dumps him for a non-smoking alien:
Grade: A. This is very possibly the most effective, and least offensive, anti-marijuana campaign ever created. I know that ONDCP, and the Partnership for a Drug Free America, are cautiously thrilled with it. I expect it will be the model for years to come.

I'm not going to beat Stevenson up over this. He shares my belief that these ads shouldn't be offensive, and I agree that this is obviously tame by ONDCP standards. But what on earth does it mean to say that ONDCP is "cautiously thrilled" with this?

When has ONDCP ever been less than thrilled with their advertisements? They've vigorously defended their media campaign throughout its numerous incarnations, never once finding fault, even as a growing mountain of evidence depicts their public outreach efforts as an undeniable failure. Could it be that they were more candid with Seth Stevenson than the U.S. Congress?

Stevenson's analysis is fair enough, at least insofar as this ad is concerned. But, dude, before you go gushing anymore about truth in advertising at ONDCP, you might wanna check out "Stoners in the Mist."

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New ONDCP Video Demonstrates Exactly Why Their Ads Don't Work

"Stoners in the Mist" is a fake documentary from AboveTheInfluence.com in which "Dr. Barnard Puck," clad in safari clothes, observes stoners and performs various experiments on them.

This is worth discussing only because it perfectly illustrates the lack of seriousness that still dominates the marijuana debate. I don’t know how anyone could watch this and conclude that the people who made it are a credible source of information about the effects of marijuana.

Among the highlights:

* A practically comatose stoner fails to notice when a tracking collar is placed around his neck

* Unable to move, two stoners sit on the same couch for 72 hours

* A stoned girl forgets her friend's name and has brownies in her hair

* Despite repeated attempts, a stoner is unable to grasp objects tossed to him at close range

* Categorical statements such as "we have learned through our intensive research that both male and female stoners tend to lack the motivation to maintain proper hygiene" are made.

At the risk of increasing their traffic, you have to watch it to appreciate how far-fetched and derogatory this video really is. It reminded me immediately of D.W. Griffith's racist classic The Birth of a Nation, which glorifies the Ku Klux Klan and depicts African Americans as incoherent slobbering rapists.

So yesterday, when an ONDCP staffer called SSDP and basically threatened to increase the childishness of his office's activities, we just laughed because there's really no lower level of discourse available to them. Two weeks ago, I witnessed ONDCP's David Murray indignantly challenge the seriousness of his critics, yet it is Murray himself who lobbies for more funding to produce utterly banal and sophomoric nonsense like "Stoners in the Mist."

So if the Responsible and Serious Youth Advocates at ONDCP can't figure out why they've alienated everyone, let me spell it out: it's because you're having your own made-up conversation about marijuana that no one else can participate in because it is completely fictitious and insane.

No, this is not a video about the effects of marijuana. It is a parting shot from an entrenched clan of spiteful, sniveling spin-doctors who continue to sling mud in desperation even as their puddle dries up.

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ONDCP: We Don't Care What You Dorks on YouTube Think

A Seattle Post-Intelligencer story about political messages on YouTube.com contains this delightful quote from ONDCP:
The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy said it expects its YouTube messages to be ridiculed, laughed at, remade and spoofed. And they are.

The irony here is that, predictable as it may have been, ONDCP had no clue that this was going to happen. They deliberately generated media coverage of their YouTube page, only to find their videos marred by harsh comments and dismal viewer ratings. ONDCP quickly disabled these options, but the damage was done.

If they had genuinely anticipated this level of hostility from viewers, they would have optimized their page before sending out press releases about it. Because they did not, most ONDCP videos are now permanently stamped with the lowest-possible rating of one star.

This is to say nothing of the countless parodies that are now drowning out ONDCP’s unpopular propaganda. Since YouTube automatically recommends similar videos anytime you watch something, viewers of ONDCP’s materials are unavoidably connected to these abundant counter-messages. It is almost certainly for this reason that ONDCP has not uploaded a single new video since the page was first launched back in September 2006.

In a case like this, the mature decision would be to ignore them. But I find it amusing that even something as perfectly logical as expecting ridicule on YouTube turns out to be a lie when it comes from ONDCP.

