Portland NORML News - Friday, December 19, 1997

Transcript - White House Briefing RE Drug-Use Survey (McCaffrey, Shalala,
Lloyd Johnson And Alan Leshner Comment On 'Monitoring The Future')

Date: Fri, 2 Jan 1998 00:16:44 -0800
From: Majordomo@mapinc.org
Subject: DND: US: Transcript: White House Briefing RE: Drug-Use Survey

] Subj: US: Transcript: White House Briefing RE: Drug-Use Survey
] From: Ethan Nadelmann
] Date: Wed, 31 Dec 1997 23:07:18 -0500

Newshawk: Ethan Nadelmann
Source: Federal News Service
Pubdate:  Friday, 19 Dec 1997 
Section: White House Briefing


SEC. SHALALA: (Strange noise from lectern.  Laughter.) Do you want me to do
that again.  Barry, come on up.

Q We can't see you.

SEC. SHALALA: (Laughs.) Does this go down?

STAFF: Yeah.


SEC. SHALALA: We're not having any luck. Can we get this down? Okay.

Let me -- this is the 23rd year of a study called Monitoring the Future.
It's a drug survey done for the federal government for my department by the
University of Michigan.  And, in fact, the person that does the study, Dr.
Lloyd Johnson of the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research
is with us, as is Dr. Alan Leshner, director of the National Institute of
Drug Abuse, which is one of the institutes of the NIH.  

The president's radio address has some good news.  This survey surveys more
than 50,000 eighth, 10th and 12th graders.  After years of hammering home
the message that drugs are illegal and that they're dangerous and wrong,
there's hope today that young people may be at least hearing some of that

Drug, alcohol and tobacco use by young people, in our judgment, is still
far too high, and use among 12th graders continues to rise. But what this
survey shows is that after years of dramatic increases, illicit drug use
may be leveling off among eighth graders, with actual decreases in the use
of some drugs among eighth graders.

Now, let me say, just a little bit of what that may mean.  Number one, it
means that our messages at least to young people, to the very young people,
are getting through.

We know for instance that very young kids are very anti-drug, anti-
alcohol, anti-tobacco.  But as soon as they begin to reach adolescence they
get different kinds of messages.  So, the fact that 8th graders are getting
the message is extremely important. 

Now, one of the interesting things about the fact that illicit drug use is
leveling off among 8th graders is that disapproval of illegal drugs is
going up among 8th graders.  We know that there is a relationship between
whether you think a drug is dangerous and whether you use that drug.  That
may seem like a simple fact, but the fact is that attitudes that young
people had about drugs, particularly about marijuana, young people
increasingly until actually now have been thinking this is a soft drug,
doesn't affect me very much, isn't dangerous.

What's happening is that 8th graders are beginning to get very clear
messages first from their parents, then from their teachers and from the
rest of us that these drugs are dangerous and are beginning to get it and
therefore we believe that's having an impact on 8th graders.  Those two
factors, perception of harm and disapproval have been reliable indicators
of future behavior.  So, if we can keep the kids thinking and believing
what we're telling them that these drugs are dangerous then it will have an
affect on their future.  So the 8th grade news is very good.  We don't have
as good news about 12th graders, but what all of this -- these reports tell
us is that it's time to redouble our efforts.  We believe, in this
administration the parents are our first line of defense but that we need
to redouble our efforts. 

It's very important that, while we take to heart the good news of the
eighth-graders, we remember that we have a lot of work to do and we need to
strengthen our prevention programs, as well as our messages.

The president considers this a partnership between government and business
and the media and schools and communities and families.  But his message
tomorrow will be that parents are the first line of defense and that
parents, sitting with their young people, having a conversation about
drugs, sending young people a very clear message that drugs can ruin your
health and destroy your future, is what we believe will achieve even more
dramatic effects in the future.

Let me now introduce my colleague in this effort General Barry McCaffrey.

GEN. MCCAFFREY: Let me very briefly begin by telling you the president's
radio address captures the results of one of the most important tools we
have for understanding drug abuse and its future impact, the Monitoring the
Future study.

