4 Do Not Corrupt Any More American Youth
THE PRESIDENT . . . AMERICAN UNIVERSITY . . DLR SOONEST, DLR MASSACHUSETT'S AT NEBRASKA AVENUE WASHINGTON, DC 20016
AFTER HEARING YOUR REPRESENTATIVE ARNOLD TREBACH ON TEL-EVISION NOVEMBER 27, 1984, I STRONGLY SUGGEST YOU CLOSE YOUR DOORS IMMEDIATELY. DO NOT CONTINUE TO CORRUPT ANY MORE AMER-ICAN YOUTH.
SAMUEL P. NORLEY
11-4 ASPEN WAY
DOYLESTOWN PA 18901
The president of my university, Richard Berendzen, sent that telegram on to me with a nice handwritten note that I was not to worry, that academic freedom was alive and well at American University. A copy of the telegram and the note were placed on the School of Justice faculty office bulletin board, where both drew numerous comments, mostly humorous. In some respects, how-ever, I was not amused at all. In fact, I was more worried than amused.
CAN YOUTH STAND TO HEAR DRUG DISSENTERS?
I have developed a thick skin over the decades in which I have supported a number of unpopular causes. Criticism comes with the territory. Much of it has been harsher than that contained in the brief telegram from a stranger. What bothered me was that it had hit a sore spot, one close to home, as it were.
Two questions illustrate the nature of the worries that make that spot in my psyche sore. First, to what extent will anyone, but especially young people, feel emboldened to try a drug or to use one regularly because they hear my arguments that the illegal drugs are no worse than the legal ones, that the enforcement of the drug laws hurt our people more than the drugs, and that irrational drug laws should be reformed? Second, what will happen to drug habits when and if those drug laws are actually reformed?
A linchpin in the continued support of existing methods is the belief that a relaxation of the tough criminal law approach will provide a signal to the young that society approves of the use of formerly banned substances. Once that occurs, the belief continues, clean-living American kids as well as many adults are apt to go on a drug orgy, and the number of addicts to such substances as marijuana and heroin and cocaine will rise geometrically to proportions never before even contemplated. "We'd have 60 to 100 million cocaine users," said Dr. Pollin of NIDA in 1984, implying that many of them would become addicts, not simply occasional users. This is also the position of a host of other experts.
Those expert supporters of existing methods also argue that even talking about the defects in current laws give a cue to the young that they may defy them with impunity. Mixed signals on drugs are the road to chemical disaster for our children, they declare. Such verbal laxity allegedly destroyed the past social consensus against illegal drug use and thus caused the drug epidemic that commenced in the Sixties. This widely accepted position was forcefully stated on the television program that so upset Mr. Nor-ley of Doylestown. The program had been the Cable News Network show "Crossfire," which featured two hosts: rock-ribbed conservative commentator and former Nixon speechwriter Patrick Buchanan ("on the right") and liberal Tom Braden ("on the left").
After I had talked about the failure of current laws and the need to relax some of them, Mr. Buchanan declared that my proposals sounded like, "We have lost the war on drugs. Let's surrender."
The other guest on the program, Jeffrey Harris, a former federal prosecutor and also until recently a high-ranking official in the Department of Justice and one of the architects of the Reagan drug war, then observed that he was appalled that a university teacher would tell students "that sort of line," and that they would thereby feel encouraged to try prohibited substances. Mr. Harris declared that my ideas and my reform proposals would result in my students becoming addicted and ending up "on a heating grate down near Constitution Avenue, being wards of the society."
Later, Mr. Buchanan joined in. "Arnold Trebach says `throw in the towel.' " Mr. Harris added, "There are people in this country who refrain from using those drugs, who might otherwise be induced, simply because it is [now] against the law. Why do you think you had the explosion in cocaine? One of the reasons is because at fashionable Hollywood parties, you see cocaine use, and you hear of it, and you see pro football players, the role models in this community, condoning it. Now, if the government, in addition, were to condone it, you would have an explosion of use."
After the show was over, and we were all chatting in the studio, both Mr. Buchanan (who reentered the White House a few months later to become Mr. Reagan's director of communications) and Mr. Harris iterated their concern that I was misleading impressionable young people and that I was making them think it was perfectly fine to try any of these illegal drugs. Indeed, they implied that my ideas were a positive incitement to drug abuse. They reached me. As I walked out into the cold streets of Georgetown that night, I was troubled. Then the telegram came.
To ease my concern arising from confrontations such as these, over the years I have asked my students individually and through anonymous questionnaires about the impact of free and open discussion of drug policy issues in my classes upon their own personal use of drugs. Their answers have taught me a great deal.
These courses are part of a curriculum I developed in the School of Justice at American University, entitled Drugs, Justice, and Public Policy. Like the school itself, the courses evolved out of a basic concern with controlling crime. Soon the inquiry broadened beyond crime and into many other aspects of the drug universe, with the major emphasis on thinldng out better laws and public policies. Even though I frequently tell my students that I am not a treatment professional, inevitably a few of them in every class come to me for detailed and personal discussions on drugs. In some cases they are seeking advice, in other cases, giving it. This is especially true of the addicts. In almost every large class there seem to be one or two of them and they are always testing what I—an innocent in terms of actual drug use--say against the deep and painfully acquired knowledge of their own experience.
Ned, for example, who was a student of mine some time ago, is very much on my mind as I write this because he gave me a great deal of education in the process of learning from me. This young man is a perfect example of how stereotypes about drug abusers are distorted. Ned is white, comes from a good upper-class home, and has two fme parents. He is well-dressed, intelli-gent, decent, and a thoroughly nice fellow. I really like him. Yet he has been a serious drug abuser, starting at the age of thirteen. He has used heroin and such a wide variety of other drugs and narcotics that at times I am forced to ask him for the spelling of some of the chemicals he casually mentions. Ned was once arrested and brutally handled by the police of the District of Columbia just after he had made an illegal purchase of drugs on the street.
