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Presidential Influence On Teenage Drug Abuse

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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 growing

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.. Both

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

addiction. Under their leadership, public attitudes towards drug use changed. The




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