Drug Prohibition Doing Nothing To Affect Teen Use

One of the arguments for banning adult legal access to drugs like marijuana (and even allergy medications) is that it helps to prevent abuse of these drugs by underage kids.  This would be nice to test in a true control group setting, but we really don't have the opportunity under current laws to do so.  But we can work by proxy.  We can compare drugs that are illicit for everyone, like marijuana, to drugs that are legal for adults but not for minors, like tobacco. 

If drug warriors are correct, teenage tobacco use should be much higher than use of other illicit drugs.  This is particularly true because the proxy is an imperfect one, since the tobacco is a far less intimidating drug to try than, say, heroin.  However, it turns out not to be the case.  The new figures our out from our friendly US Government drug warriors, and it turns out that tobacco use is barely higher among teens than illicit drug use.

For example, the study shows that past month tobacco use among kids 12-17 was 12.9% in 2006, while past month illicit drug use in the same group was 9.8% (tables G.16 and G.7).  That's lower, but certainly not decisively so.  Both of these use numbers have fallen since 2002 at about the same rate.

Even more interesting are the figures for the number of kids 12-17 who had initiated use of certain substances in the past year (table G.26).  In that year, 2.45 million had initiated cigarette use, but 2.79 million had initiated illicit drug use.  Further, when asked if certain substances carried "great risk" in trying to purchase them, 68.7% of underage cigarette smokers said yes (table G.25).   This response was 10 or more points higher than that of teenage occasional users marijuana, cocaine, or even heroin.  In short, teenagers are saying it is more difficult and/or riskier to support cigarette use than it is to support a weekly marijuana, cocaine, or heroin habit -- exactly the opposite of the drug warriors' argument for prohibition  (but consistent with the libertarian argument that bringing these drug sales above ground will make underage purchase more visible and easier to combat).

HT: Hit and Run for the link

  • Valens

    Strong disagreement. Plenty of personal observation of family members who have gone down that road and their 'friends'. And the old saw about pot being a gateway drug may not be 100% on spot, but a lot of them use other drugs too (like X), and thus give significant exposure to that lifestyle to their children. Living the lazy lifestyle of the potsmoking partier can't set a good example if one's goal is to raise productive, happy children.

  • http://www.google.com ErikTheRed

    I'd be hesitant to use tobacco as a comparison because it's not really a major mood-altering drug in typical doses.

    It'd be much more interesting to compare the age group 19-20 to 21-22 for consumption of alcohol (America's only legal intoxicant) vs., say, marijuana, ecstasy and / or GBH (three inexpensive and easy to obtain party drugs). Personally, I have a lot of friends who do drugs recreationally. Only one of them turned into what I would call an addict, but she had started dating a drug dealer who hooked her on some particularly nasty stuff to make her dependent on him (that being said, nobody held a gun to her head). I think that most of them get high (or drunk) because they literally don't know how to have a good time any other way. Which is what drugs (and alcohol) are "good" for - they let you have a good time in situations that would otherwise be less enjoyable for various reasons (person is too stressed and needs to "unwind", person has self-esteem issues that are masked by intoxication, or the situation is actually boring and / or obnoxious and intoxication makes it seem fun).

    I know that the prohibitionists are completely deluded when they think that kids would have more access to drugs if they were legalized than they do now. Right now, it's easier for an underage kid to buy drugs than it is to buy alcohol (if you discount raiding the parent's supply). Drug dealers don't check IDs. Many drugs aren't expensive either - a tablet of 'X' costs less than a mixed drink does at some of the bars I go to. GBH is cheaper than 'X'. Pot can cost less than cheap beer (well, cheap pot anyway). There's no difficulty with regards to access - it's literally everywhere. Schools, nightclubs, people's homes - you name it. I think that part of the delusion is the idea of what a drug dealer is. Most suburbanites imagine that it's some non-white person wearing gang colors lurking in some ethnically-identifiable customized vehicle in the parking lot across the street from the school waiting for little Timmy and Mary to come out so that he can seduce them into the dark underworld as they innocently walk home from school. The dealer is much more likely to be Timmy's friend Bill who gets it from his "super-cool" older brother Dave in college, who in turn buys it from some other guy Jim who lives in his dorm, who buys it from his rich friend who lives off-campus who buys it from an actual, professional drug dealer. There are dozens of "Bills" at every school, and the "Daves" and "Jims" are at least 50% of the people enrolled in college.