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it isn't balance when opinion runs as fact

Vancouver, BC
The Vancouver Sun (Canada)

Just Say Know: What You Should Know About Federally-Funded Youth Drug Prevention Programs

The federal government continues to spend hundreds of millions of dollars per year on drug prevention programs that make little if any impact on youth drug use. Programs such as D.A.R.E., the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign and Random Student Drug Testing stand in sharp contrast to the successful anti-smoking “Truth” campaign, which generally follows the rules of good social marketing. This discussion will explore why federally-funded youth drug prevention programs fail and offer pragmatic alternatives that Congress should consider. Speakers include: Marsha Rosenbaum – Director of the Safety First Project and the San Francisco office of the Drug Policy Alliance. From 1977 to 1995, Rosenbaum was the principal investigator on National Institute on Drug Abuse-funded studies of heroin addiction, methadone maintenance treatment, MDMA (Ecstasy), cocaine, and drug use during pregnancy. She is the author of “Safety First: A Reality-Based Approach to Teens and Drugs.” Kris Krane – Executive Director of Students for Sensible Drug Policy. SSDP is an international grassroots network of students who are concerned about the impact drug abuse has on our communities, but who also know that the War on Drugs is failing their generation and their society. They have chapters on hundreds of high school and college campuses. Please RSVP to Grant Smith at gsmith@drugpolicy.org or 202-216-0035. Snacks and beverages provided. Space is Limited.
Wed, 04/25/2007 - 12:00pm - 1:00pm
Washington, DC
United States

Feature: In Britain, Labor's Decade-Long Drug War a Failure, New Report Finds

With Britain's 10-year UK Drug Strategy up for renewal or replacement next year, a series of reports detailing its flaws have appeared in recent months. Now, we can add one more to the list. This week, a new independent panel on drug policy issued a report saying that a decade of Labor's drug war had failed to curb the social problems and criminality related to drug abuse under prohibition.

UK government: failing at drug policy
The report, An Analysis of UK Drug Policy was authored by University of Maryland drug policy analyst Peter Reuter and Alex Stevens of the University of Kent, for the UK Drug Policy Commission. Headed by long-time drug reform proponent Dame Ruth Runciman, the commission describes its mission as "to provide independent and objective analysis of drug policy and find ways to help the public and policy makers better understand the implications and options for future policy."

If the commission's report is any indicator, policy makers can use the help. Labor's strategy of education campaigns, forced drug treatment, some harm reduction measures, and harsher prison sentences has not made an appreciable dent in drug use. Britain has the highest level of dependent drug users in Europe, the report found, and heroin use has skyrocketed from 5,000 people in 1975 to an estimated 280,000 now.

The report estimated the size of the British drug market at more than $10 billion a year and the cost of drug-related crime at more than $25 billion a year. It also found that Britain's drug use rates were among the highest in Europe.

While Reuters and Stevens were highly skeptical of the ability of drug policy to influence drug use, they praised harm reduction measures. "Government policies have only limited impact on rates of drug use itself," they wrote. "However, the UK has introduced evidence-based measures, notably the expansion of treatment and harm reduction, that have reduced the harms that would otherwise have occurred. On the other hand it operates measures, such as classifying drugs to deter use and increasing use of imprisonment, that have little or no support from available research."

The number of people in drug treatment had increased from 85,000 to 181,000 between 1998 and 2005, much of that increase driven by the criminal justice system, the authors noted. But the number of drug war prisoners has also increased by 111% in the past decade, and sentences are nearly a third longer than when Tony Blair took office.

The report's executive analysis section on policy implications is worth quoting at length:

There is little evidence from the UK, or any other country, that drug policy influences either the number of drug users or the share of users who are dependent. There are numerous other cultural and social factors that appear to be more important. It is notable that two European countries that are often used as contrasting examples of tough or liberal drug policies, Sweden and the Netherlands, both have lower rates of overall and problematic drug use than the UK.

Given the international evidence as to the limited ability of drug policy to influence national trends in drug use and drug dependence, it is unreasonable to judge the performance of a country's drug policy by the levels of drug use in that country. Yet that is the indictor to which the media and public instinctively turn. However, this is not to say that drug policy is irrelevant.

The arena where government drug policy needs to focus further effort and where it can make an impact is in reducing the levels of drug-related harms (crime, death and disease and other associated problems) through the expansion of and innovation in treatment and harm reduction services.

