WASHINGTON. D.C. (June 8) – “In the 1960’s and 1970’s Americans were passive about or even worse, actively endorsed the use of illicit drugs. This misguided attitude fostered an environment of tolerance and acceptance. As a result drug use proliferated. In 1980, therefore there were massive amounts of illegal drugs, drug pushers. and kingpins controlled large segments of U.S. resources; millions of innocent people were victimized; an overburdenend criminal justice system; staggering economic and social costs; and a deep erosion of the health of our people.” (White House Conference for A Drug Free America Report 1988) Ronald Reagan’s leadership, along with Nancy Reagan, sparked a national movement against drugs which resulted in dramatic declines in illicit drug use in America. (and around the world) President Reagan inspired and convinced the nation that the drug problem was not hopeless and could be solved. He was committed to help reverse the permissive attitudes of the 1960s and 1970s that illegal drug use was glamorous, harmless and victimless, and influenced the media and even Hollywood to stop glamorizing drug use. President Reagan believed that the nation needed community based solutions to the drug problem. He and Mrs. Reagan strongly supported the grassroots parents movement and gave these volunteers access to and the opportunity to work closely with major federal agencies. President Reagan sponsored The White House Conference on Drug Abuse. Across the nation spread community anti-drug initiatives, youth programs, drug-free school and workplace programs. The nation spoke with one voice that “drugs were wrong and harmful.” The results illicit drug use was cut in half; – from 25 million to 11 million drug users between 1979 and 1992; drug use was no longer tolerated and in the workplace or in the Armed forces. Crime, drug related hospital admissions and highway deaths declined.

One of the most remarkable accomplishments and reversals in history!!! This story needs to be told. Today. we would do well to reaffirm and implement the recommendations from The White House Conference for A Drug Free America Report of 1988.These positive trends continued until the time when Clinton said he wished he had inhaled drug use by youth began to rise once again. (Monitoring the Future Survey 1996).


New York Times 1988:

“No President has spoken out more against drugs than President Reagan.” No Administration has signed more anti drug treaties or spent more money to stem the flow of drugs into this country.” “We’re rejecting the helpless attitude that drug use is so rampant that we are defenceless to do anything about it. We’re taking down the surrender flag that has flown over of many drug efforts; were running up the battle flag.” President Ronald Reagan. June 24, 1982.

“In this crusade, let us not forget who we are. Drug Abuse is a repudiation of everything America is. The destructiveness and human wreckage mock our heritage.” President Ronald Reagan September 14, 1986.

“Illegal drug use is the foremost concern in our country. And frankly, as I finish my final year in office and look ahead, I worry that excessive drug politics might undermine effective drug policy. If America’s anti drug effort gets tripped up in partisanship, if we permit politics to determine policy, it will mean a disaster for our future and that of our children.” May 18, 1988. President Ronald Reagan.
First Lady Nancy Reagan was a leader in the crusade for a Drug Free America. She was Honorary Chairperson of the National Federation of Parents for Drug Free Youth; and through the “Just Say No Campaign was responsible for the establishment of thousands of parent and youth groups across the country. “ casual drug user cannot mortally escape responsibility for the actions of drug traffickers and dealers. I am saying that if you are a casual drug user, you are an accomplice to murder.” Nancy Reagan February 29. 1988.


Encouraged and supported a nationwide effort to reduce the demand for drugs by increasing Americans knowledge and changing the attitudes and behavior.

Presidential Executive Order 1987- To focus public attention on the importance of fostering a widespread attitude of intolerance for illegal drugs and their use throughout all segments of society.’

Inspired the establishment of the The National Media Advertising Partnership for a Drug Free America to spread the drug prevention message.

Supported the establishment the Drug Free Schools and Communities Program 1986

Changed attitudes by Youth:

In 1980, half of high school seniors surveyed thought smoking marijuana regularly posed a great risk. In 1987,73.5% saw regular marijuana use a great risk. (University of Michigan)

In 1992 more than 79% of high school seniors believed that drug use was very harmful.( Monitoring the Future Survey)

Declines in the overall crime rate ) Uniform Crime Reporting Statistics) Hospital emergency rates declined (Health & Human Services Report)

50% Reduction in illegal drug use on the job (Health & Human Services Report)

(White House Office of Public Affairs Report June 1988)

Created an effective, coordinated federal, stage and local awareness and education campaign against illicit drugs.

Drug use declines:

Current use of cocaine among high school seniors dropped by one third in 1987 to the lowest level since 1978. Daily use of marijuana among these students dropped from one in nine high school seniors in 1979 to one in 30 in 1987.

Prevention Federal funds for drug abuse increased 4 four fold between 1981 and 1988.

Treatment: Federal spending for treatment nearly doubled between 198! and 1988.

Enforcement Increases – the number of federal drug investigators more than doubled and the number of Federal drug prosecutors increased four fold between 1890 and 1988. By 1987 arrests by the DEA of the most serious drug offenders had increased 175 over 1983.

More Drugs Interdicted and Seized

Drug Free Military- Drug use in the military dropped 67% since 1980. Other highlights: improved international cooperation to cut off the production and transportation of illegal drugs. The first to use the federal asset forfeiture law to take the profit out of illegal drug trafficking. 

Source:New York Times 1988
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