5 The First Lady's Crusade for Drug-Free Youth
LIFE has been a light shining from your soul," sang the handsome, bright-faced young man in the sweatshirt emblazoned "America's Pride," as he looked into the First Lady's eyes. Steve Courtney, 17, of Overland Park, Kansas, handed Nancy Reagan a single red rose. She returned his gaze and wiped away tears. The sincerity of her commitment to this cause shone in her face and in her words, as she told the 2,000 youths and adults in the audience, her voice choked with emotion, "We depend on you. We need people who are clear-eyed, clear-minded.... I'm so proud of you and I love you." Someone in the audience shouted, "We love you, too!" Others joined in with thunderous applause and "We love you, Nancy!" Behind her on the stage, the first ladies of 15 other nations beamed and glowed in the warmth of this impressively emotional moment. The whole scene created an unforgettable image of the powerful impact of the crusade of America's First Lady on her country's youth—and potentially, now, on the youth of other countries.
AMIDST THE ARMY OF ANGRY PARENTS
In order to understand the nature of this unquestionably worthwhile effort—for every decent person must certainly be in favor of the ideal of drug-free youth—it would be instructive to look at the content of the occasion where Steve Courtney gave Nancy Reagan that red rose. It was April 25, 1985, at the International Conference on Drugs, presented by the National Parents' Resource Institute for Drug Education, Inc. (PRIDE), in the Grand Ballroom of the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta. The speakers and their ideas provide revealing insights into the parents' movement for drug-free youth, the international crusade which the American First Lady has joined and now leads and through which she has captured the imagination and good wishes of much of the civilized world. I had come to Atlanta to witness personally this crusade in action.
Later, that evening on the same stage the image I saw just a few feet in front of me was that of Captain Kirk of Star Trek booming out inspirational leadership messages from the bridge of the Starship Enterprise. The reality was actor William Shatner, proclaiming, "We have just begun to fight!" He ended his talk with this pledge: "I want you to know that I will fight with you all the way!" Mr. Shatner had been appointed the official spokesperson for PRIDE during the year ahead and he had just started doing his job.
When Captain Kirk and the First Lady both speak emotionally in support of a cause, especially a good cause, my inclination is to want to believe them. All of the events in that impressive modern building were presented so well, moreover, that the dramatic staging served on its own to virtually assure agreement by all members of the audience, including me. I felt like the Grinch who stole Christmas when I resisted that seductive atmosphere of total adulation by forcing myself to adopt an attitude of detachment.
And yet, viewed objectively, Mr. Shatner's major message was one of the leading prophylactic lies of the dominant youth-control cultists: it is impossible for any youth to use any drug without the near certainty of serious, even fatal, harm in virtually each and every case. "I am happy to join you in declaring there is no such thing as responsible drug use!" As the state-of-the-art electronic speakers bathed us all in that message, there were cheers of emotional approval. "Responsible drug use is an attack on the health of the youth of the country by the illegal drug industry," which is "an international conglomerate with enormous resources." Then, he declared, "We are no longer willing to let the illegal drug industry provide information to our children."
Such themes dominated the conference. It was a fight between good and evil, and evil was represented by the criminal drug culture spawned in the Sixties and now perpetuated by a powerful global conspiracy which seduced youth by minimizing the dangers of drugs so it could grow rich by selling illegal chemicals to unsuspecting victims. The drug lobby, and its allies, had to be fought without quarter in order to save America's children, who could not be expected to resist the blandishments of the drug merchants on their own. Individual families and parents, moreover, were also powerless on their own to educate their children about drugs or to simply set rules and enforce them, without support from a network of parents—and from the agents of the criminal law.
Before the drug issue became an obsession of almost all of the national press and media, perhaps the most prominent voice in the field of drug reporting had been the Reader's Digest, which hails itself as "the world's most read magazine." The leading marijuana-scare writer for the general public, Peggy Mann, credits Dan O'Keefe, the "brilliant senior staff editor" of that magazine, as the person who "first awakened my interest in the damaging effects of marijuana." The Digest helped fund the PRIDE conference, and its work was everywhere in evidence.
The press office prominently displayed a news release from the magazine headlined " `Parent Power' Offers Best Hope Against Drug Epidemic." The release then declared, "An army of angry parents is mobilizing around the world to go after the drug dealers who have been going after their children, and according to a special report appearing in many international editions of the May Reader's Digest, this is a force to be reckoned with. All across the globe, national parent groups are joining together in the face of the inability of governments and police alone to combat the enormous power that drug racketeers have wielded for so long.... Advises Marsha Manatt, PRIDE co-founder, the international movement must not repeat mistakes made in the U.S. such as concentrating too exclusively on heroin and taking it easy on `soft' drugs like marijuana and hashish. `You must focus on cannabis as a gateway drug,' she says. `If youngsters say no to pot and hashish, they say no to the whole culture.' "
While I had heard these and related distorted ideas many times before, I had never heard them said to my face and repeated hour after hour, while surrounded by decent people who believed them with all their hearts and souls. Like Robert Hartzell at the trial of Fred Collins, I felt that I had been transported to another planet. The heavy air of that planet stifled me. I did not sleep well while there and did not for days afterward. Hatred of any drug user, any person who supported more liberal drug laws, any person who opposed the drug war and the drug-free dogma, any person who raised questions about the perversion of science to support that dogma—these hatreds were palpable forces in that air. That planet provided no breathing room for traditional American beliefs in restraint, balanced appraisal of conflicting ideas, freedom for dissenters, and constitutional rights.
During my time in attendance, I heard no dissent raised about any idea expressed from the podium (save for a few minor exceptions) nor did I read about any dissent in reports on the proceedings. It all resembled a massive religious meeting more than anything else I have ever experienced. As no one raises debating points with a clergyman conducting a prayer service in a house of worship, so none was raised in this politically oriented assembly. Even the existence of another respectable ideological side was not acknowledged. The Devil does not deserve a hearing in the same room with those who have heard and believe the Word of the Lord.
Twice before in my lifetime I remember feeling roughly similar fears for the survival of American democracy and freedom: during the McCarthy communist-hunting investigations of the Fifties and during the civil rights struggles which came to a head in the Sixties. During the latter era, as a federal civil rights official I spent weeks on investigations in the Deep South and saw firsthand how the assault on integrationists destroyed the freedom of all citizens in many communities. There was comfort, though, in the fact that many powerful national governmental and social leaders openly opposed the unbalanced zealots who were willing to burn the Bill of Rights in order to save the country from their favorite devil—in one case, the communist menace, and in the other, racial mongrelization. While there is some opposition at high levels of power to the drug-war zealots today, the strength of high-level support for extremism is frightening.