The young man has suffered other degrading experiences, in-cluding treatment in some of the most well-known psychiatric fa-cilities for drug abusers in the nation's capital. His parents stood by him and saw to it that as he fought to become free of drugs he was provided with the most expert care that money could buy. Yet Ned is very bitter about his treatment at the hands of some of the doctors and staff in these famous and expensive facilities because he feels that these medical experts simply did not under-stand what he was going through. While some of the physicians and professional staff were truly helpful to him, many of them made him feel unworthy, as if he were a piece of social garbage. This demeaning attitude is not universal on the part of drug-abuse treatment staff—although it is quite common.
A psychiatrist once burst out to him, "How can you do this to your parents?" Ned later remarked, "The guy just didn't have the vaguest idea how I felt or what kind of help I needed or how to reach inside me to help me. This was typical of the lack of knowl-edge of many of these medical experts. They tried to convince me that I was evil or that I had a character disorder."
In my courses, Ned never heard me state that I knew the proper way of treating addicts. Rather, he heard me expound on many of the ideas in this book and in my previous one dealing with the history of narcotic addiction control in Britain and America. On balance, I said, the British approach was more accepting of the basic human decency of drug addicts and of the doctors who treated them, sometimes with the drug of their dependence. While I men-tioned with approval some American doctors, most of my favorable examples came from Britain.
In part, the better situation in Britain comes about from the laws which allow doctors greater freedom in prescribing drugs for maintenance of addicts. In part, it comes from culturally ingrained habits of respect for people who are different.
One day, Ned heard me describe the work of British psychia-trist Dale Beckett, who has specialized in the treatment of heroin addicts. Beckett does not believe in the venerable notion of an addictive personality—a clinical concept accepted by many leading physicians--but he does believe that many of his addicts share certain personality or life-history characteristics. Typically, the addict was a male, who did not have a stable or positive relationship with a supportive father during his formative years. If the father was present, he tended to implant feelings of guilt and inferiority in his son, often without consciously meaning to do so. As the young man struggled through the uncertainty of adolescence, he felt incapable of dealing with that stress unsupported by some type of chemical relief. I then explained Beckett's filter theory—for many young people, marijuana acts as a filter to keep them away from harder drugs, rather than as a gateway to those more potent substances--and also the belief of this unconventional physician that heroin, while not without its dangers, is a relatively gentle drug, as compared to, say, alcohol and barbiturates. For those young people in psychic agony, then, the taking of heroin is, in a sense, a fairly rational form of self-medication.
While it may seem bizarre to call heroin gentle and heroin taking rational, Beckett's observation was that it seemed to do less harm to his patients than many other drugs. Moreover, for a desperate person who might well have sunk into a psychosis or committed suicide, there was a certain level of logic to treating oneself with that feared drug instead.
It is not important, at this point in my tale, whether one agrees with these theories or not. What is important here is that Ned walked into my office shortly after that class, revealed the secret of his past, and said, "I feel as if you have been talking about me. Finally, I feel that someone understands what I have been going through." It was then that he poured out his story, including the fact that he had eventually been treated with methadone and had been off all drugs, including the prescribed methadone, for the past 18 months. He hated methadone and said that it had, as another addict told a reporter recently, "tried his soul." Even though Ned had been hooked on heroin, and knew deeply just how powerful a chemical it was, compared to methadone he found it to be a gentle drug—the chemical did not cause him great physical or mental distress—and believed that had the American doctors been allowed to treat him with heroin, his detoxification would have been more rapid and his recovery less disturbed.
Ned was struggling terribly to regain some sense of his own worth, of a sense of normalcy, of how to do ordinary activities in an ordinary, upwardly mobile social situation. He was still in dis-tress but he was functioning and he was maldng it, coming out the other end of the addiction tunnel.
Another day, he came into the office and said, "Taking this class is like a religious experience." To my derisive barnyard response, he persisted in his position, explaining that for the first time in his life, after going through years of treatment and counseling, he was stunned, happily so, that he could sit in a class which did not even claim to teach treatment methods and learn so much about what he had been suffering through for more than ten years. He felt for the first time in his young memory that he wasn't a total loser, that there were other people like him, that he was a decent person.
Near the end of that semester, he told me that just recently he had gone through some terribly depressing days, especially after visiting some of his friends from the past who were not straight-ening out their lives. He was tempted on those days, he said, to turn to his old reliable cure for depression. He did not. "Taking this class has helped me stay off heroin this semester," Ned stated flatly. Again, I protested that the classes were not designed as treatment nor did I claim any ability in that arena. Ned simply reiterated his position.
When I cross-examined him, Ned scoffed at the idea that the teaching of drug dynamics, history, law, and policy options could induce drug use, even though I sometimes advocated the use of heroin and other drugs in the treatment of addicts. He recognized that method as one choice among many in a comprehensive array of treatment options, all based on the humane notion that many addicts were decent people. Ned observed, "I think every heroin addict should take your courses and I believe that more of them would be helped to stay off drugs."
He then recalled another day when I had read from the British Rolleston Report of 1926 that in cases of heroin and morphine addiction, permanent cures were rare and relapse was the rule. Ned said, "I walked out to my car practically jumping up in the air and clicking my heels over that." I then related the story of the addict in England who had walked into my room using those same words as the opening lines to an embarrassed confession that he had indeed relapsed. Why, I asked, did those thoughts give Ned such comfort? After all, they talk about persistent relapses. Why did they not make him pessimistic?
At first, Ned looked at me a bit askance, as if to say, you are the professor who uttered those words in class; you should know what impact they might have on me. Ned then explained that they made him understand that he was not totally odd, that he had relapsed many times and so had many other people. He was not a monster, not a failure, not without hope. Indeed, he had a great deal of hope ... now. That new hope, I suspect, was the product of several positive factors: Ned's growing maturity, the knowledge gained in drug-policy classes, and, while he sometimes downgraded it, the treatment he received from drug-abuse professionals. It is likely that the first factor was the most powerful.