And Secretary Shalala's group, particular Dr. Alan Leshner, the National
Institute of Drug Abuse, does this study.  And I think it's a great gift to
all of us, which the president has capitalized on to focus parents'
attentions on drug use by children.

Dr. Lloyd Johnson (sp), who has done this study for 23 years now, really
gives us one of the most important ways we have of seeing drug use unfold
in America.

So I thank you for your leadership, Donna, and your team.

Three quick observations.  One is, I would argue you're starting to see a
pattern among these various studies.  Secretary Shalala and I joined her
household survey study several months ago.  We properly downplayed its
mathematical significance but we did note that it started to talk about a
change in youthful drug use patterns and attitudes.  We also had Attorney
General Janet Reno's methamphetamines and crack results among arrestees
showing sharp decreases.  

What I think we should very cautiously do as we view this result is to say
let's the many different competing ways by which we measure the evolution
of this problem.

The second observation that I would offer is that this is mathematical good
news but does not in any way state that we have seen victory over this drug
problem. These are marginal changes in attitudes in drug use rates among
American youngsters.  

Now having said that, it's hard to understate the importance that the slope
of the curve has changed and after five years of continued, inexorable,
increase in drug use by youngsters in all of these age groups, it either
stabilized or went down.  And I would argue, many of use would argue, that
if you want to see the future of the drug problem in America, go to the
10-year olds, go to the 38 million American youngsters who are just now
beginning to encounter drugs in America.  So the 8th grade numbers I would
suggest are significant. Final thought, if you would permit me.  All this
does, it seems to me is suggest that in the next two years, if we work at
the national youth media strategy, if we work at building community
coalitions, if we enhance the role of parents and educators and ministers
and coaches, then without question we will see youth attitudes change and
subsequently we should expect drug use among youngsters to go down.  We're
aware that as we look at the treatment statistics.  Again, Secretary
Shalala's people in SAMSA (sp), that the best way to handle the 3.6 million
compulsive drug users in America is by focusing on drug prevention and to
don't let adolescents get involved in the use of illegal drugs,
particularly marijuana.  

The most dangerous drug in America is a 12-year old smoking pot.  And then
in addition, we understand, you've got to keep adolescents from using
alcohol and tobacco also.  If you can keep them away from those three
destructive behaviors, the chances of them becoming one of these poor
creatures who absorb so much of our resources is diminished dramatically.

So again, Secretary Shalala and Dr. Leshner and Dr. Lloyd Johnson, thanks
very much for another insight into what's happening with our children.

Q So why is it going down? Is there a program in every school in America now?

SEC. SHALALA: Well, there has been an extraordinary effort, both in
schools; parents clearly are beginning to get messages through; the
president has been strongly talking about this issue for some period of
time.  And I think that all of us believe that what's going to have an
impact is a full court press.  But I think the special focus on marijuana
has helped.  Both Alan and Lloyd would say that.  And we've launched a
marijuana initiative to particularly focus on marijuana and convincing
young people that marijuana is dangerous, and convincing their parents at
the same time, who belong to a generation who have a set of attitudes about
marijuana because they may have tried marijuana before.

So I think that what this says is efforts are working; what it also says is
that we have to double our efforts, that we can't take this.

Q What about the -- what does the survey show for 10th and 12th graders?
The good news was eighth graders, right?


Q That showed the decline.  

GEN. MCCAFFREY: Let me also add, I've given you a background sheet.
There's a press release, some facts in here.  It addresses each of the age
groups in that study.  And a sort of a generalization, all age groups
showed either stabilization or a decrease in the change, the negative
change and disapproval rates and drug use, except, I think, inhalants --
LSD among 12th graders.  So basically, everything leveled out or started
back down, not in a mathematically major way, but the slope changed from up
to the other direction.  SEC.

SHALALA: This is what's statistically significant.  We have not made this
kind of progress with 12th graders.  But the important thing is that
they're going to be 12th graders, and therefore, that's why it's so
significant to us.


Q How was the survey made? I mean, did you go to schools and -- (off mike)?