During the conference, Mrs. Reagan was asked by a reporter to comment on the fact that her husband's administration was cutting federal funds for drug-abuse treatment programs once again as it had done in the past. Mrs. Reagan said she did not see how her activities had anything to do with such mundane, practical issues. "I'm talking mother-to-mother," she replied. "I don't get into the other."
If the First Lady's high-visibility leadership in the drug arena is not a vital part of the overall federal drug control and treatment strategy—"the other"—then what is it? The answer is that it is anything that its supporters want it to be, part substance, part shadow, part private, part governmental, and all a splendid public relations vehicle for the Reagan White House, which is what it was originally designed to be. The "other" is also federal government funding of this event and the claiming of credit for major achievements by staging it. There was undeniable evidence of heavy governmental involvement in the conference and at the same time of a desire to present it as if it was simply a private meeting of mothers. Now you see the hand of the government. Now you don't! That was the hand of a mother. And what cad could deny that a mother knows what is best for her children?
The April 1985 conference was actually two conferences, both supported heavily by federal funds, as have been similiar parent conferences before and after this one. The initial event in 1985 was entitled "The First Ladies' Conference on Drug Abuse," which was scheduled for April 24 in the White House and April 25 in Atlanta. On April 24, Mrs. Reagan and the First Ladies of 17 other countries met in Washington to hear Dr. Carlton Turner of the White House explain national drug strategy; Joyce Nalepka, president of the National Federation of Parents for Drug-Free Youth, tell about the parents' movement; and other adult leaders lay out national policy directions. The importance of Mrs. Reagan to the entire federal program was underscored by Dr. Turner when he declared, "She has been our point man in this fight." A reporter who was present observed, "At times the morning session sounded as if it were as much a testimonial to Nancy Reagan as it was a skull session for trading ideas and searching for what she called a 'common understanding among nations of the drug problem.' "
The only young person on the program held at the White House, and the only one with an admitted drug problem, was 16-year-old Robin Page, listed as "Graduate of Straight, Inc., Drug Rehabilitation Center," who spoke on "Why I Used Drugs—Why I Stopped." While Ms. Page was apparently helped by the treatment she received at Straight, as other young people have been, no questions were raised about the dark side of the organization.
The second day of the First Ladies' conference merged with most of the events of the PRIDE meeting in Atlanta, at which only fifteen of the other First Ladies were present. I was able to attend it because it was touted as a meeting of private citizens that was open to any member of the public willing to pay the registration fee. However, when I sought to take one of the many vacant seats in the front rows of the huge ballroom, I was stopped by white paper signs on them saying "Reserved for DEA."
As on the day before in Washington, the first substantive speaker was Dr. Turner, whose speech was entitled, "We Are Winning the War on Drugs." The White House drug-policy adviser gave a victory report replete with tales of new laws, seizures, and drug law convictions, with the result that 10,000 more bad guys were in prison. That's why the prison population is going up, he bragged. Yet Dr. Turner could provide little in the way of concrete evidence that these measures had been successful in stemming the overall influx and use of drugs. Dr. Turner did make one claim now often stated by drug-war leaders—that the recent drop in reported marijuana use by youth was due mainly to the drug-control efforts of the Reagan administration and the parents' movement. He pointed with pride to the survey figures which showed, he stated, that daily marijuana use among high school seniors dropped during the Reagan years.
It is possible, of course, that the drop was created in part by those efforts, for which appropriate credit should be given. However, my view is that we know very little about the reasons for mass swings in drug preferences, whether for a particular brand of beer or for a specific illegal drug.
Dr. Turner also stated that a goal of communist drug dealers in Latin America and elsewhere was to destroy American democracy. Those who dealt in drugs from any country were such despicable people that "in some cases I personally believe the death penalty is warranted," the presidential adviser declared. He did not mention that only 13 repressive countries have the death penalty for drug trafficking and that no Western democracy does.
THOMAS GLEATON: ARREST MY CHILD
Several of the major ideological leaders of the parents' crusade dominated the remainder of the day. Each talked in kindly terms about the need to save children around the world from drugs. Each seemed blissfully unaware that the programs proposed might have little impact on drug abuse but could well serve to repress many traditional democratic values and freedoms.
The director of PRIDE and chairman of the conference, Thomas J. Gleaton, who holds a doctorate in education and is a professor of physical education at Georgia State University in Atlanta, explained how PRIDE was formed at the university in 1977 "to provide education and training for parents who wanted to fight back against the commercialized drug culture." Soon, Dr. Gleaton continued, the internationalization of the parents' movement began. By 1983, representatives of 17 countries came to the PRIDE conference. By 1984, 34 countries attended. At this conference, over 50 were present. "The internationalization of the parents' movement has become a reality," Dr. Gleaton declared proudly. To that international audience, he repeated a powerful theme of the American parents' crusade: "In nearly all cases, prevention fails when it does not address the gateway drug—cannabis—and instead concentrates on treatment of `end of the road' drugs—opiates and cocaine." As he uttered those words, I noted not a smile, not a questioning look, not a doubting comment around me. The huge audience was quiet, deadly serious, determined, seemingly united: fight marijuana and conquer the drug menace.
Unfortunately, Dr. Gleaton said, the worst mistakes of the American experience, especially decriminalization of marijuana, are being repeated in other countries, usually by the inaction of enforcement officials. "The result of this de facto legalization is a legal muddle that supports increasing drug use. If possession and use of an illegal drug is condoned or excused, the primary cause of the drug epidemic is ignored—the user." Having laid out this simplistic explanation for the rise in drug use, Dr. Gleaton then propounded one of the most repressive principles in the drug-free dogma: "We, as parents of all nations, must say to our local law-enforcement officer, `If my child, my loved one, or my friend breaks the law by using illicit drugs, please arrest him or her.' "
Thus there was complete support for the logic of the law. Not a single person in the entire conference seemed capable of the venerable American exercise of raising questions about the simple horse sense of the laws. Not a single person seemed capable of asking if the classification of the drugs into legal and illegal was more an hysterical action from decades past than a matter of current objective science. Not a single person seemed to understand that the genius of America lay in periodically challenging irrational laws. All seemed to accept the extraordinary notion that we Americans should actually applaud the act of calling in the police to arrest our children and other loved ones if they so much as smoke a marijuana cigarette, which is, technically, still a crime in most of the United States. Not a single person pointed out that many experts find the gateway theory without factual foundation.