Like Ned, Sylvia had surprised me some months previously when she stated that the study of drug policy had been an important positive factor in helping her cope with a set of personal problems, including drug use. The dimensions of Sylvia's drug problems were small compared to Ned's, but they were real and frightening to her.
The drug she liked most was cocaine. "The intense feelings of pleasure and well-being that I experienced from cocaine were without equal," Sylvia explained. Until recent years, she always had been given the drugs by friends. Not too long ago, she herself bought two grams from a neighbor. "I used just over one gram, sharing it with friends, over the next year. It was great to keep me awake as I studied and wrote papers.... My grades were very high. I felt logically that if I used less than a gram of coke a year for studying and social occasions, and I did not experience a compulsion to use it, I should not have a drug problem," Sylvia said. (There are 28 grams in an ounce. Some heavy users snort a gram in an evening.)
Because by now she was a student of drug abuse, she knew that she would be considered a chipper, a nonaddicted user of addicting drugs. Teaching about chippers or mentioning them in the mass media or in books like this makes those who adhere to the dominant drug ideology uncomfortable. Promulgating the concept of controlled use of such dangerous drugs is seen by those who support the drug war as a form of seduction of the innocent, the equivalent of saying, hey kid, try this drug, it won't hurt you. Yet Sylvia had been, like the great majority of users, a cocaine chipper.
She also had been taking Valium. Sylvia had been using this prescribed, highly popular, and quite legal drug on rare occasions, especially during times of special stress in her ordinarily driven life. Then suddenly she got into severe financial difficulty. She increased her use of Valium to cope with her increased anxiety and deepening depression. It was about this time that she came to me in a state of near-collapse and told me the whole story, including her use of cocaine and Valium.
University teachers have two major routine responsibilities to their students. They must, first, show up regularly at classes and provide objective scholarly information. They must, second, appear regularly at their offices for what are known as counseling hours. During those hours, and often at other times, it is expected that students will ask advice on a wide variety of topics, both academic and personal, and that the professors will respond as best they can. When Sylvia came to me, I was functioning both as an objective scholar and as a counselor. My two roles overlapped because the topic of discussion fit into both.
My first bit of advice to her was that in her distraught state, she simply had to start seeing a mental health professional regu-larly. I cautioned her that I had no qualifications to provide treat-ment. She responded that she was seeing a psychiatrist already who was quite helpful. However, she felt she wanted to talk to me about her personal approach to drugs against the backdrop of all the information about chemicals and altered states of consciousness she had been studying in my classes.
I told her that at that point the greatest problem I saw was her almost total loss of self-esteem due to her financial crisis. In my opinion, that damaged ego could, if not repaired, lead her on to some very serious difficulties with the drugs. I urged her to work with her psychiatrist on recognizing deep down that fmancial reverses do not really convert a winner into a loser, that even the best of us strike out now and then, and that she was still decent and good.
Because cocaine was not vital to her but could become a major and possibly destructive crutch at this time of crisis, I asked if she believed she could give it up totally. When Sylvia said she believed she could stop, I then asked her simply to stop using it. Don't laugh. She did. Not only did she stop, Sylvia also gave away her last full gram to a surprised but appreciative friend, who was already a user.
By this stage, however, Sylvia was taking up to 60 milligrams of Valium per day, which worried me greatly. Yet the medicine was helping her cope with enormous anxiety and depression. Even though it seemed possible that she was developing a dependency on the drug, I suggested that it would be a bad idea to stop sud-denly. Rather, it seemed to me, she had to accomplish two goals before she attempted to reduce the dosage. She had to build up her self-esteem so that she felt like a decent person again, and also she had to obtain a deeper understanding of the dynamics through which the Valium had come to play a major role in her life.
Sylvia listened to my concerns about the regular use of Valium but originally was unimpressed. She was taking the "medicine" on the advice of a doctor through a prescription and it did not fit into the same category of a "drug" like, say, cocaine. In her mind, Sylvia equated Valium "with milk and my arthritis medicine—a staple of life." Thus she was quite comfortable taking my advice to continue it but not at heeding my concerns about coming to grips with its role in her life. (Remember, again, that Sylvia came to me and sought my advice, which I gave replete with humble res-ervations that I did not view myself as a treatment expert.)
During one of the classes that semester, we happened to study Andrew Weil's Chocolate to Morphine. Like his earlier books on drugs, this one dealt not only with pharmacology but also with the more important concepts and ideas about the interaction between human beings and chemicals. One of the most powerful of those ideas was: "Any drug can be used successfully, no matter how bad its reputation, and any drug can be abused, no matter how accepted it is. There are no good or bad drugs; there are only good and bad relationships with drugs."
Upon hearing such a revolutionary proposition from a medical doctor, a student might take a policy lesson from it—namely, that if true, it destroys any honest rational basis for most American drug-control strategies during this century. A student might also take a personal lesson from it: this Harvard-trained doctor just gave me permission to play around with any drug I want. Whoopee! However, Sylvia took a personal lesson of exactly the type that Weil intended: it suddenly dawned on her during one of the classes that she had a bad relationship with Valium. To come to grips with her use of Valium, in addition to her weekly visits to the psychi-atrist, she started attending local meetings of Alcoholics Anony-mous and Narcotics Anonymous.
When Sylvia told her story at one of her first meetings, "The entire room seemed to turn on me! I was told that I was an alcoholic because Valium was cross-addictive with alcohol (a conclusion I continue to take issue with), that the Valium had been what per-mitted me to stop my infrequent cocaine use, and that I should commit myself to a detox center to withdraw from Valium." Sylvia declared that under no circumstances would she enter an institu-tion. However, she did accept the need to ask her psychiatrist to assist her in setting up a detoxification schedule for the Valium. She was becoming more determined to stop using the drug and she also felt better about herself. While she refused to accept most of the NA-AA philosophy, especially the idea that she was diseased because she had a problem with a drug, she did find the concern of the members helpful—that and the serene principle that a higher power had a hand in her life.