We know very little about the effectiveness and impact of most enforcement efforts, whether they are directed at reducing the availability of drugs or at enforcing the law over possession and supply. Imprisoning drug offenders for relatively substantial periods does not appear to represent a cost effective response.

Transparency in resource allocations is urgently needed if the overall and relative balance of supply and demand reduction interventions is to be considered.

The UK invests remarkably little in independent evaluation of the impact of drug policies, especially enforcement. This needs redressing if policy makers are to be able to identify and introduce effective measures in the future.

Unsurprisingly, the Blair government rejected the report's findings. "The British Crime Survey shows that drug use has fallen by 16% since 1998 and drug use among adults has fallen by 21%," a Home Office statement said. "We are determined to build on this progress by continuing to take more drugs off our streets, put more dealers behind bars and make sure young people are informed about the harms drugs cause," he said.

Equally unsurprisingly, the opposition Tories called the report "a shocking indictment" of Blair's drug policy. "After ten years in power this is a shocking indictment of the government's failure and shows that Tony Blair has utterly failed in his pledge to get tough on the 'causes' of crime," said Tory Shadow Home Secretary David Davis in a press release. "The consequences of this failure are not just that hundreds of thousands of young lives are being ruined -- drugs also fuel much of the gun and knife related violence on our streets today, thus destroying communities."

But the Tories would only offer more of the same, the press release indicated. "Conservatives would take real action to combat this scourge on society. Not only would we increase the amount of residential drug rehab beds and increase the prison capacity so that offenders can settle and complete their drug rehab courses, we would also establish a dedicated UK border police to stop drugs simply flowing in through our porous borders. This force would also act to detect and prosecute those who smuggle drugs into our country."

Danny Kushlick, director of Transform Drug Policy Foundation, which advocates legalization, had a different solution. "We know from evidence that misuse of drugs is related significantly to social ill-being and social deprivation," he told the Guardian. "You cannot deal with that stuff with education and prevention or through teaching younger and younger children. You deal with it by redistributing wealth and improving wellbeing."

Britain has seen report after report detailing the failures of prohibitionist drug policy in the last two years. Next year, it will have the opportunity to put the lessons learned into practice. When was the last time we had such an overview of drug policy in the United States?

Tougher prison sentences 'have little impact on flow of drugs'

United Kingdom
The Guardian (UK)

Britain's fight against drugs 'a total failure'

United Kingdom
The Observer (UK)

Drag Racing: The Anti-Drug

Not to be confused with the superb know-your-rights manual by Katya Komisaruk (reviewed in the latest DWC), Beat The Heat is also a non-profit "Cops and kids" program in which police officers teach children to avoid drugs and alcohol by becoming interested in drag racing:
To help EDUCATE the young people of our communities about the real problems of illegal drug and alcohol use, To EDUCATE everyone to the horrors of alcohol or drug impaired driving, To promote a better understanding between the Police and the communities they serve and, To EDUCATE the general public about DRAG RACING, and encourage everyone to not race in the street.
Yes, these folks are, in all seriousness, offering drag racing as an alternative to risky behavior. Apparently, drug racing is fun for the whole family:
There are many, many women who Drag Race and several of them have advanced even into the VERY elite group of persons who drive the ultimate machine, the Top Fuel Dragster, at 300 Miles Per Hour.

With the advent of NHRA's new JR. DRAG RACING LEAGUE younger fans are now able to participate in Drag Racing at a very early age (8 years old).
8-year-olds, dude. They're letting 8-year-olds drag race in the name of drug and alcohol prevention, which may be the final sign that there's literally nothing you can't justify in the name of protecting kids from drugs. The overwhelming lunacy of it all is best illustrated by the fact that they're putting 8-year-olds behind the wheel of these massive death traps, even though children that young aren't even at risk for drug use.

In case it's actually necessary to explain that drag racing is vastly more dangerous than taking drugs, here's a video of some horrifying, fiery drag race crashes. Among other things, it's quite clear that these machines explode without warning, launching flaming shrapnel in every direction. Simply attending one of these events is arguably more perilous than the responsible use of any illegal drug.

Of course, despite our doubts about whether children should be recklessly endangered for a perverse photo-op, we don't think drag racing should be illegal. But the practice of teaching 8-year-olds to race each other in giant explosive rockets speaks volumes about the credibility of people who claim that marijuana will ruin your life.