Not a single person raised questions, moreover, about the ideas put forth by the next speaker, Jean-Michel Cousteau, eldest son of the famous ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau. Jean-Michel narrated a film, "Snowstorm in the Jungle," produced by his famous father. The film dealt with cocaine trafficking in South America. To me it all seemed out of place in a conference on drug education for youth. Even more bizarre was the vivid showing of how some doctors in Peru were dealing with cocaine addiction among Peruvian youth: the equivalent of a brain lobotomy. Right there on the screen in Atlanta before 2,000 parents and young people was patient 29, aged 16, "deemed irrecoverable" and going under the knife as a last resort. And there was Jean-Michel Cousteau clucking in a kindly voice as if to say how sad but to exorcise evil spirits one must do some cutting. My skin crawled and I tried to block out the images on the screen but everyone else there seemed to accept the idea of operations on the brains of addicted children as one of the exciting new technologies for the future. Sadly, Jean-Michel tells us, patient 29 relapsed a year later.
MARSHA MANATT: NORML AS DEVIL
Thomas Jefferson was surely churning in his grave as Dr. Gleaton and Mr. Cousteau spoke. The venerable Virginian and his fellow conspirators of 1776 were kept churning by the two appearances of Dr. Marsha Manatt that day. The main villain in creating the drug culture, she said, was the "pro-drug lobbying organization" NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. The reason nice kids in her neighborhood started "partying with pot" was because "they were indoctrinated by a popular culture all around them." That culture was apparently created in large part by NORML, but also very much by its allies in "the powerful world of the commercialized glamorization of drugs." Those dope profiteers included the purveyors of drug-oriented comic books, movies, and magazines, especially High Times. Also part of that evil world were "major, reputable corporations," which marketed such pro-drug products as Opium perfume, eyedrops for smokers through ads in Seventeen magazine, and Weil's book From Chocolate to Morphine. (I am not making any of this up. These are her precise arguments.) This world was allowed to develop in the recent past by irresponsible adults, who "distorted and twisted the fundamental and noble conception of civil rights into the `personal right' to illegally use mind-altering drugs." The good news of the 1980s, according to Dr. Manatt, was that parents were fighting back "against the merchants of greed who manipulated and exploited ... the young.... But we still have a long way to go, for the criminal syndicates are powerful and increasingly violent."
Thus all those who oppose the current parents' movement are smeared with the same violent, criminal brush. You are either with us and for strict enforcement of all current laws or you have joined the camp of the traffickers and the pushers.
However, in such mass, emotional indictments, scant attention is paid to facts which would seem to call for rational distinctions between pushers and protesters. While NORML, for example, has many supporters who are decidedly pro-pot, it has many, like me, who are anti-pot. For most of its brief existence since 1970, the organization has repeatedly declared, as its official policy statement explains, that it "is strongly committed to the concept that growing up should be drug-free." This remarkable congruence of ideals is never mentioned by the zealots of the parents' movement. Thus NORML has pushed not pot for youth but reform of the laws through legal means so that adults would be freed of criminal controls on a drug that millions of them have used largely without apparent harm.
Moreover, it is highly likely that the sudden, unexplainable interest in pot by millions of decent American citizens might have preceded and accounted for both the existence of NORML and of the pot partying of our teenagers. The possibility of that congruence never seems to have dented the consciousness of the intellectual leaders of the parents' movement, such as Dr. Marsha Manatt. Nor has it occurred to them how destructive it is to teach our youth that writings and public appearances by ideological opponents are part of a criminal conspiracy and thus must be suppressed—and not allowed into the marketplace of ideas, a development which Jefferson saw as the supreme method for weighing conflicting versions of truth in a democracy. It is sad that the White House supports a movement that teaches children to hate freedom while it is teaching them to hate drugs.
A MAN OF OUR TIME: GABRIEL G. NAHAS
Many of the most extreme proposals to combat the drug menace with minimal regard for traditional American values and rights came from Gabriel G. Nahas, M.D., Ph.D., professor of anesthesiology at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University and a consultant to the United Nations Commission on Narcotics. He is the chairman of the Scientific Advisory Committee of the National Federation of Parents for Drug-Free Youth and the chief medical advisor to PRIDE. Because of Mrs. Reagan's close links to these two related organizations, Dr. Nahas must be rated as one of the most influential physicians in the country in terms of setting the tone and philosophy underlying current American drug control strategy. During World War II, he was a heroic member of the French underground and received the Legion of Honor medal from his own government's leaders and the Medal of Freedom from President Truman.
The doctor began doing research on the pharmacological and biological impact of marijuana in 1969. In 1972 he published his first book laying out the dangers of the drug, Marijuana: Deceptive Weed. Dr. Nahas burst fully upon the national scene on January 25, 1974, when he issued a press release to announce the results of a study he directed at Columbia University. The release claimed startling new discoveries that "habitual marijuana smoking weakens the body's immune defenses against disease." To the world he announced that he had proudly stuck his flag into the virgin sand of this new scientific island: "The findings represent the first direct evidence of cellular damage from marijuana in man."
The press release—unusual in itself as a method of announcing the results of scholarship—was remarkable on two other counts. First, it revealed breathtaking scientific ignorance when it stated that the marijuana smokers studied in the research claimed "that they did not use any other mind-altering drugs." Yet the very next sentence admitted, "They drank alcoholic beverages and smoked cigarettes, as did the members of the control group." No marginally literate student would dare to refer to alcohol as anything but a mind-altering drug, and many experienced researchers view tobacco in the same light. Also, there is scientific evidence that both of these latter drugs could account for some depression in the activity of the immune system. Second, the medical scientists leaped with similar recklessness from the laboratory to the legislature. "The new biochemical evidence ... has led Dr. Nahas to call for a thorough reappraisal of the findings of the National Commission on Marijuana ... which might lead to marijuana legalization," the press release declared.
The reports of that official commission in 1972 and 1973 had stated that while marijuana posed potential health hazards, they were not so serious, especially when compared to other drugs such as alcohol, as to require continued total prohibition. (Despite a Big Lie created by drug-war zealots, neither that commission nor any other responsible research or lobbying group during the past century has ever concluded that marijuana was harmless.) The commission had, therefore, recommended decriminalization for personal use as a moderate, compromise position. Appointed by a conservative president, Richard Nixon, chaired by a conservative, and staffed by a full range of experts who conducted wide-ranging reviews of all medical and legal evidence, that commission and the reports it issued had been viewed as balanced and authoritative by many impartial observers. Suddenly, on the basis of one narrow study of a relatively few subjects, the major recommendations of the commission were called into question to the accompaniment of massive media coverage on the front pages of newspapers and on major network television news shows. Subsequent works by Dr. Nahas, such as his Keep Off the Grass, aimed at the general public, also received a good deal of media attention, although he often complained that there was a conspiracy of silence about his research.
His publications also produced other results which he, like the leaders of the parents' movement, find intolerable, even criminal: widespread criticism. No drug-abuse scholar in recent history has been the subject of such scathing commentaries in the scientific journals. A review in The New England Journal of Medicine described his work as "psychopharmacologic McCarthyism that compels him to use half-truths, innuendo and unverifiable assertions." In The Journal of the American Medical Association: "examples of biased selection and ... omissions of facts abound in every chapter." In Contemporary Drug Problems: "meretricious trash."