Over a period of a month, Sylvia worked her Valium down to five milligrams per day. Near the end of the month, she told me that she was going to go off totally the next day and thanked me for my help. Again, I was surprised because she had not informed me about her reduction in use. Sylvia said after she had stopped Valium totally, "I find a small calmness is growing in a spot that has been functioning only on feelings of panic and fear. Although nothing in my life has changed dramatically, I am a lot more at peace with myself and the world around me." It is significant that the ideas of Andrew Weil, who does not fight the responsible use of drugs and is therefore reviled by the drug-free youth zealots, provided major support for Sylvia in her struggle to become drug-free.
Recently, Sylvia wrote, "My friends and classmates ... seem to have found new patterns, mostly healthy, in dealing with their drug use ... whether it is alcohol, cigarettes, or dope. Once the mystique is unwrapped from the entire drug area, the compulsion to use drugs to enhance life can be viewed dispassionately, and constructive alternative behaviors can be evaluated and accepted. There is something very right about approaching drugs with unbiased information as to the dangers or even the lack of danger of each class of drugs and method of administration. Young people today do not seem to reject drugs merely because they are against the law. However, we do frequently seek to alter our consciousness."
My reporting of what Sylvia said and much else in this chapter is quite immodest—for which I hope I will be mercifully forgiven in light of the need to answer the charges so often made about the dangers of an open approach to drug-policy research and education. Moreover, I hasten to point out, at the risk of being redundant, that my function as a scholar, a teacher, and a writer is not to create drug-free students or citizens but to be honest and comprehensive. I continue to be surprised that so many of my students and listeners have used the information I have provided as the basis for reducing their intake of drugs. I assure everyone who will listen that I am only barely aware of the dynamics at work that have created that happy result. However, this positive, though unplanned, experience has convinced me that the venerable democratic ideals about freedom of information apply also to drugs—and that only by telling the whole truth about them in all education programs and in governmental statements to the general public will we ever achieve balanced and civilized methods of living with the unavoidable presence of drugs in society.
RESPONSE OF AN ENTIRE CLASS
Some of my students have been strengthened in their determination to continue the use of drugs after taking my courses. One wrote on an anonymous questionnaire which I distributed to an entire class several years ago, "I am a good student and I work hard. But I do take a lot of drugs—always have. I started using drugs five-six years ago. All through high school I was on the honor roll, and my grade-point average is still very high. This class has taken away a lot of my worries that I'm abnormal or that it is going to catch up with me. Coincidentally, this school year I have been cutting down on my use of narcotics—but this was not a conscious effort. This class has made me feel better about myself, and I am more aware of what problem drug [use] is."
I have no idea who this student is but I would want him or her to be aware that I am concerned that a significant point might have been missed. There is always the danger that any psychoactive drug can indeed "catch up" with a user, especially one who persists in taking the substance regularly.
However, it should be added that one of the responses of this anonymous student was that the information presented in the class had no effect on the actual extent of his or her drug use. In this response, the student fit within the parameters of the majority profile of the students I surveyed that semester. Out of 112 students, 71 returned completed questionnaires. Of those 71 students (mainly undergraduates in their late teens and early twenties), 85.9 percent checked that "no effect" answer.
Only 2.8 percent, two students, said it worked so as to increase their use. Neither of those two explained the dynamics of that increase. It was not at all clear, moreover, that either had actually increased their own drug use but apparently both feared that the information might have that effect on others.
Typical of the comments of the great majority was this observation: "I don't believe for one second that anyone could say they increased drug use as a result of this class. It's a ludicrous as-sumption that just because you learn something you go out and do it." Another wrote, "Open and honest discussion does not lead to greater drug abuse, but rather demystifies the topic and thus re-moves one of its greatest appeals." This last was in response to the question as to whether or not such information should be pre-sented in high schools. Like this student, the majority believed high school classes should adopt this open content, rather than use the scare tactics most of these college students faced back when they were in high school drug courses. Another responded, "As with sex education—teaching and understanding are one's own best protection. You must know the facts to make decisions and this [high school] is the time decisions are made."
One student wrote that such classes should be presented in high school, "because high school students (and junior high stu-dents) make their decisions based on what they learn from their friends, and their own ignorant perceptions of society and the world. For these kids to make the right decision, they need knowl-edge and access to counseling or books. Most important, Idds should be told they do not need to feel guilty if they don't take drugs, and they shouldn't feel proud if they do take drugs (and believe me high school kids are damned proud of their drugs), and of course they shouldn't feel guilty if they experiment with drugs."
The responses to the question asking whether other students in the class appeared to have increased or decreased their drug use were almost uniformly "no effect." One added: "Although I do not think that many people's existing habits were changed, I feel that the course had a preventive quality. People are comfortable with their old habits and have rationalized them over and over. However, at least I will rethink my participation in drug use and I doubt that I will take on any new habits. They're not worth it!"
Eight students, 11.3 percent of those responding, reported that they decreased drug use as a result of taking my courses. One of those explained, "In these classes real objective knowledge is given, not harmful lies that students spot a mile away. . . . It leads us to define what is a drug problem and what is not. I cut down when I became objective." Another of these students was moved to make an even more dramatic personal response. He explained that the information had the effect of reducing his drug use "100 percent," and added, "Every student should be privy to this type of infor-mation. It could be the difference between life and DEATH! It made me realize that even if a drug is legal, it can be harmful and that abstinence is the best policy."