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Press Release: White House Pushes Controversial Student Drug Testing Agenda in Honolulu on 3/27

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, March 22, 2007 Contact: Pamela Lichty, 808-224-3056 or Kit Grant, 808-552-5904 White House Pushes Controversial Student Drug Testing Agenda at Summit in Honolulu on March 27 Concerned Citizens to provide Educators with Missing Information; Parents, and Experts and Others Available for Interview Honolulu, HI — The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) is conducting a series of regional summits designed to convince local educators to implement across-the-board random, suspicionless student drug testing. This policy is unsupported by the available science and opposed by leading experts in adolescent health. The third summit of 2007 takes place on Tuesday, March 27th in Honolulu at the Sheraton Waikiki, 2255 Kalakaua Avenue at 8:30 a.m. Although the ONDCP has toured the country for the last three years promoting student drug testing, the largest study on the effectiveness of such testing, conducted by respected federally-funded researchers in 2003, found no difference in drug use among 94,000 students who were tested and those who were not. Selected regional educators and drug testing industry representatives have been invited to attend the Honolulu summit, where the ONDCP will continue to describe student drug testing as a "silver bullet" to prevent adolescent drug use. A group of concerned citizens will also attend to provide educators with important information missing from the summit, such as the objection of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Association of Addiction Professionals and the National Association of Social Workers to testing. These professionals believe random testing breaks down relationships of trust between students and adults and contribute to a hostile school environment. “We need to spend our resources educating young people, not putting them under expensive surveillance programs that have not been proven safe or effective,” said Pamela Lichty, President of the Drug Policy Forum of Hawai’i and Board Member of the Drug Policy Alliance. “Drug testing breaks down relationships of trust. All credible research on substance abuse prevention points to eliminating, rather than creating, sources of alienation and conflict between young people, their parents and schools.” The Hawaiian State Legislature has already considered, and rejected, the policy. In February 2003 the Hawai’i State Legislature voted down a bill that would have allowed schools to randomly drug test students enrolled in athletics or “physically strenuous” extracurricular activities. Currently no public schools in Hawaii have a random drug testing policy. “With the absence of evidence supporting random drug testing in schools, and given that there are substance abuse prevention programs that are non-intrusive, respect students' dignity and privacy and have been proven to work, why would a school embark on such a controversial program?” said Dr. Katherine Irwin, an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa. “As a concerned parent I want my children to refuse drugs for better reasons than fear of a random test. We want them to develop deeper, internal reasons to resist drugs, alcohol and cigarettes, ones that will stay with them during summers when school is out of session, and when they graduate and go on to college.” said E.J. Heroldt, a parent of children at Mid-Pacific Institute, a private school that implemented a voluntary drug testing program. Making Sense of Student Drug Testing: Why Educators Are Saying No (2006), a 25-page booklet published by the Drug Policy Alliance and the ACLU, provides the latest scientific research on student drug testing. The booklet covers the legal implications associated with student drug testing, analyzes the costs of implementing such policies, and provides resources for educators who are interested in addressing drug abuse among young people. Making Sense of Student Drug Testing: Why Educators are Saying No can be found online at http://www.drugtestingfails.org. Excerpts from the booklet are included below: Comprehensive, rigorous and respected research shows there are many reasons why random student drug testing is not good policy: · Drug testing is not effective in deterring drug use among young people; · Drug testing is expensive, taking away scarce dollars from other, more effective programs that keep young people out of trouble with drugs; · Drug testing can be legally risky, exposing schools to potentially costly litigation; · Drug testing may drive students away from extracurricular activities, which are a proven means of helping students stay out of trouble with drugs; · Drug testing can undermine trust between students and teachers, and between parents and children; · Drug testing can result in false positives, leading to the punishment of innocent students; · Drug testing does not effectively identify students who have serious problems with drugs; and · Drug testing may lead to unintended consequences, such as students using drugs (like alcohol) that are more dangerous but less detectable by a drug test. Educators should implement alternatives to drug testing that emphasize education, discussion, counseling and extracurricular activities, and that build trust between students and adults. The first and second regional summit of 2007 were held in Charleston, South Carolina (January 24) and Newark, New Jersey (February, 27). The last summit will be held later this year in Las Vegas, NV (April 24).
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