SEC. SHALALA: Let me have Dr. Johnson come up and describe. It's 50,000
youngsters, eighth, 10th and 12th-graders.  This is the 23rd year of the
survey. Do you want to describe your methodology?

DR. LLOYD JOHNSON (sp) (University of Michigan Institute for Social
Research): I didn't have this gray hair when I started this survey a
quarter of a century ago.

Q Neither did we.  (Laughter.)

DR. JOHNSON (sp): The methods -- (laughs) -- the methods briefly are that
we take a national sample of schools at each grade level, send our own
university representatives in to gather the data.  The youngsters fill out
a self-administered questionnaire in their normal class period, and then
those data are gathered and sent back to the university.  There's --

Q Do you take their word for it?

DR. JOHNSON (sp): Well, we started out skeptics.  Most people are skeptics
about whether you get honest answers.

What we found, for example, in some of the early cohorts we studied and
then followed into adulthood, is that as many as 80 percent of some age
groups have admitted to us that they used illicit drugs of some kind.  And
of course, many of those people are now the parents of the generation of
young children now.

But we do have high confidence in the validity of these particular data.

And there's 429 schools, 51,000 students.

Q Where is the message being lost -

GEN. MCCAFFREY: Let me add one thing to the earlier question, which was,
"Why has this change occurred?"

(To staff ?).  Have you got the Harvard study? We're going to pass that out.

Let me make sure you get a study that was just released.  It was done by
Harvard University.  And it talked about, "What are American parents
thinking about?"

And it turns out now, if you ask them about children, overwhelmingly, the
dominant concern is their children and drugs.  And it's been that way for
several years, and the rate of increase is startling.  I think it's up over
60 percent now will say that is their principal worry.  So many of us
believe when parents get engaged, when media attention or other reasons
cause them to focus on their children and drug use -- not somebody else's
kids -- they get engaged, and the children's attitudes start responding.  

Q General, can you elaborate just a bit on your statement that the most
dangerous drug in America is a 12-year-old smoking pot? I would think that
people probably -- I would tend to think that a 20- year-old crack addict
with a gun might be more dangerous.

GEN. MCCAFFREY: Well, right.  You know, we're about to start the National
Youth-Media Campaign, with lots of advice.

It is easiest to focus on a young, white, male methamphetamine addict --
and by the way, that's a description of who's using meth -- or a
31-year-old heroin addict who's HIV-positive, with tuberculosis.

But if you look at Columbia University data, if you look at other reliable
studies, the way to avoid statistically becoming part of that group is get
between the ages of 9 and 19 without regularly abusing drugs, to include
alcohol and tobacco.  But in that cohort, this study essentially says, 90
percent of this drug use tends to be marijuana. A 12-year-old regularly
using marijuana -- by the way, he's probably also abusing alcohol and
smoking cigarettes -- is mathematically in trouble.

Q About a year ago you both stood up here and publicly fretted about the
effect of the state laws in California and Arizona allowing medicinal use
of marijuana and some other recreational drugs. What has that year's
experience taught you?

And are you still pursuing a campaign against those?

SEC. SHALALA: Well, we -- I don't think we have anything definitive to say
about drug use in California and Arizona.  But we have studies in the field
that will allow us to report on that.  But we're not ready now.

What we did was say that you send those kind of mixed messages to young
people, and that's the last thing you want to do, because those mixed
messages produce young people who think that marijuana in particular is
okay, because the officials and prominent people are saying that.

And we will report on our field studies as soon as we have them. And I
don't know when we're going to have them.

(To Dr. Leshner.) Alan?

DR. LESHNER: Well, we suspect it'll take at least another year before you
would be able to actually see any --

SEC. SHALALA: To actually connect teenage drug use with what's happened
politically in their states.

We're going to be very careful, though, about reporting that data.

Q How do you believe that attitudes change as kids go from middle school to
high school about drug use?

