By Roger Morgan. Californians for Drug-Free Schools
Marsha Rosenbaum is a self professed drug abuse expert, whose research was funded for 18 years by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. If the contents of her booklet called ‘SAFETY FIRST, a Reality- Based approach to TEENS, DRUGS, and Drug Education’ is reflective of her research, we should demand our tax dollars back. If ever she was a professional, she has now reduced herself to a snake oil salesman.
The worst thing about it is that 30,000 copies of ‘SAFETY FIRST’ were printed and distributed by her employer, The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), and copies were given to every school in the nation. That should kill more than a few kids, and keep the supply lines open for drugs …. the mission of her employer. Her affiliation with the DPA alone is enough to expose her true intent.
As a parent who lost two step children to drug addiction twenty five years ago, and a very active drug prevention activist for the last 7 or 8 years, I have searched for solutions with no pre-conceived ideas of what it took to keep kids off drugs. Just about everything I have learned flies in the face of her advice. If she has any expertise with drugs, she certainly exhibits none as a drug prevention expert.
One of our cherished rights is freedom of speech. As reflected in ‘SAFETY FIRST’, the ability to propagate false information for specials interests, whatever they may be, also suggests it is one of the flaws. Ms. Rosenbaum’s special wisdom seems to be gained mostly from kids versus the scientific community: For example, she states:
‘They know there are differences between experimentation, abuse and addiction: and that the use of one drug does not inevitably lead to the use of another.
Yet, conventional drug education programs focus predominantly on abstinence-only messages and are shaped by problematic myths:
Myth #1: Experimentation with drugs is not a common part of teenage culture.
Myth #2: Drug use is the same as drug abuse;
Myth #3: Marijuana is the gateway to drugs such as heroin and cocaine; and
Myth #4: Exaggerating risks will deter young people from experimentation.”
First of all, there is profound evidence that one drug often leads to the use of another. It normally starts with cigarettes, then alcohol and then pot. Experimentation with drugs is a common part of teenage culture only because we allow it. We can stop most of it by doing what we have done to stop it with adults: random drug testing.
There should be no level of drug use that is acceptable for teens, because they are physiologically more susceptible to harm and addiction than adults, and their brains aren’t fully developed until their late teens or early twenties. No responsible adult would say just teach them how to do it responsibility.
With regard to telling kids the truth, there is no reason to exaggerate the risks of drugs. The truth alone should be sufficient for anyone with average intellect who is seeking the truth. However, these are children we are talking about. The reason they can’t vote is that they haven’t gained the cognitive skills to make mature decisions, including making the healthy decisions about their activities as teenagers. Most of us weren’t any smarter at that age, so it’s not a slight. Just a reality.
Ms. Rosenbaum states “. . . Our current efforts lack harm reduction education for those students who won’t “just say no”. In order to prevent drug abuse and drug problems among teenagers who do experiment, we need a fallback strategy that puts safety first.”
How about a program that just keeps them off drugs, Ms Rosenbaum, like random drug testing? For those who will become addicted because of permissive practices, we do need treatment. But treatment doesn’t work most of the time. As you stated, 80% to 90% of kids don’t have a problem. But 10% to 20% do, and many more don’t just come out whole. They aren’t totally unscathed. They are damaged, many of whom will never achieve their full potential, even if they aren’t complete addicts.
Harm reduction is the myth; the mantra of the DPA and other druggies and organizations that want to legalize and proliferate the use of drugs. Any self respecting drug abuse expert would know that some kids have a genetic pre-disposition to addiction of alcohol and drugs. Experimentation for them generally leads to addiction, and addiction to death or destruction. Harm elimination by getting kids to adulthood prior to first significant use, by whatever means possible, is the best harm reduction policy. Science says if we can get kids to adulthood intact they should never have a problem. Neither will society.
Ms. Rosenbaum myopically proposes that we teach children responsible use of drugs; and that we call on parents to have coherent conversations with their children, like her “Dear Johnny” letter, which will convince them to be responsible when they are using drugs or alcohol – evidence enough that she lives on a different planet.
Kids experimenting with drugs and alcohol don’t tend to be responsible. What do you tell them? Just smoke a little bit of pot and don’t get high? Don’t drink and use pot at the same time? Don’t drink or do drugs and drive? If someone offers you heroin, meth or cocaine, a drug that will give you a new high, just say thanks, “I’ll lumber along with pot?”
