Times OpEd slams Monitoring the Future

Via The Drug Update, Mike Males has an OpEd in tomorrow’s New York Times: This Is Your Brain on Drugs, Dad.
Males is extremely critical of the ONDCP’s reliance on teenage self-surveys as a means of getting a picture of national drug issues.
There’s a couple of interesting passages. First, he notes that teenagers are not really the group that should be analyzed, except that it’s more politically advantageous to do so.

As David Musto, a psychiatry professor at Yale and historian of drug abuse, points out, wars on drugs have traditionally depended on ‹linkage between a drug and a feared or rejected group within society.Š Today, however, the fastest-growing population of drug abusers is white, middle-aged Americans. This is a powerful mainstream constituency, and unlike with teenagers or urban minorities, it is hard for the government or the news media to present these drug users as a grave threat to the nation.

Another passage struck me not just as a repudiation of the ONDCP’s reliance on MTF data, but surprising in its potential implications.

I compared teenage drug use trends reported annually by Monitoring the Future since the 1970s with trends for other behaviors and with federal crime, health and education statistics. In years in which a higher percentage of high school seniors told the survey takers they used illicit drugs, teenagers consistently reported and experienced lower rates of crime, murder, drug-related hospital emergencies and deaths, suicides, H.I.V. infection, school dropouts, delinquency, pregnancy, violence, theft in and outside of school, and fights with parents, employers and teachers.

It’s an interesting, though somewhat disjointed OpEd — a little too enamored with the significance of DAWN and other emergency room data, a little too accepting of the link between drugs and crime, and lacking any mention of the link between prohibition and crime.

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