On the other hand, Dr. Nahas has received encouragement from many physicians, funds from governments, and strong support from the parents' movement and the White House. At the PRIDE–White House banquet on April 25, just before Captain Kirk spoke, every person, including me, was handed a six-page brochure entitled "A Man of Our Time: Gabriel G. Nahas, M.D., Ph. D," which laid out his life story including his persistence in revealing the dangers of marijuana in the face of vicious attacks against him by other researchers. Most of these scholarly attacks were laid at the door of apparently conspiratorial action by members of NORML. Dr. Nahas was particularly distressed by a review of one of his books in The New England Journal of Medicine on December 20, 1984. That "prestigious publication" had actually called upon Dr. Andrew Weil ("whose own books are recommended by High Times magazine") to write the review—with predictable results. The brochure observed, "It is sad when a major medical journal acts as spokesman for the commercialized, criminal drug culture."
Also handed out that day had been a companion eight-page brochure: "A Drug Policy for Our Times-1985, a Position Paper of P.R.I.D.E.," the principal author of which was Dr. Nahas, with the assistance of Drs. Gleaton and Schuchard, among others. It had been presented earlier that day by Drs. Nahas and Gleaton at a special press conference, which I witnessed from a front-row seat. In a calm and kindly fashion, these two men explained to perhaps 25 members of the American and foreign press, not a policy aimed at helping youth cope with the many real dangers of drugs but rather how to reorganize democratic societies around the world in the name of producing drug-free citizens of all ages.
In the process of laying out the major ideas of the position paper, Dr. Nahas stated that up until the 1960s "social taboos" had operated to inhibit almost all people from taking illicit drugs. The taboos had been destroyed by "social theoreticians" who had caused great harm in recent years by their permissive ideas that nations should teach their people "how to live with drugs, how to use them for pleasure in a responsible fashion, without abusing them." He went on to say that while this might be possible, in many cases, with alcohol and tobacco, it was impossible with the illicit drugs, which, unlike the legal drugs, almost always produce "neuropsychotoxicity," defined as "a temporary impairment of brain function." The permissive social theoreticians, he continued, did not understand this greater organic and mental impairment created by the illicit drugs, such as marijuana (alleged, with a straight face, to be seven times more addictive than alcohol), cocaine, and heroin (both 14 times greater). These same theoreticians are largely responsible for destruction of the social consensus against illicit drugs during the past two decades and thus they are also responsible for recent drug epidemics.
THE NEW CHEMICAL GULAG
According to Dr. Nahas, there is no need to adopt the "very harsh methods of repression" of the communist-bloc nations—meaning, I assume, summary executions—for we can look rather to more enlightened models of control which, during recent years, have been "sucessfully implemented in Japan, Taiwan, and Singapore," all three of which countries being described as "Asian democracies." The experience of the latter country is especially important to democratic nations. The basic assumption of the Singapore model, in accordance with the advice of leading scientists and the United Nations, is that "since there is no medical cure for drug dependence, the only effective measure is to suppress the drug as much as possible, treating it like an infectious agent, and to rehabilitate the addict through quarantine until he is able to lead a drug-free life." Addicts are spared the stigma of a criminal conviction because they are simply arrested, given a urine test, and, if they do not pass, are placed in the rehabilitation center without the formality of a trial. So there you have it: The solution. It worked in Singapore, Dr. Nahas declared, and within a few years a raging heroin epidemic was stopped in its tracks and the number of addicts reduced from approximately 13,000 in 1977 to 6,000 in 1983, an unvalidated claim which, indeed, had been made by officials in Singapore.
I sat there through that performance stunned. This was America talking to the world. The First Lady of our democratic nation was still in the building along with the First Ladies of other countries. This was a White House meeting. This presentation was being made by the meeting's most honored medical expert. Yet, the content of the solution offered the world was so full of scientific errors and legal horrors that I held my breath, for I barely knew where to start asking questions or if I could do so without declaring how utterly mad I thought both Dr. Nahas and Dr. Gleaton were. They were offering quick-fix police-state solutions to a delicate and distressing problem requiring patience, toleration, humane treatment options, and adherence to the principle that even suspected drug users, like suspected robbers, had rights in a democracy.
These two widely respected experts with advanced degrees might just as well have said that they had a simple, handy-dandy cookbook for a drug-free and right-free world. If there is no medical cure for addiction, how in the world do treatment personnel rehabilitate an addict once he has been confined in this new chemical Gulag? How do you suppress drugs? Our massive police-military efforts have failed miserably to do so. And the notion that the illicit drugs had been proved to be more addicting than alcohol flew in the face of every piece of objective research I had encountered in the past 14 years. How can anyone refer to Taiwan and Singapore as democracies, when both are highly regimented societies? While I was reorganizing my thoughts, the press sat for the most part quietly, accepting the whole frightening scheme, except for a few mild questions.
Finally, I managed to say in a quavering voice, "There are perhaps one million heroin and cocaine addicts [in the United States]. . . . Are you suggesting that we consider locking them all up without judicial process?" Dr. Nahas's long answer started with the observation that the number of "heroin addicts and consumers" must be closer to 5,000,000, thus confirming my concern that any user of an illicit drug, not only an addict, might be subject to involuntary quarantine under this scheme. He then stated that giving addicts methadone was no cure since it substituted one addiction for another. The only answer is abstinence. We have many such drug-free programs already in this country. "These programs are all the same ... all successful." The physician included Straight, Inc., in that category, citing it as an example of the best approach yet discovered anywhere in the world. In addition, we would have to start thinking about more extensive efforts that would require an involuntary "prolonged period of quarantine" for many more users and addicts—he did not estimate how many—which might start with people in certain elements of society—the army and the schools, for example—where controls were already accepted. If we don't lock these people up, Dr. Nahas explained, they will continue to take drugs.
Writer Peggy Mann, sitting among the other reporters, was asked by Dr. Gleaton for her opinion of the Singapore method. She indicated that it seemed to work very well and that it had cured a large number of addicts. "I think it's a very interesting program to look at," Ms. Mann observed.
Dr. Gleaton explained how various elements of this model have already been applied in several American communities, especially the use of urine tests to check up on illicit drug use, to discover, as he called them, "contaminated persons." In one Arkansas school system, for example, students who had been involved in growing and using marijuana were met by a demand from parents that urine tests be administered to students who appeared intoxicated. Failure of the test meant suspension. Dr. Gleaton noted with approval that there was a good, strong tendency in the country to move toward manadatory urine tests in schools, government, industry, and the armed forces "with an option for the person who's involved in drugs to stop taking or to go into treatment or to take their place in the jails." The professor made no distinction between users and addicts. Evidence of any illegal substance, including marijuana, in the body was sufficient. No mention was made of the existing gridlock in our criminal justice system and of the bulging conditions of our prisons.
