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March 2007
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Califano and CASA just won’t die

I haven’t had to bring up this liar for awhile. Joseph Califano, and Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA), you may recall, is known primarily for falsifying numbers about teenage drinking. They’re ba-ack.
In the Daily Tar Heel, we see Report: Half In College Abuse Drugs Or Alcohol:

Experts Find the trend alarming
Drug and alcohol use is a chronic problem for college students across the country, a recent report found, and one that UNC students and officials say needs to be addressed.
Nearly half of all full-time college students binge drink and/or abuse prescription and illegal drugs, according to a study released March 15 by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University.

The report is Wasting the Best and the Brightest: Substance Abuse at Americas Colleges and Universities (pdf). The actual report (even if you could believe the numbers, which I don’t, given that CASA is promoting this), is actually more alarmist than alarming.
And check out Califano’s statement:

Accepting as
inevitable this college culture of alcohol and
other drug abuse threatens not only the present
well being of millions of college students, but
also the future capacity of our nation to maintain
its leadership in the fiercely competitive global
economy.

What nonsense!
Not only is there very little in the report to support some major shift, what’s really intellectually dishonest is that the report, while claiming that the problem is binge drinking and drug abuse spends pages upon pages pushing for abstinence and enforcement efforts (which, of course, have no impact on bingeing or abusing). Not once do they mention the notion of managing use.
I went to college in the 1970’s and I work at a University now. College students experiment with drugs and try out their limits with alcohol. In any time and any place.
When I was in college, my roommate and I decided to find out what it was like to get drunk, so we loaded up with Bacardi 151, Sloe Gin, and Boone’s Farm Apple and got puking drunk (yes, we were idiots, but mostly in terms of our lack of knowledge of good drink choices). However, after that one bad night, we rarely did any binge drinking, for one simple reason. We did most of our drinking in bars (the drinking age was lower) and they stopped serving you when you got drunk (and we learned to make better choices — today I stick with good single-malt Scotch).
These days, the students in college do all their drinking at unsupervised parties because the drinking age is 21. Drug use occurs, but is driven further underground, where people who might have problems are less likely to seek out help.
There are potential lessons to be learned from analyzing college alcohol and drug use patterns, but not with Califano and CASA distorting the numbers and the message.

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