    And the worst thing the prohibitionists do is create all of this hype about "gateway drugs" and "instant addiction" (I grew up in the age of "just say no"). Kids try the stuff and realize that it's bullshit, and then they don't trust any of the other information they hear. Just tell them the truth - intoxication is amusing, but too much will mess you up. Some intoxicants are more dangerous than others. Some will screw up your life more quickly than others, but too much of any of them will screw you up eventually. Moderation is a good thing. Self esteem (real self-esteem, not the "everyone is special" bullshit they sell as an artificial substitute these days) is crucial. Knowing how to have a good time and enjoy yourself without getting intoxicated is a must. These are the things that reduce people's inclinations to get intoxicated. And that will control drug use more than all of the laws in the world.

  • http://www.skipoliva.com Skip Oliva

    Coincidentally, the Federal Trade Commission has chosen this week to highlight it's "Don't Serve Teens" program (http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2007/09/dst.shtm), which scares people about the dangers of letting a 19-year-old adult take even one drink without state permission.

  • Mark

    There are three reasons why drugs should remain illegal.

    1. It increases the risk, and hence the costs of drugs. The higher the price of the object, the less the demand. Even illicit drugs follow the laws of economics.

    2. Criminilizing drugs means that drug rehabilitation can be enforced. The effectiveness of drug rehabilitation can be argued, but it is clear that some people need to be put into programs whether they want to be or not.

    It is a shame that the coddling left, after all of these decades, has not been able to design effective rehabilitation programs, and that the most effective programs are the Christian based 12 step type programs. The design of effective rehabilitation programs and medications should be a national priority.

    3. Arguing whether there are certain "gateway" drugs is not as important as arguing that illicit drug use is a "gateway" crime. Drug users commit multitudes of crimes to support their habit. These criminals are criminals of opportunity, and will snatch anything that is not locked down and then some.

    At the same time, drug crimes are easy crimes to convict people on. Often these criminals are caught in with the drugs on their possession.

    Therefore, these criminals can be easily convicted of a crime and incarcerated for it. While these criminals are in jail they no longer have the opportunity to commit multitudes of other crimes.

    Don't believe me? Check out the relationship between the incarceration rates and crime rates. These two statistics are inversely proportional to each other, and the crime rates in the United States started to drop once we started incarcerating criminals.

  • Reformed Republican

    3. Arguing whether there are certain "gateway" drugs is not as important as arguing that illicit drug use is a "gateway" crime. Drug users commit multitudes of crimes to support their habit. These criminals are criminals of opportunity, and will snatch anything that is not locked down and then some.

    Drugs are illegal. By using drugs, you are engaging in a criminal activity. That makes it easier to engage in other criminal activities. Also, people would be less compelled to commit crime to by drugs if they were cheaper. In other words, if drug use was not a crime, it would be less of a gateway to other crime.

    Compulsory rehabilitation programs are worthless. If a person does not want to stop using drugs, forcing them into rehab will not work. They have to decide that is a step they want to take if there is to be any hope of success.

  • http://www.google.com ErikTheRed

    @Skip Olivia->

    1. It increases the risk, and hence the costs of drugs. The higher the price of the object, the less the demand. Even illicit drugs follow the laws of economics.