At the instant the press conference was over, I attempted to rush out of that room. It seemed an unhealthy, unclean place to be. Dr. Nahas came rapidly in my wake and handed me a copy of a guest editorial he had published in the Wall Street Journal on February 13, 1985, which explained those "successful" Asian programs. I thanked him but said that I had already read it and that I had published my own guest editorial in that paper some months previously that was 180 degrees away from his. Then I put my arm on his shoulder and in an attempt to be kind said, "Dr. Nahas, I know your work and I respect it. It's like religion, though. Listening to you talk is like a Catholic listening to a sermon from an orthodox Jew, or vice versa."
He put his glasses on and came close and read my name tag. Suddenly, he pulled back as if he had come in contact with old Beelzebub himself. "I know you!" he said in a shocked voice. Responding as if that remark were a compliment, I said, in a friendly way, "Why don't we sit down sometime and have a talk?" He said "Yes," but in such a manner that the thought flashed through my mind that he would do so only if he could secure my imprisonment first.
During the next day at the conference, Dr. Nahas looked at me several times with deep distrust, indicating no desire for a chat. Finally, he approached and said, to the best of my recollection, "This program which you find so distasteful"—remember, I had merely raised a few basic issues—"is based on fifteen years of scientific study and mathematical formulae. Your ideas are very damaging. When I fought with the French underground, the American troops I met were drug-free." Gesticulating now with two fingers, together, that kept coming down on my forearm, he continued, "You caused all this to change! You are responsible for this epidemic of drugs in America!" I replied that harsh methods like his had dominated drug enforcement during this century and they had failed; now, his side wanted more and more of the same repression that failed. Later, of course, I thought of other bright answers I should have shot back at him but didn't.
A few weeks after the conference was over, I had another opportunity. I was called, out of the blue, by a producer of "Firing Line," the discussion television show chaired for 20 years by conservative columnist William F. Buckley, Jr., and asked if I would appear for a taping on May 22. I readily agreed. To my surprise, the other guest was Dr. Gabriel Nahas. During that show, Dr. Nahas repeated the positions he had stated in Atlanta. Dr. Nahas became particularly incensed when I pointed out that he seemed to bend scientific objectivity when it came to his, and my, favorite drug, alcohol. Drinking a few glasses of wine was civilized, I observed, while smoking a few joints of marijuana was not only criminal but so extremely dangerous to the health of the entire society that involuntary quarantine was necessary. The comparison made the French hero livid with rage. Several times, he threatened to walk off the set in the middle of the show, so furious did my questions and observations make him. I felt sorry for the man in personal terms because he seemed so sincere and so distraught—and at the same time I believed it necessary to challenge openly his ideas that did violence to democratic values and scientific facts.
After the sound recording had stopped, and the producer was rolling film just to have a background to show the credits, Dr. Nahas stood up and made an impassioned speech to the dumbfounded studio audience, shook his fingers vigorously in my face, accused me again of causing the drug epidemic, and said he refused to shake my hand—he simply could not! Mr. Buckley leaned back in his chair as he often does, smiled slightly, and raised his eyebrows at me, looking past the lecturing physician, as if to ask: why is he doing this when the show is over? Is he out of control? I looked back at Mr. Buckley with a similar quizzical message. When he had finished, Dr. Nahas started to storm off the set with his microphones still attached. Mr. Buckley managed to catch him just in time to disengage them from his lapel.
THE FIRST LADY AND THE PARENTS
When Mrs. Reagan accompanied her husband into the White House on January 20, 1981, there was little in her past history to suggest that she might get involved with the difficult issue of drug policy. Her major involvement with a social issue had been her strong support of the Foster Grandparents Program, a private organization that offered help to children. During her first year in Washington, few members of the general public knew or cared about that. Nancy Reagan was and is a rich, classy lady. She acted like one, once she arrived in this capital city. A former aide was quoted in Time magazine on the royal Reagan scene: "There is a little element here of Louis XIV's French court and les précieuses—the affected ladies. She had a certain liking for witty, amusing, well-dressed men who were willing to walk three paces behind and carry the purse." Yet she acted no differently from scores of other rich Americans; it was all so much a matter of position, timing, and image.
Believing quite sincerely, and perhaps quite properly, that the White House could use some internal dressing up, she called mainly upon her rich circle of friends who dipped into their petty cash funds and produced $800,000 to redecorate the private rooms in the fine old mansion. Mrs. Reagan's magic touch worked again when she arranged to get $209,000 worth of china donated to the cause of matching dishes at huge state dinners. While these events were transpiring, the country was going through a minor depression and millions were out of work. Although her husband, "the great communicator," was doing splendidly on Capitol Hill and in the media, the press printed withering stories on the rich, frivolous First Lady. The new White House china became a standing joke among Washington reporters, and through them, among the people of the country. Mrs. Reagan read these often spiteful stories and was deeply hurt.
Nancy Reagan has said, "That first year was a terrible year." In addition to public humiliation at the hands of the press, "There were all those personal things that happened." On March 30, 1981, the President was shot and seriously wounded. In 1982, her stepfather, to whom she was deeply attached, died. A small cancer was removed from her lip. The First Lady's emotional and physical health seemed adversely affected; her weight dropped from 114 to 104 pounds. She began to look frail, almost sickly, as if a strong wind would blow her over the heads of her cordon of Secret Service agents.
Thus, before the end of President Reagan's first year in office Mrs. Reagan was in a personal and political slump, even, some might have said, in a depression. Then someone on her staff came up with the idea of supplanting the bland image of the Foster Grandparents Program with the more robust vision of a massive effort to help control youth drug abuse. It has been alleged that the campaign was designed by political operatives to rehabilitate a political disaster area in the White House—the frivolous, loser image of the President's wife. There is no doubt in my mind, however, that a basically decent and sincere First Lady then pitched in tirelessly to further an important cause that reached the hearts of millions.
"We're in danger of losing our whole next generation," Mrs. Reagan told leaders of the National Federation of Parents for Drug-Free Youth (NFPDY) on November 9, 1981. They had been invited to the White House as part of the beginning effort to get the First Lady involved in a serious project. The danger came primarily from marijuana, according to parents at this meeting. Marion McClatchy, a member of the NFPDY board from Rosemont, Pennsylvania, explained that her son started smoking the drug at 12, and by the time he was 16, she and her husband decided that marijuana was the reason they were losing him. He was 21 at the time of that White House event and the parent-organization board member reported that he was then fully estranged from the family and that they did not even speak with him. Marijuana caused this estrangement, it was reported. "If we'd had the information then we have now, we wouldn't have lost our child," Ms. McClatchy told the First Lady and the other parents. This false claim—the loss of a generation primarily to marijuana—was to be repeated time and time again by Mrs. Reagan and by the parents' movement.