While the reaction of this student may seem extreme, it is one possible type of response that may be evoked by an objective, nonhysterical presentation of the known facts about drugs. When I tell my classes that the dangers of the illegal drugs are exag-gerated, I nevertheless relate all the dangers that are known, including that of potential addiction. When I explain that the legal drugs are greater killers than the illegal drugs, I balance that statement with a full recitation of the dangers of both legal and illegal chemicals. While these facts argue against current drug laws and wars—and against wholesale invasions of traditional rights to save the nation from a mythical destruction by illegal drugs—they do not argue for an untroubled snort of cocaine with a teenager's morning Wheaties. Since I believe, and teach, that all drugs carry many dangers, one sensible reaction is to conclude, as did this student, that a life free of all illicit and licit mind-altering chemicals is the only way to go. Few students reach such a conclusion, but those of my students who do have come to that position on the basis of a balanced appraisal of the facts and not because of prop-aganda.
On the whole, it is difficult to find evidence that these young-sters, generally from middle-class or affluent backgrounds, many with ample funds to spend on luxuries, were corrupted by asso-ciation with a professor who severely criticized dominant drug ideologies and policies.
THE ALASKAN EXPERIMENT
It is even more difacult to find reliable evidence to support the current dominant position about the potential impact of a relaxation of the drug laws upon the number of users and abusers. Certainly, drug laws must have some impact on behavior. It is possible, more-over, that the full legalization of such drugs as, say, marijuana and cocaine might well reduce the price, increase availability, and re-sult in a rise in use—and abuse.
On the other hand, as Sylvia pointed out, drug laws do not greatly affect the drug-taking behavior of many young people. There is an almost perverse quality to the impact of drug laws.
The fact that a drug is illegal increases its allure because many young people are seeking symbols with which to outrage conventional society. Legalization may reduce the defiance value of the drug.
During the Seventies, there were two important experiments with various forms of what might be called legalization of marijuana. While neither involved total withdrawal of criminal penalties, both went beyond the decriminalization (penalties for personal possession reduced to fines as for traffic tickets) which was implemented in eleven American states in the same decade. One experiment took place in Alaska, the other in Holland.
The Alaska experiment was not designed as such. It grew out of the prosecution of an adult for possession of marijuana. In 1975 the Court of Appeals of the state of Alaska, the highest court ruling over one of the last American frontiers, stated in the Ravin case that marijuana did not constitute a public health problem except in the case of persons driving under its influence. To reach that unconventional official conclusion, the justices did their homework and reviewed virtually the entire body of conflicting research on the subject, much of it mentioned in this book. While they did not decide that marijuana was harmless, nor did they condone its use, the justices agreed with those authorities who saw it as one of the least harmful drugs human beings use, which is, of course, my position. Accordingly, the court held that the right of privacy in the state constitution invalidated those laws that prohibit possession of marijuana in the home for personal use. Thus, Alaska became the only state in the union and one of the few places in the world where possession for personal use was almost totally legal, not simply decriminalized. (Sales of marijuana and possession of large amounts remained illegal.)
Another citizen attempted to convince the court to apply the Ravin ruling to cocaine possession in the privacy of the home. The Alaska high court refused to do so in the Erickson case of 1978 because it saw a much greater public health threat from cocaine. The court, however, took that occasion to observe that on the basis of its review of scientific information, cocaine was probably less dangerous to society than alcohol!
The massive harm caused by alcohol had been well-documented in official studies in Alaska. Accordingly, a local-option law was enacted in 1980. A citizen, who also happened to be a state trooper, was convicted of violating that law which had been adopted in the small village of St. Mary's prohibiting possession of alcohol. The convicted man, Hugh Harrison, appealed, using the principles of the 1975 decision on marijuana. While the high court had held that the evidence on marijuana had demonstrated that it was "a relatively harmless drug," the vast body of data presented in this case had clearly "established a correlation between alcohol consumption and poor health, death, family violence, child abuse and crime." Accordingly, the Court of Appeals ruled in Harrison v. State on August 31, 1984, that the overall public danger of alcohol was so much greater than that of marijuana that it upheld the Alaska local-option law on alcohol prohibition but left undisturbed the constitutional protection on the right to personal possession of marijuana in the home.
Drug and alcohol use, for a wide variety of reasons, has always been higher in Alaska than in the rest of the country. Yet according to Dr. Bernard Segal, director of the Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies at the University of Alaska, there is no conclusive proof that legalization affected use, since there was no good evidence about the extent of use before 1975. There do seem grounds to suggest that Alaskan youth are using less compulsively than those in the lower forty-eight.
One of Dr. Segal's studies found that approximately 4 percent of Alaskan students used marijuana every day in 1982. National surveys showed that 6.3 percent of all American high school seniors used it daily that year. Thus, Alaskan children who can often literally reach out and touch marijuana in the home, where its possession is legal, have not, as a group, become destroyed by its presence.
THE DUTCH EXPERIMENT
The Dutch actually set out to attempt a courageous experiment in drug-policy reform. I was able to observe it myself during July 1977 and again in September 1986. My last visit was particularly dramatic because I left my own country during the scared summer of 1986 and went to another that seemed as if it were in some distant, more peaceful galaxy. The Dutch have not solved their drug problems but they have gone further in rational control than any nation of which I am aware. They have consciously adopted a series of peaceful compromises and have rejected the idea of a war on drugs.
During the early Seventies, they commenced seemingly risky reforms that were based upon a view of drug use quite different from that held in America and most European countries. The Dutch saw marijuana "as a stepping-stone to hard drugs" but not, ac-cording to Frits Miter, Director of the Institute of Criminal Law at the University of Amsterdam, because of the qualities of the drug itself. Rather, Professor Riiter explained, it was because the law forced marijuana "into the criminal sphere in common with hard drugs and . . . it was sold in the same place and frequently by the same dealers." Through changes in the substantive law and detailed written guidelines for police and prosecutors, the Dutch set about to break that connection. The legal reforms reduced penalties for simple possession of pot and increased them for large-scale dealing. Yet possession and small sales of marijuana still remained, technically spealdng, illegal. It was the sophisticated use of police and prosecutorial discretion that made the difference.
