Many more teenagers drink alcohol than use illicit drugs. Despite this well-known fact, both Gen. Barry McCaffrey, director of national drug policy, and the House Appropriations Committee have worked to prevent the inclusion of anti-drinking messages in federal anti-drug efforts.
Citing concern that it would “dilute” the campaign’s basic anti-drug message, Gen. McCaffrey argued against legislation that would have given more publicity to the dangers of drinking. In the past, Gen. McCaffrey acknowledged that under-age drinking is the biggest drug problem among teenagers. He also admitted there is a strong link between early drinking and subsequent use of other drugs.
McCaffrey’s anti-drug stance is shortsighted. By focusing solely on illicit drugs, such as marijuana and methamphetamines, teenagers get the message that alcohol is somehow more acceptable. Targeting all drug use makes the message consistent — and likely more effective.
Members of the Appropriations Committee suggested that including alcohol-related messages would diminish funding that could be used to target other types of drug use. A better response would be to increase the overall funding rather than eliminate alcohol-related messages entirely.
We know alcohol is the most abused drug among teenagers. Our anti-drug campaign should reflect this knowledge.