Sobering Drug Data

`TURN on,'' the gurus of the drug culture advised America's youth in the 1960s.

Three decades later, it is sobering to realize that many of the children and grandchildren of the '60s generation show signs of following that destructive advice.

At least for the moment, junior high school and high school student users of marijuana and LSD are on the rise. A University of Michigan study of nearly 50,000 students has reported that, after a decade of decline, the number of marijuana users jumped sharply.

Among eighth graders, marijuana smoking increased twice as fast in 1993 as in 1992. More than 1 out of 4 high school seniors smoked marijuana last year, up 4 percentage points. And 1 out of 15 seniors used LSD, a rise of almost 20 percent from 1992 figures.

The reported response of the students themselves, who are said to be less fearful of the effects of drug use than in the past, is: So what's the big deal? Even many adults in '94 may be more inclined to agree. Isn't violent crime, including domestic violence, the hot-button issue this year?

But a little ``pot'' here and there - a kids-will-be-kids attitude - seems less harmless when seen in light of research on marijuana as a stepping stone to harder drugs. Dr. Hebert Kleber, medical director of the Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, notes that for marijuana users who smoke as few as two joints a week for a year, the ``likelihood of using cocaine'' goes up 70 percent.

President Clinton was only repeating the unanimous conclusion of law enforcement officials when he noted the common factor of drugs in ``an enormous percentage of crimes.''

Those who are cultural liberals on the subject of drugs might ask themselves another question as they step - in an atmosphere of increasing intolerance - around homeless people. How many of the homeless have used drugs in the past? The statistics indicate almost 3 out of 4.

And for Americans who do have homes but little peace in them, the influence of drugs on domestic violence must be acknowledged.

Nobody is so naive as to believe that making America drug-free would make it a crime-free, economically competitive, well educated Utopia.

But it is even more naive to argue that the next generation's use of drugs at an ever-younger age is ``no big deal.''

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