When her staff allied the First Lady with the parents' movement, they created a union of immense benefit to all directly concerned. Mrs. Reagan conferred greater national and international status on the movement and she, in turn, found herself as the spiritual leader of a grassroots political force that is utterly elemental in the essence of its power: that of a mother who believes that evil people are menacing her young.
That movement had started years before the First Lady began looking for a serious involvement. It was spontaneously and almost simultaneously created in many separate communities, primarily in the South, during the Seventies by groups of middle-class parents concerned about the puzzling behavior of their children, especially regarding the use of marijuana. While the parents had lived through the Dope Decade of the Sixties, and some of them had tried pot, most were repelled by the legacy of that permissive era which they believed was reflected in the strange drug preferences of their young. One of the most important small streams that eventually became an international flood tide began flowing at 1:00 A.M. on a hot, muggy August night in 1976, according to Peggy Mann's book, Marijuana Alert, in the backyard of the Atlanta home of Marsha and Ron Manatt. At that hour the Manatts were crawling around in the wet grass after the end of a birthday party for their 12-year-old daughter, Kathy. The children had been acting strangely and the parents were suspicious, for good reason. To their shock, they found dozens of marijuana butts, empty beer cans, and empty bottles of "Mad Dog 20/20" wine, which is 20 percent alcohol.
All responsible parents must share the shock and dismay of the Manatts at these discoveries. Clearly, they had to take some action. There will, however, be serious disagreement among many responsible parents as to what that action should have been.
At this point, many parents, then and now, would have called in their child and laid down the law: here are the rules of this house, or else. Those rules would have been laid down regardless of how harmless or harmful other people thought the substances or activities were—and probably without even talking to the neighbors. Young lady, you are not allowed to smoke pot or drink alcohol. While we are at it, you have been eating too many fatty foods. Cut way down on hamburgers and french fries. Because of this party, you will be grounded (no recreational excursions out of the house) for the next month. On weekends, you will be allowed out but with us and under our supervision. Why? Because I told you so. But my friends told me that none of that stuff will hurt me. I do not control your friends but I do control you. Please go to your room and study. Now!
In the overwhelming majority of cases, I suspect, this approach has worked. Criminologists know that the most powerful correctional forces in the world are loving parents who both provide positive examples and also say "no" at the appropriate times to their children. Such parents are more important and more powerful than all the community institutions and police forces and governments combined. I firmly believe in that venerable form of parent power—and in that healthy element of the current parents' movement that exercises it.
Marsha Manatt did not rely on that form of individual parent power alone in dealing with her daughter. Like other parents around the country at the time, she also invoked another venerable American tradition of direct action and launched a campaign to reorganize the world around her. She went to the neighbors to find out what they knew and to seek their support for common action. Then she sought to organize them, the schools, and the police into a massive campaign to keep the children under constant surveillance. Virtually all of the children in the community were grounded for a month. The police were encouraged to watch more closely places where young people were known to sell and exchange drugs, such as parking lots, and to make arrests. Marsha Manatt Schuchard, who holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of Texas, also sought to straighten out the misinformation about marijuana which she felt was confusing the children and parents of the country. Too many teachers and experts treated it as harmless, she believed, in some cases even conceding its positive benefits as a medicine. On March 17, 1977, she wrote Dr. DuPont, who was then director of NIDA under President Carter, stating that the government was giving confusing messages about pot and that it failed to differentiate between adult and juvenile use. Robert DuPont was so impressed that he made a trip to Atlanta.
"I don't mind saying that it was parent power that changed my attitude about marijuana. That trip to Atlanta was what really opened my eyes," he related to Peggy Mann. Dr. DuPont then called Tom Adams, director of NIDA's Pyramid Project, which DuPont had set up in 1975 to provide assistance to community antidrug abuse groups. Adams introduced Manatt to Dr. Gleaton at nearby Georgia State University, who had been running the Southeast Drug Conference at his school since 1975. All four of these key actors agreed that most professionals downgraded the role of parents and especially the allegedly true health hazards of marijuana, now being documented in the new research. (Many drug-abuse scholars, including me, see no significant new dangers documented in the new research.) They agreed, as Peggy Mann wrote in Marijuana Alert, that "since there was such a dearth of accurate information about marijuana, a new organization would be formed to collect and disseminate such information"—PRIDE. Thus, the marijuana obsession was built into the movement from the start; other drugs have always been secondary.
PRIDE conferences commenced in 1978 and have been a vital gathering ground for the parents' movement. Speakers always reinforced the alleged new evidence showing the massive health threat posed by marijuana to children. If a debate has occurred on the issue at any such conference, I have not discovered it. Parent groups proliferated around the country with the help of federal funds and leadership from NIDA and other agencies, under the aegis of the Carter administration. At the 1980 PRIDE conference the National Federation of Parents for Drug-Free Youth was formed at the initial suggestion of Dr. Gleaton. Federal support continued into the Reagan years, especially through NIDA under the new director, Dr. Pollin, before Mrs. Reagan became involved. Reliable estimates of the actual number of local parent groups have been difficult to find. I have seen reports of numbers ranging from 4,000 to 9,000. Some critical investigative reporters, such as Tom Seay of The Drugs & Drug Abuse Education Newsletter, have suggested figures only in the hundreds. Whatever the actual number, there is no doubt of their great combined political power.
THE BIBLE OF THE PARENTS' MOVEMENT
Parents, Peers, and Pot, one of the most powerful products of this alliance was, in Dr. Gleaton's words, "the bible of the parents' movement." It had been suggested by Tom Adams, funded by NIDA at the direction of Robert DuPont, and written under contract by Marsha Manatt. First published in 1979 during the Carter administration, a second enlarged edition was published in 1983 under Mr. Reagan. It set out the basic philosophy of the movement in terms of the allegedly new, more reliable drug knowledge and also provided numerous examples of political activism to secure compliance with that dogma at all levels of society, starting in local communities and schools. More than a million copies have been distributed free by NIDA, and it has been translated into several other languages.
I assigned Marsha Manatt's second edition of her bible, Parents, Peers, and Pot II (1983), to my university classes on drug policy as required reading because, like most university teachers, I want my students to be exposed directly to a wide variety of views. Students normally welcome that diversity and conflict in assigned readings. Nevertheless, in this case, my students complained bitterly to me in class about being forced to read the brief 160-page paperback book. They had just completed high school within the past few years, they said, and this was a complete distortion—they used more pithy expletives—of what high school students were really like and of proper ways of dealing with their drug problems. Their mass complaints were to no avail. The reading assignment stuck.