Indeed, these experiments could not have worked without the strong support of enforcement officials. It was disorienting for me, after talldng to so many American police, to be sought out by police leaders at an Amsterdam conference in September 1986 and to be told how much they believed in the use of discretion in allowing possession and small sales of marijuana—while vigorously pursuing organized crime figures and large traffickers who were involved in the trade of any drug, including marijuana. Such was the outspoken position expressed to me by, for example, two of the highest police executives in the Netherlands: W.F.K.J.F. Frackers, Inspector-General, Dutch National Police, and G. F. de Gooyer, the head of the National Criminal Intelligence Service. Both saw themselves as committed police leaders who could be more effective by taldng a calm, flexible approach to the drug problem, which had to com-mence with distinguishing between marijuana and harder drugs. Both resented the attitude of the police of other nations, including those from the American DEA, who saw them as soft on drugs. They were not soft, they told me; they were smart. I agree with them.
I have seen with my own eyes how "house dealers" in youth clubs are allowed to sell marijuana and hashish and also how coffee shops all over Dutch cities sell these products right off the menu. The symbol of a marijuana plant on a sign tells the public that the products are for sale inside. The key is moderation and control, not prohibition and repression. I saw a coffeehouse with a mari-juana plant painted on its sign within sight of the Ministry ofJustice building in The Hague, the seat of government for the country. Any youth can walk in at any time and make a purchase under the eyes of the police. At the same time, I saw that the coffee shops were usually half empty and the youth centers were busy mainly on weekends. One American told me that he lived in Holland for six months near both a school with teenaged students and a cof-feehouse that sold marijuana. He never saw a single student in the coffeehouse during school hours.
While Dutch criminal-justice and drug-abuse experts are in-dependent characters and openly disagree on many things, there is almost universal agreement among them—including police lead-ers—that they have largely solved the marijuana problem. Their optimism and my personal observations from wandering the streets and coffeehouses of Dutch cities are supported by objective survey research. The use of marijuana by Dutch youth has dropped since the Seventies. Today, it seems to be substantially less than in those countries—especially West Germany, Norway, and the United States—that have undertaken a campaign to castigate the Dutch with the objective of forcibly enlisting them in the war on drugs.
Although the statistics are by no means precisely comparable, those collections of data that are available suggest dramatic con-trasts. For example, NIDA reports for 1983 stated that 5.5 percent of American high school seniors interviewed said that they used pot daily. In 1985 the prestigious Foundation for the Scientific Study of Alcohol and Drug Use, located in Amsterdam, released a study of use throughout the country. A total of 1,306 residents between the ages of 15 and 24 were interviewed in 1983, with the great majority in the 15-19 age category. Seven youngsters replied that they used pot or hashish daily—one-half of one percent of the 1,306 young people who had full access to these drugs without fear of legal sanction. This rate was less than 10 percent of the rate for the United States where marijuana remains illegal and where the government is waging a war against use of the drug, especially by youth.
I do not know if that low comparative rate would be supported precisely by other studies today. I do know that the youth of the Netherlands have not been harmed by one of the most tolerant drug policies of any country in the world.
Thus the Dutch seem to have created a good model for the world. They have not gone to war on drugs and have been tolerant of those who have used them. They took away from youth the weapon of marijuana as a symbol of defiance. Most important, whether they planned to or not, they succeeded in making pot a boring subject to most of the youth of the country.
FORMAL DRUG-EDUCATION COURSES
When the inquiry moves on to the impact of traditional drug-abuse education, we must all prepare ourselves for a disappointment. My courses, remember, do not fit into that category because I am not attempting to affect personal behavior but to provide a broad, objective education in an area of study, as would a teacher of history, government, or chemistry. It would seem logical that after decades of preventive drug education in the public schools, and more recently in the armed services, we would have some concrete ideas of the impact of such education, now a cornerstone of White House drug-control strategy. Yet the evaluations indicate no clear pattern in the impact of this vast array of courses upon students.
Scores of evaluation studies of hundreds and hundreds of educational programs in recent years have come up, in a sense, primarily empty. There is little evidence that the great majority of the courses had any significant impact on behavior or attitudes regarding drugs for most of the involved students. It is not that the findings were negative, but rather that they simply have been inconclusive. This means that after spending hundreds of millions of dollars we have not the vaguest idea if all of the effort in drug-abuse education is doing anything at all, save taking up time, making work for teachers and students, and making parents feel better because their children, they hope, have in some manner been inoculated against drug abuse.
There are a few exceptions to this pessimistic conclusion, all based upon telling children facts which are true and which ring true to them. In 1984, the Rand Corporation reported on a series of educational programs that apparently cut the number of cigarette smokers significantly in the groups studied. The programs provided "methods for resisting pressures to smoke: how to `say no' gracefully. The reasons for wanting to `say no' are illustrated by the short-term effects of smoking, such as bad breath, discolored teeth, and increased carbon monoxide in the blood, rather than by long-term health effects that tend to seem uncertain and far in the future to most young people." The authors of the Rand report concluded that such honest programs could be applied to education aimed at curbing the use of illicit drugs.
Other evaluation studies have reached the conclusion that good preventive drug-abuse education results not in the nirvana of abstinence but in the oft-despised reality of controlled use. One study covered three groups of grade-school students, two given different types of drug education, and the third, the control group, no drug education at all. Over a period of two years, the researchers found that both of the drug-education groups had increased their drug use as compared to the control group. In reporting on this in 1983, psychologist-pharmacologist Dr. Oakley Ray (a Vanderbilt University professor; chief, Mental Health and Behavioral Sciences Unit, Nashville Veterans Administration Hospital; author of one of the best-selling textbooks in the field) stated, "Drug education increased drug use. In contrast to that, students in the two drug programs were less likely to show extreme increases in the amount and type of drug use compared to the control group.