SEC. SHALALA: Well, one of the things is that parents actually, in the age
of when you watch your kid every minute with a baby-sitter and everything
else, pay very close attention, and much closer attention to the messages,
and have more control over the messages little kids get than they do later
on when they basically hand them over to a larger society in which kids are
conscious about messages they get from the media.  So what you want to do,
and why this is significant, is you want to hang on to those anti-drug,
anti-tobacco and anti-alcohol messages right through adolescence.  And so
we know that if we could hold on to those messages and strengthen kids'
ability to say no to peer groups that may be pressuring them right throgh
adolescence, they'll never use drugs, abuse alcohol or smoke cigarettes.

Remember, all of our statistics in this area say what Barry said, and that
is, if you can keep kids from not doing these things through their
adolescence, they're likely not to do it as adults.  Remember the statistic
I gave you on tobacco.  Eighty percent of adult smokers started as
children.  If we can convince kids not to smoke as kids, if we can convince
them not to use drugs as kids, if we can convince them not to get hooked on
alcohol too as kids, then we can get them into their adulthood without
these risky behaviors.

Q You both spoke of redoubling the effort.  Is the president announcing, or
will you-all be soon announcing some sort of stepped-up effort in this regard?

SEC. SHALALA: I think that Barry has just talked about the advertising

I think the fact that the president's doing his message tomorrow on this
subject, and in a number of ways we've expanded both treatment and messages
and working with parents in this administration.  And I think it's been the
full court press of us in partnership with everybody else that's had an


GEN. MCCAFFREY: Clearly, though, if you want to evaluate the connection
between rhetoric and what we're doing, watch the budgets. And what we have
asserted is last year we had the biggest significant increase in funding
for goal one programs, those associated with drug use by our youngsters.
And in the '99 budget, we're attempting to do the same thing.

Now, you get at that program not just by federal government programs but by
supporting community coalitions, by doing locally focused media strategies.
 So there are a series of things going on to try and line up behind
Secretary Shalala's general assertion.

SEC. SHALALA: But parents are the first line of defense, and that's the
president's message.  That's all of our messages.  The greatest influence
on young people in this country are their parents. So anything we can do to
strengthen their role and their influence on their children is what we feel
is our greatest contribution.


Q Related to that, is there any study that shows the correlation between
the use of alcohol and other drugs by parents and children?

SEC. SHALALA: Yes.  The answer is yes, and let's have Dr. Leshner answer.

DR. LESHNER: Let me say two things.  First of all, the biggest single risk
factor for drug use by young people is drug use by their parents.  The
second part of it is the single biggest protective factor against someone
using drugs is parental involvement in the life of the child, and parents
talking to their kids about drugs.  If you put those two facts together,
the message about parents as our major tool to continue the momentum we've
stated, I think, is a clear one.

The data are clear.

Q Are you saying -- what about a parent who talked a lot, but still used it
himself, but tells his children not to? Do you have any kind of --

SEC. SHALALA: Well, let's be -- (chuckles) -- are you talking about drugs
or alcohol or smoking? All of the above?

Q I would say drugs and alcohol --

SEC. SHALALA: All of the -- well, first of all, alcohol, if used in
moderation by adults, is not dangerous to the adults' future.

But let's be clear about drugs and illegal drugs.  We have actually worked
very hard to help parents who have used drugs in the past -- a whole
generation that may have -- in which a high percentage may have used
marijuana, for example -- on how do you talk to your kid if you actually
have some past drug use.  And the answer is, as Barry will tell you
clearly, "Just because I did something illegal does not mean I want my
child to repeat my own mistakes," number one, and number two is very
clearly that marijuana is dangerous.  It is dangerous to your motor skills,
to your memory, to your heart and lungs.  And we have to -- and us --
beginning to have an effect on younger and younger kids -- to get the word
out in this country that marijuana is dangerous to your health.  It is not
a soft drug -- that is, an alternative to hard drugs.  It is dangerous.

I think Barry's -- 

MR.  : Okay.  Your time.

SEC. SHALALA: Thank you.

MR.  : Thank you.  And just to reiterate, that briefing is embargoed until
10:06 a.m. Saturday morning.


Copyright 1997 Federal Information Systems Corporation 




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