Along with many of the students, however, I was shocked at the total lack of balance exhibited in this publication, which the American government and its drug experts have presented to the world as an official version of Truth about drugs, parents, and youth. The publication is so one-sided that it can be justified only if it were indeed seen as a narrow religious tract, the presentation of theological dogma, not facts. In its present form, it is government-funded propaganda and thus raises serious legal and constitutional issues.
This bible taught, for example, that marijuana was always harmful, even fatal, for young people. This conclusion was based firmly, it alleged, on new "credible biological" research, information that was taught in school classes established at the behest of parents' groups, and which became the basis for the elders' "nonnegotiable position on drugs." It was absolutely crucial that the other side of this issue and all others never be presented. Hidden at the bottom of a page which reproduced a pamphlet passed out by a Nebraska group was a sentence that illustrates how well they had learned their anti-democratic lesson: "It's wise to interview speakers first to see if their views are compatible with recent information." Acceptable recent information was the work of such experts as Drs. Gabriel Nahas or Robert DuPont. No mention was made of the vast body of knowledge in major studies in numerous countries over the past century that plead for more gentle social approaches to marijuana use.
The book argued for the need to enforce relentlessly the criminal drug laws without regard for appeals to technicalities such as legal rights or to ideas about avoiding giving children criminal records whenever possible. Civil liberties lawyers were referred to in negative terms because they sought to "stir up students to protest their loss of `Constitutional rights' " (the quotation marks around the last two words were in the original). Pointed to as a superb role model is the school principal who called the police whenever students were found with drugs: "I make two phone calls and the second one is to the parents," bragged Bill Rudolph of Atlanta's Northside High School.
Some of the harshest criticism was saved for those professionals who advocated teaching children about the reality of moderate or responsible drug use. Even though there is a massive body of research knowledge which supports the concept that most minors, like most adults, use most drugs, legal or illegal, responsibly, that very idea is treated with derision by the parents' movement. In one case, reported in this bible with pride, a professional association was persuaded to rewrite its version of the truth to please the aroused parents. At the behest of Principal Rudolph, psychologist Robert Margolis worked with the Georgia Psychological Association to develop a new position paper on adolescent marijuana use that eliminated the idea of responsible use from the policy statements of that organization.
It may seem a subtle point but, I submit, it is perfectly acceptable for parents to demand that their children be drug-free or that organizations, including NORML, declare that growing up should be drug-free, but it is either incompetence, lack of integrity, prostitution, or all of the above when professional organizations deny the possibility of moderate use of drugs by minors under some circumstances.
This prophylactic lie is the equivalent of the position virtually every social leader took years ago in regard to sex education: telling children about the reality of sexual relations and about contraception only encourages them to copulate, which is a crime in many states for unmarried people. In effect, just say no to sex. Most sensible social leaders have come to believe in recent years, however, that many children get happily and eagerly involved in all forms of sexual activity, including intercourse, regardless of what adult society tells them.
A rational compromise is to teach them a realistic set of moral options: you are quite capable of controlling your impulses; there are many sound, practical, and ethical reasons for abstaining from sex; sex brings responsibilities; if, however, you feel you must engage in intercourse, one responsibility is to prevent conception and disease. The same thoughts apply to understanding the dynamics of alcohol and drug use: you do not have to use these chemicals, not even a glass of beer; the best highs are natural highs such as religion or athletics, but if you feel you must use drugs, be very cautious; never use drugs whose content you do not know; never use with addicts or while driving; never use during the school day; and never use every day.
The drug-free zealots argue that children should hold off on learning about responsible sex and drugs until they are adults. That is, as I have argued, perfectly appropriate as one option for many children, but it is not the only option for all children. Nowhere in the drug-free dogma, moreover, has any expert explained how these young people will magically become responsible participants in sex and in mind-altering experiences, either with or without drugs, when they become 18 years of age. Indeed, the parents' movement provides no guidance for children who are young adults— say, 19 to 25 years of age—to understand and achieve such moderate and controlled behavior. One likely result of the current parents' movement will be more people of all ages who are ignoramuses about all mind-altering experiences, with or without drugs, as well as sex.
A frank exposition of this traditional position on sex and drugs was put forth by Dr. Herbert London, a dean at New York University, during a panel debate which later appeared as an article in the December 1985 issue of Harper's magazine. I had been arguing that society should approach sex and drug education in roughly the same spirit and that responsible participation should be one rational option that is contemplated and taught, at least for children who are also adults. Even for them Dr. London objected, declaring flatly: "You say no, and you know full well the kid's going to engage ... anyhow. But it's desirable to say no; the hypocrisy is desirable."
Most children are raised today in this spirit of hypocrisy, of prophylactic lies. When they become adults, it is no wonder that they have difficulty suddenly shifting gears and dealing honestly with an adult sexual partner or with any type of drug. There is thus the likelihood that many of the parents of the drug-free youth movement today are themselves confused about the dynamics of their own sexual and drug appetites.
None of the sages leading the drug-free movement has observed, moreover, that the spiritual message is strikingly negative: the highest value is bestowed on the activity of not taking chemicals. Even more disturbingly, this movement seems destined to produce youth who might possibly be drug-free but who also will be utterly hostile to the great American traditions of toleration, dissent, and open debate. Free of drugs and free of democratic values.
Some insight may be gained into the repressive values being taught by the spiritual leaders of the alliance between the Reagan White House and the parents' movement by looking at a relatively insignificant but typical incident involving one ideological opponent, me. Jean-Marie George, an assistant producer for the CBS News "Nightwatch," was attempting to obtain a balanced audience for an hour-long, nationally televised debate on the legalization of drugs, which was to be taped in Washington on the evening of May 9, 1985. Dr. Robert Baird of Manhattan was set to argue firmly and politely against the proposition, and I, for it with certain qualifications. As was usual, the producer called a variety of organizations on all sides of the issue and asked them to send a representative for the audience, with the promise that questions could be asked of the debaters. On all other issues during the previous five years—ranging from nuclear war to energy to Soviet relations—she had found governmental and private agencies eager to have staff members in the audience so that their points of view would be represented in the questioning. But not this time. Not on this issue.
