Presidential Influence and Teenage Drug Abuse.
"Just don’t do it;, the slogan from Bob Dole’s anti-drug campaign upon a cursory
evaluation, may appear to have been an inefficient way of confronting the growingOrder now
problem of national drug abuse. After all, it is hardly reasonable to believe that a
potential drug user will specifically consider these words before deciding whether
to get high or not.
However, this slogan, and the man that stands behind it, represents a sorely
needed, value-oriented stance on the issue that was lacking in the Clinton
administration. The president’s cavalier attitude was responsible for a dramatic
increase in drug abuse among teenagers.
While Clinton’s baby boomer generation
dismissed aggressive anti-drug campaigns as ineffectual, the truth is that tough
approaches to the problem have proven to be very successful. The Nixon, Reagan
and Bush Sr. administrations are direct examples of this.
When Richard Nixon began his first term, use of marijuana and heroin had
reached an all-time high. In response, he vowed to wage a national attack on
narcotics abuse, which involved reducing the flow of drugs into the country while
stepping up drug treatment programs. Nixon began his work by arranging for the
extradition of noted heroin chemists, and sent ambassadors to negotiate narcotics
agreements with foreign countries.
Turkey, which provided about 80 percent of the
U.S. heroin supply promised a complete cessation of its production in exchange for
$35.7 million in aid. On the national level, the Nixon administration further proved
its dedication to the cause by legalizing the use of drugs to combat addiction and by
encouraging anti-drug commercials and television programs. Although many were
doubtful that these measures would have any impact, they did help dramatically
curtail drug abuse.
In 1975, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)
announced that while the purity of heroin had declined, the street price was four
times greater. The result was a marked decline in heroin abuse.
Unfortunately, the Carter administration failed to continue the vigorous anti-drug
campaign. In fact, President Carter at one time advocated that marijuana possession
be legalized. It is little wonder that, in the absence of strong moral leadership, by
1979 half of all teenagers were experimenting with the drug. Fortunately, Reagan
was elected at this crucial time, and was succeeded by George Bush Sr.
presidents strongly supported drug interdiction. Between the years of 1979 and
1992, teenage drug abuse reduced by one-half.
The fluctuation of drug abuse statistics in accordance with changing political
leadership is not coincidental. It is a direct reflection of the importance of
presidential guidance on this issue. The Republican presidents that took an
aggressive anti-drug stance helped to drastically ameliorate the problem of
Under their leadership, public attitudes towards drug use changed. The
belief that taking drugs was morally incorrect became more widespread. Most
importantly, they proved that the war on drugs is not a losing battle. Parents,
educators and law enforcement officials do not have to accept drug abuse as a
growing and irreversible trend. Sadly, the Clinton administration appears to have
espoused Carter’s apathetic stance on the issue. For the first part of his term, he
appointed a surgeon general who voiced support of drug legalization, and reduced
the amount of resources available to the White House drug office.
emerged indicating that members of his own staff had taken drugs. Most dismaying
is that instead of denouncing his attempt to experiment with marijuana, President
Clinton made light of the subject, cavalierly joking about it on Music Television. If
the President of the United States does not vehemently condemn the action of
taking drugs, how can society expect today’s youth to attach any stigmatization or
sense of shame to drug abuse?
Recent polls have shown that the problem appears to be rooted in the fact that
many baby boomer parents experimented with drugs in their youth, and
subsequently expect that their children will do the same. Eighty-three percent of
parents who had never smoked marijuana believed it would be a "crisis" if their
children were to experiment with drugs, as opposed to just 58 percent of parents
that had smoked marijuana. These statistics show that, under Clinton’s liberal
example, a large segment of our .