"To put it another way, when control-group students did increase their drug use, they were more irresponsible in their use. ... If you give information about drugs, drug use will increase—but it will probably be safer drug use." Dr. Ray concluded, "Abstinence rarely succeeds, rehabilitation is at best marginally effective. The only choice is to teach safe drug use as well as alternatives to drug use."
Another expert who believes in the reality of controlled drug use is Norman Zinberg, perhaps the leading research specialist on that topic. He is director of psychiatric training, Cambridge Hospital, Harvard Medical School; author of the pre-eminent study on controlled drug use, Drug, Set, and Setting (1984); and, as it happens, the academic mentor and friend of his former student Andrew Weil. For a period of time, Dr. Zinberg's ideas on the need for detailed research to better understand the nature and the dynamics of controlled use were accepted by some policymakers. Even leading White House and cabinet officials for a brief time, while President Carter was in office, acknowledged in a major report that it was "not particularly distressing" that adolescents would experiment with drugs—and recommended that education and preven-tion efforts be "primarily focused on moderating the effects of drug taking."
However, unpredictable swings in style and political consid-erations prevail. Today, controlled use is out of style in Washington and the words have been virtually censored out of official policy statements, except to condemn the idea. President Reagan's 1984 National Strategy for Prevention of Drug Abuse and Drug Traf-ficking declared that certain terms indirectly promoted drug use and henceforth their utterance would be discouraged. Included were "responsible use" and "recreational use" of drugs and alcohol. The President stated definitively, "Research tells us . . . that the phrase 'responsible use' does not apply to drug experimentation by America's youth. And so far as the 'recreational use' of drugs is concerned, I've never in my life heard a more self-serving eu-phemism by those who support drug use. There is nothing rec-reational about those children whose lives have been lost, whose minds have been ruined."
Such chilling attempts at thought control by the official priests of chemical orthodoxy were pushed to new extremes by President Reagan's organized crime commission in 1986 when it made this sweeping recommendation: "No federal, state, or local government funds should go directly or indirectly to programs that counsel 'responsible' drug use or condone illicit drug use in any way. Laws in certain States which 'decriminalized' the possession of marijuana constitute a form of such condonation, and should be reconsidered."
The emotional conflict of views on this one subject illustrates why we as a nation have such enormous difficulty in formulating effective national policies about drugs, including what we should teach our school students as well as what we should tell adults. There simply is no agreement among the leading experts about many of the most elemental facts. It is almost as if the law of gravity was periodically declared null and void by a new presi-dential science adviser who hated to see fruit fall from apple trees—and as if many of the leading physicists in the country hastened to agree with him and to apply for governmental research grants to prove the repeal scientifically justified.
In light of this factual disarray and disorder, what should re-sponsible teachers tell students about responsible use? What about at least one hundred other points on which there is similar fun-damental disagreement? The resolution of the conflicts should affect both the style of teaching and the substance of what is taught. My solution is to tell all sides of the conflicting professional dis-agreements, along with my own interpretation, and to let the stu-dents decide where they stand personally. However, in virtually all school drug-abuse education programs, the kids are told pro-phylactic lies: any use of these illegal drugs will harm you terribly. Often, they tune out the entire lesson, including a factual discussion of real dangers.
RESPONSE OF ONE ADULT STUDENT
There is another dimension to this discussion: the impact of a bal-anced and open review of all of the known facts, without censorship, not simply on the drug-taking behavior of our youth but also of our adults. I humbly offer myself as a brief case study on this important matter.
To start with, I was like Ned and Sylvia in that I was surprised that the study of an academic subject had so much influence on my personal life. I was not at all prepared for that internal result.
In the early Seventies, when I started to ingest drug knowl-edge, like many American male professionals, I smoked cigars, drank Scotch and Irish whisky, and consumed great quantities of coffee. It never occurred to me that my tame use of legal substances could in any way be connected to my studies of national policy regarding the control of such chemicals as heroin, cocaine, and marijuana—and of the enormous crime problems associated with them. As it happened, I never had any interest in the illegal drugs. To be polite to a friend once, I took two or time drags on a joint of marijuana, with boring results. My involvement with drugs re-mained focused on those that were legal. Periodically, I would seek to kick the tobacco habit but without success, and also, I suspect, without any firm commitment to stop.
Then a series of events over a period of four or five years helped me develop a deeper understanding of the nature of drug depen-dence and the dynamics of how human beings relate to drugs. One day, for example, a part-time graduate student, who was also a full-time probation officer, brought one of his probationers into the seminar as a guest speaker. The g-uest, a recovering heroin addict, asked me if I minded if he lit a cigarette. The probation officer interjected, "Don't worry. The professor is probably going to light a big cigar, as he usually does."
I declared proudly, "The joke's on you! Since last week, I have quit. It was rough, but I have gone and done it!" Then, embarrassed, I said to our guest, "Forgive me. Here I am bragging, and yet complaining about how tough it was to quit tobacco ... and you have kicked heroin. I'm really sorry."
The addict replied, "That's okay. Don't apologize. I have beaten heroin, but I haven't been able to beat these damn things."
I had read that for many people tobacco was a more powerful addiction than heroin but I had never heard anyone, face to face, say that this was the case, sitting there, looking dolefully at a cigarette he had just lit. As we talked during that meeting of the seminar on drug policy, he compared the way in which heroin hooked onto you and the way in which tobacco did. "Heroin and tobacco. They work the same," he assured us. I had heard such ideas. Now, I started to believe them.
Those hard-won insights provided both great intellectual excitement and intense personal discomfort. It was good to start to understand a subject of research deeply. It was distinctly discomforting to think that my habit of enjoying a quite legal and respectable, even dignified and manly, wonderfully odorous Brazilian Mandarim Pai six to eight times a day, day in and day out, could in any way be compared to the illegal activities of a street junkie. My habit and his, I discovered, were more alike than different.