    As mentioned in my earlier post, many party drugs are cost-comparable with alcohol and in many cases are easier for minors to obtain than alcohol. It's cheaper to get high than get drunk because party drugs give you more intoxication per dose. Yes, if you dropped supply sufficiently then price would go up, but the idea that the supply will ever drop that low is a joke. Too much demand driving the smuggling.

    2. Criminilizing drugs means that drug rehabilitation can be enforced. The effectiveness of drug rehabilitation can be argued, but it is clear that some people need to be put into programs whether they want to be or not.

    We force people to go through alcohol rehabilitation, don't we? But thank you for playing.

    3. Arguing whether there are certain "gateway" drugs is not as important as arguing that illicit drug use is a "gateway" crime. Drug users commit multitudes of crimes to support their habit. These criminals are criminals of opportunity, and will snatch anything that is not locked down and then some.

    I agree that stupid, unpopular, unenforceable laws create a disrespect for laws in general - but drugs are just a bit player here. Let's start with highway speed limits, minor cheating on taxes (did you report all of your tips and the $20 item you sold on e-bay?), etc...

    Drug addicts commit multitudes of crimes to support their habits because they've become unemployable. Most drug users don't commit criminal acts (aside from the actual drug use) because they have jobs. Again (see my note on drug dealers above), you're buying into the stereotype that drug users are all homeless, dirty, stupid petty theives. Drug users are everywhere. People you work with, school with, and go to church with. You just don't realize it because they don't fit your mental image, and they're just a little embarrassed about admitting it.

  • Mark

    "Also, people would be less compelled to commit crime to by drugs if they were cheaper

    First, if drugs were cheaper total consumption of drugs would increase. This would mean both more drug users and heavier usage of drugs by current users.

    Therefore, it is impossible to conclude whether people would be compelled to commit more or less crime because of cheaper drug prices.

    In my opinion, their current total spending levels on drugs would be remain constant and they would continue to commit crimes.

    "We force people to go through alcohol rehabilitation, don't we? But thank you for playing."

    Your snide remark aside, we only can force people to go through alchohol rehabilitation if they commit an alchohol related/caused offense. So, thank you for confirming my supposition, or are you advocating that we make drunk driving legal too?

    "), you're buying into the stereotype that drug users "

    I am not buying any stereotype. I don't differentiate between the two, and I dont care.

    Frankly, the fact remains. Drug users/addict and their fellow travelers commit crimes to both support their habit and control their marketplace. They also commit crimes, such as driving while intoxicated that endanger public safety.

    It is well within the public's interest to make sure that these people are incarcerated. Luckily for the public drug offenses are easy to apprehend, easy to prosecute, and easy to incarcerate. When we lock up individuals for drug offenses we are simultaneously locking up shop lifters, pick pockets, car thieves, petty thieves, and home invaders as well as individuals that commit even more serious crimes.

    "Let's start with highway speed limits"

    And this is an example of how the drug "legalizers" make their own straw man arguments. They get to decide the criteria for how well the war is going. And the criteria that they select is some impossible to meet criteria. TO put it another way, the "War on Speeding" or the "War on Homicide" is also being lost because there are still speeders and there are still murders in this country.

    What they miss is the actual laws are never meant to create an enviroment that completely eliminates these crimes. For example, speed limit laws are actually meant to enforce a certain distribution of speeds on the highways. THe enforcement of these laws is only meant to maintain this distribution. THe actual total prohibition of speeders is not contemplated.

    The drug legalizers then make the incredible leap that because a law is not totally eliminating the crime, that therefore the laws should be eliminated. This is complete lunacy and is basically the same argument that we should eliminate speeding laws, drunk driving laws, or laws against taking the lives of others. Think of the money we would save if we made all of these activities legal. No more highway patrol or city police. Hell, we could put a excise tax on murders and raise revenues that way.

    "If a person does not want to stop using drugs, forcing them into rehab will not work. They have to decide that is a step they want to take if there is to be any hope of success."