Her “MOTHER’S ADVICE” to son Johnny is naïve, and myopic in view of today’s family situation. Apparently Ms. Rosenbaum hasn’t noticed that our nation has a 49% divorce rate; single parenting; two parents working; drug using parents; child abuse, et. al. There is a reason why 60% of Americans are at moderate to high risk of using drugs and alcohol. There is a reason why schools are the safety net.
Parents are number one in terms of at-risk behaviour, followed by school environment. Even those parents who try, need help. Rosenbaum suggest parents “ find creative ways to open a dialogue, then listen, listen, listen.”
Ms Rosenbaum, if the kid is already using, you’re whistling Dixie. If he or she is just weighing the options, then parents need to carefully weigh their persuasive skills against peer pressure, the need for a teenager to be accepted, the chance of a genetic propensity to become addicted, and the forceful, deliberate attempt of a $600 billion illicit drug trade focused on getting their child hooked on their insidious products before adulthood, when science says they are safe.
To illustrate that marijuana is not a gateway drug, she states “… For every 100 people who have tried marijuana, only one percent is a current user of cocaine.” The reality is for every 100 people who use cocaine, meth, heroin and other drugs, all 100% probably started with marijuana. Rosenbaum states “there is no credible research evidence demonstrating that using one drugs causes the use of another.” That is simply a lie. There is plenty of research to show the relationship that one drug leads to others. Marijuana is a gateway drug, and it is dangerous in its own right. Over 60% of the young people in rehab programs are there for addiction to pot. Marijuana also has a very debilitating effect on short term memory, adversely affects motivation, retards the maturation process and leads to a multitude of physiological problems, including mental illness. Teaching children there is a safe, responsible level of marijuana use is blasphemous.
If there was any question of her maligned motives, her published responses to seminars presented by the ONDCP promoting random student drug testing in the spring of 2004 laid the matter to rest.
She said research and experience tells us “random drug testing does not deter drug use”. That is simply another lie. In every case where it has been done properly, it has dramatically reduced drug use. Schools in Oregon have shown that drug use by kids were in a school which tested was only 25% of the level in schools that did not test. At Hunterton Central Regional schools in New Jersey, after 2 years drug use was reduced in 20 of 28 categories. At De La Salle High School in New Orleans, which the kids had nicknamed “De La Drugs”, drug use has all but been eliminated by use of hair analyses. Ball State University did a study that showed 73% of High School Principals reported a reduction in drug use among students subject to drug testing, while 2% reported an increase. The big question seems to be is Marsha afraid it will work? And why?
She said testing athletes “can deter them from participating.” Research has shown that not to be true in general, and only for a few. If they are using drugs, they should not be competing in athletics. It is dangerous, for them and others. So, kids – a choice.
The biggest lie of all was that random drug testing is “expensive and inefficient”. She cites school administrators in Dublin, Ohio who curtailed their random drug testing program because they calculated their expenses at $35,000 a year for 1,473 students, at $24 a piece, because they only got 11 positive results, a cost of $3,200 per “positive” test.
We know Ms. Rosenbaum isn’t very knowledgeable on drug prevention, but apparently neither she nor the folks in Dublin are very good at math either. Since random drug testing is a deterrent, the correct way to measure the program would be to divide the cost of $35,000 by the 1,462 kids that didn’t do drugs, which would yield a cost of a little less that $24 per student. That’s cheap insurance! And not that Ms. Rosenbaum wants to confuse herself with facts, but with on-site drug test kits that cost as little as $2.50, all 1,473 kids could be tested today for $3,683. If the school can’t afford that, there are Federal Funds available to help pay for it, and if they only tested 10% of the students they could get the desired deterrent effect.
Under the guise of being a drug abuse expert from 18 years of shabby research, Ms. Rosenbaum has foregone any objectivity and professional integrity that should flow from independent research, and sold her soul to one of the most dangerous organizations in America: The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), funded in large part by George Soros. The DPA’s mission is to legalize and proliferate the use of drugs. In joining their organization and advocating against the best known drug use deterrent, random drug testing, she has essentially defected to the other side.
Rosenbaum is not credible, and neither her motives or advice can be trusted.