Patience and maturity were important in trying to overcome my habit. So also was the lesson that Ned learned about heroin—relapse was part of the process. Indeed, Ned has recently impressed upon me that as he reflects back on it, his relapses were not so much failures as vital parts of the dynamics of growth. Without the periodic relapses, without the occasional balm of his drug, he might have been in much worse shape, and the process of change would have been impossible. That is not conventional expert opinion, but it makes sense to me. And it describes what happened to me. Soon after my braggart's speech in the seminar, I was back on my Mandarim Pais, every day.
For years, my dentist, Jesse Caden, had been warning me that cigar smoking, while not as dangerous as cigarette smoking, carried enormous risks of mouth, tongue, and throat cancer. After a period of years, he started to tell me that he was concerned about the condition of my mouth. At about the time that I was increasing my involvement in the study of drug policy, Dr. Caden was becoming more and more ominous with his warnings. During one visit, he told me that in his opinion some of the tissues in my mouth were precancerous, a phrase I had never heard before that moment. It meant, he explained, that the tissues were on the verge of developing cancer. That worried me but, like most tobacco addicts, not enough to stop me.
Along with knowledge of drug-human dynamics and relationships, I was gaining an understanding of the superiority of natural methods to control emotions and consciousness. I started to appreciate the immense optimism which lies at the base of that understanding. If it is seen that drugs are only triggers to changed emotions and different levels of consciousness, then the real power is not in the chemicals but in the mind and body of each individual human being. Naturally induced changes are more difficult to create which is why many people resort to the quicker action of drugs, that is, quicker for the inexperienced or immature person. Once a person builds only a few, rudimentary pathways into the subconscious mind, however, a hint of the power lurking there is unlocked.
I started to believe that my happiness or unhappiness, my sense of ease or unease, depended less on external forces than on my maturing sense of self-control or self-power. That sense of personal power was severely tested when I saw my first wife through almost a year when she was dying of breast cancer. All through that year of agony, which mercifully ended on October 7, 1976, I smoked many cigars, but kept thinking of quitting. During that period, my wife would often urge me to stop the habit, and I never smoked in her hospital room or near her bed at home. My determination to quit was growing, but I kept on smoking.
Later in another seminar meeting, I was about to light up my usual cigar at the beginning of class. One of my students, Barbara Giniger, a young lady who looked as if she was about to get slightly green about the gills at the prospect of yet another session under a cloud of cigar smoke, asked sweetly, "Do you have to?" It was a courageous action. One does not lightly come between an addict and his fix. The gentleness and, at the same time, the directness of the question had its impact and hit home in my growing sense of power over my habit. I said, "Of course, I don't have to." And for the first time in memory, I waited several hours for my next fix and did not become terribly uncomfortable. Uncomfortable, but not terribly.
Months later, I was talking to another lady in a social situation. We were having a glass of wine together and I was enjoying myself. I started to unwrap a cigar and asked, "Do you mind if I smoke this?" She actually replied, "Not if you have to." This time, I became slightly defiant. After all, this was a social setting. I was not imposing my smoke on students, who could not complain too vigorously. I lit up and blew the smoke about the room. It was a great cigar. I remember it well. Tobacco is a wonderful drug. If it was not, 56 million Americans would not smoke it every day. Those people, approximately one-fourth of our entire population, are not crazy—only addicted.
As I smoked we talked. I observed that one of these days I wanted to give these things up, to stop completely. She, an ex-perienced administrator of an alcoholism treatment center, replied: "I can give you the same advice we give alcoholics. You will quit when it is more important to you to stop smoking than it is to continue smoking."
My response was, "You have reached me. This may be my last cigar." I finished it and it was, at approximately 2:00 P.M. , Feb-ruary 27, 1977. I have not had a puff of tobacco smoke since that moment. I still consider myself a tobacco addict albeit a nonusing one. I have internalized the lesson from Weil about bad relation-ships with drugs. My bad relationship is with tobacco and I now realize that the only way in which I can control that drug, in which / can be in charge and not a chemical, is never to use it. I cannot be a tobacco chipper, which I would dearly love to be.
My victory was the result of a long series of events, insights, and forces. All of them were brought to bear in a voluntary, tol-erant fashion. Had the government demanded that I give up my harmful habit, the most destructive, I suspect, on the face of the earth, it would have had a fight on its hands, even if it had threat-ened arrest and imprisonment. I quit when I was ready and able, not when a police officer, a judge, or a doctor ordered me to do so.
With tobacco gone, I increased my exercise. Five-mile runs through the hills of Rock Creek Park became within my lung and aerobic capacity, easily so, if I may brag a bit more. Hard whiskey seemed inconsistent with regular exercise. Because I felt in control of alcohol, though, I kept using other forms, especially white wine. My caffeine consumption, however, has not changed dramatically.
My ability to concentrate became much greater. For the first time in many years, I wrote a new book, then many articles, and now the book you have in your hands.
In 1979, I married the lady who gave me that crucial bit of advice on making choices. There is much happiness all around me.
My unplanned insights were not the only factors in producing all of these positive results but they were powerfully important forces. Even had I gone in for other drugs, that is, drugs other than tobacco, I believe that those insights would have helped me create patterns of controlled use as I now do with alcohol.
I now believe more than ever that if our governmental and social leaders were to provide a wide array of honest information about drugs and consciousness, and if they then combined that often-conflicting information vvith a more tolerant law-enforcement policy, millions of our people would be helped to make similar positive improvements in their own lives. So to those who believe that we corrupt our youth, or our adults, by telling them the whole range of "truths" about drugs, my self-education of the last 14 years would say, no, they are very wrong. A free society is cor-rupted when national leaders make major policy decisions on the basis of a rigid refusal to consider the full spectrum of scientific and public opinion about an issue that so directly affects the personal lives of its citizens.