    I don't totally disagree and I have made the remarks about this. However, one of the major failings of compulsory rehabilitation programs is that there is not enough stick behind them. That is, if the person violates their rehabilitation, and hence their parole, there is little ramifications for this. That is a major change I would make in the system.

  • http://cdquarles.wordpress.com Charles D. Quarles

    FYI,

    It wasn't that long ago "illegal" drugs were all legal. Prohibition, like the War On Poverty, exacerbates the problems of drug use or "poverty", primarily by adding new problems to the mix. I believe there is an apocryphal saying attributed to Abraham Lincoln about conflating vices with crimes. Legalization, with reasonable penalties for disorderly conduct while intoxicated, is a means of focusing on the true problems associated with *public* intoxication. BTW, the only proper prohibition law the US ever had was the alcohol prohibition. That said prohibition moved the problem to smuggling and organized crime proved more unacceptable than cirrhosis and simple intoxication resulted in said prohibition's repeal. Please keep the rules of pharmacology and toxicology in mind. For *every* chemical there is a dose and route of administration that is reasonably safe; and there is a dose and route of administration that is fatal.

    That said, as long as we have drug laws, they must be enforced.

  • Mark

    "That said prohibition moved the problem to smuggling and organized crime proved more unacceptable than cirrhosis and simple intoxication resulted in said prohibition's repeal"

    This viewpoint is the conventional wisdom about the history of the 18th Amendment. However, this common view point does not fit the facts. Through most of the period of prohibition there was very little political support for ending prohibition.

    Prior to the passing of the federal income taxes, almost one third of federal revenue came from excise taxes on alchohol. That is why the federal government never passed any prohibition measure.

    Once the federal income tax was enacted, the federal government was able to pass prohibition because it no longer needed the revenues.

    However, this changed in 1930 when the Great Depression overcame the economy. The added federal tax revenues easily overcame any moralistic or public health argument in favor of prohibition.

    Here is an article that outlines this very factual argument.

    http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/search/s_518872.html

  • http://www.addicted.com Addiction

    Here's a website you may find useful. http://www.addicted.com is a site for friends, families, and those who suffer from various addictions.

  • Zach

    "The higher the price of the object, the less the demand."

    Increasing the price of something doesn't decrease demand, it only decreases the quantity demanded. The demand itself is still there.

  • http://netwd.com/ KIm

    Nice observation, thanks. I don’t visit your blog every day, but when I
    visit your blog I enjoy browsing through your old posts and try to catch up
    what I have missed since my last visit.

  • delta_1981

    I read this article. It is very useful for me.Coyote Blog is very interesting once. "Drug Prohibition Doing Nothing To Affect Teen Use" in this topic is very nice. Thankx for your article.

    =========

    Problem With Drugs or Alcohol? This Drug Rehab has Helped Thousands of Individuals to Recover.

    Drug Rehab

  • http://www.bestapartmentsinsanfrancisco.com charlesrichard

    Hi everyone, wishing goodluck one and all of this community, have a nice day, thank u
    ===========================================================================
    charles
    Addiction Treatment

  • http://www.restoreteens.com/Search/0/Drug-Rehab-Center/index.html Drug Rehabs

    There are many recovery centers located in the country that offer their services and facilities for Struggling Christian teens. They suggest them catholic principles and church based programs to teach and recover them.
    http://www.restoreteens.com/Search/0/Drug-Rehab-Center/index.html

  • http://www.edrugrehabs.com/ teen drug

    Teen drug rehab center provides good facilities and environment. This center is providing best services and treatments to their addicted teenager. Teen drug rehab center is help to the addicted troubled teens.

    http://www.edrugrehabs.com/

  • http://www.troubledteensguide.com/discuss-teens-problems.php Teenagers

    Drug and alcohol addiction is more devastating problem in country. There are so many residential treatment centers located in the country that provides wide varieties of treatment procedures and therapies to heal the problems of troubled teenagers.

    http://www.troubledteensguide.com/discuss-teens-problems.php