July 28, 1999

A recent report on drug abuse shocked me. It said that "more teenagers are treated for abuse of marijuana than for any other drug including alcohol." I knew drug use was up among young people, but I had no idea that treatment for marijuana abuse was higher than even for alcohol abuse. That is an alarming statistic.

Joseph Califano, president of the National Center for Addiction and Substance Abuse, said, "Teens who smoke marijuana are playing a dangerous game of Russian roulette." He talked about the dangers of marijuana at a time when some are calling for the legalization or decriminalization of drugs.

Califano also went on to say, "The potential of marijuana as a dangerous drug for our children in and of itself, as a gateway to other drug use, and as a signal of trouble is a matter of the most serious concern for American parents." Young people who smoke marijuana are far more likely than non-users to move on to harder drugs.

This is not the first time such statements have been made. For example, a 1992 article in the Journal of Primary Prevention found that marijuana is essentially a "necessary" condition for the occurrence of cocaine use. In my book, Moral Dilemmas, I cite other research that found that (1) involvement with illicit drugs is a developmental phenomenon, (2) increased experimentation correlates with increasing age, and (3) cigarette and alcohol use precedes the use of marijuana.

At one time we appeared to be winning the war on drugs. But a president who smoked marijuana (although he says he didn't inhale) and a Surgeon General who advocated legalizing drugs have been sending the wrong message. It's time to send the right message and "just say no."

I'm Kerby Anderson of Probe Ministries, and that's my opinion.