Every federal agency flatly refused to send an official, including the DEA, the FBI, the State Department, and the White House Office of Drug Abuse Policy. It was as if an order had been handed down from the top that debate was not allowed—so uniform and uncompromising were the responses. Then Ms. George called Joyce Nalepka, president of the National Federation of Parents for Drug-Free Youth. The producer later told me, "She shocked me so! She burned my ears off!" Ms. Nalepka shouted that she would never appear in the same room with "that man" (this writer) or with any other who held such ideas about drugs, especially not with NORML officials, who had already agreed to appear in the audience. In a cold, strident voice, she insisted on being given the assistant producer's name, as well as the names and telephone numbers of everyone in the chain of command above her. Then President Nalepka, friend of the First Lady, spent the next several days calling higher-ranking CBS officials demanding that the program not be put on the air and questioning the motives of the network in doing so. (Ms. Nalepka failed in her repressive mission.)
After Ms. George had told me this story, I observed, "It seems to me that when you push these parent groups a bit, they become like cultist hate groups." "You bet they do," replied the traumatized young woman.
REGAL VISITS TO FRED'S PRISONS
Mrs. Reagan has made numerous visits to treatment centers. The First Lady has been particularly impressed by the sight of young drug addicts telling their own stories. She had never wept in public until she started those visits. "It began last winter," she wrote in a national woman's magazine in 1983, "with my visit to Straight, a drug-treatment program in Florida. It is one of a growing number of rehabilitation programs in the country in which drug-addicted children and their parents pull together, with professional guidance, to try to straighten out their truly tragic lives." She described the scene in which perhaps 350 teenagers were sitting on one side of an enormous room and 650 mothers, fathers, and foster parents on the other. The children stood up, one by one, and told how they had fallen into the trap of drugs. "As each child finished revealing a story, he or she would be crying, spilling out feelings of enormous guilt.... By the end of the meeting, after two and a half hours, I was expected to make a comment. My voice was trembling and tears were rolling down my cheeks. I was upset ... but ... I said what I felt. `I'm so proud of you and I love you, too.' "
This was the session George Collins attended and that Fred later saw on the NBC television network and described as resembling a Moonie cult. Later, he learned that much of that crying was staged, as we saw, and that many of those children had no real drug problems and were virtually kidnapped into that institution. Mrs. Reagan was oblivious to all of that. Now the First Lady goes from victory to victory in her own anti-drug crusade.
The political rehabilitation of Mrs. Reagan has been a huge success. She is viewed now as a great asset to the Reagan White House and to all of the causes it supports. Her drug-abuse trips during the 1984 campaign were timed to produce the greatest political rewards for the Reagan-Bush ticket. In Washington, she is seen to be an independent power in her own right and not simply on drug abuse issues. Throughout the country, there is a huge reservoir of general good feelings toward her personally, some of which emanate happily from those citizens who, like this writer, strongly oppose much of the content of her projects. Time magazine conferred upon her the distinction of a cover picture with the caption "WHITE HOUSE co-STAR—Nancy Reagan's Growing Role." By early 1985, when that cover appeared, it could have been said that Nancy Reagan's success story had reached historic dimensions.
Shortly after her triumph at the First Ladies' conferences in Washington and Atlanta, Mrs. Reagan accompanied her husband to the economic summit of the seven great democracies of the world in Bonn, West Germany. While he was facing up to disharmony and controversy at the Bitburg cemetery and in economic discussions with democratic leaders, she visited leading officials in several European countries and even had an impressive audience with the Pope in Rome. On numerous occasions, she seemed close to tears, especially when she visited drug addicts in treatment centers. She won the hearts of the people and leaders of Europe as she had in America. No reporter dared to write about the White House china or the rich and frivolous First Lady of 1981.
Even though she was not at the Bonn meetings, her subject somehow became part of the discussions. All of the leaders agreed that more coordinated action in dealing with drug trafficking was needed. A surprised and happy President observed with a smile, "Never have I seen all my summit partners so united and determined on a single subject." Secretary of State George P. Shultz cogently observed, "We have picked up another assignment which was unexpected. It wasn't on our agenda, particularly. It emerged from the discussion by the heads of state on this subject, and it may well be that one of the most important people to this meeting is not here—namely, Nancy Reagan."
A few weeks after the First Lady's European triumph, the CBS network aired the results of a detailed investigative report into the dramatic rise in the institutionalization of American youth, not at the hands of nonprofessional organizations such as Straight but in some of the country's best hospitals. One young man was shown who had been diagnosed by doctors as an alcoholic and then had been institutionalized for this alleged disease. In fact, he was not an alcoholic at all but was suffering from a mental illness—and now, years later, was just starting to recover from the ill effects of both his actual disease and from the improper medical treatment. Moreover, CBS investigative reporters had sent an adult male and a 15-year-old girl, posing as father and daughter, to a number of mental health institutions. The "father" told about symptoms similar to Fred's—occasional marijuana use, defiance, and denial by the girl that she had a drug problem. In all but one case, these institutions, which apparently operated under the general supervision of medical doctors, diagnosed the girl as a drug abuser and took in the new customer.
One of the hospitals was a unit in that major drug abuse conglomerate, CompCare. Its medical director, Joseph Pursch, M.D., is one of the most respected drug-abuse experts in the country.
When the story was aired on the network on May 20, 1985, Dr. Pursch was shówn declaring he was shocked that a doctor did not examine the girl and prevent her entry into one of his units. That distress should be widespread since the number of children in locked psychiatric wards has risen from 10,764 in 1980, just before the start of the Reagan years, to 48,375 in 1984, an increase of 350 percent. Much of this rise was due to alleged alcohol and drug abuse. Those figures cover only 230 accredited hospitals and disregard entirely the use of imprisonment by the new wave of nonprofessional institutions such as Straight, Inc.
The thrust of the criticism in the CBS story, and in a subsequent treatment of the subject on Phil Donahue's show, was that some members of the medical profession were unethically seeking vast profits by cashing in on public fears about drugs—and in the process indelibly staining the reputations of thousands of our youth with a psychiatric hospital record. A later show on ABC during the scared summer of 1986 documented further how CompCare sought only to fill beds in its profit-making hospitals. There has been little discussion in the country, however, about how much of the fear that laid the basis for this abuse has been heightened or even created by the extremist crusade of the First Lady and the parents' movement.
Mrs. Reagan took Princess Diana on a regal visit to a drug treatment facility in the Washington suburbs on November 11, 1985. It was, of course, to Straight, Inc., in Springfield, Virginia, where a typical show with a cast of hundreds was presented and was reported to the world by an army of media people. Children stood up and told shocking tales of their abuse of drugs and of how they were seeking to get straight again. One Straight father, Mike Kirsch, told Diana that all six of his children were drug users. "Now am I hearing right? You have six children?" asked the somewhat startled Princess of Wales. "Six druggie children," Mr. Kirsch replied. "All on drugs?" Her Highness persisted. And Mr. Kirsch persisted in his affirmative answer.
No member of the press pointed out that the Straight definition of a "druggie" would cover most of the human beings on earth including virtually the entire royal family. Nor did anyone bring up the inconvenient fact that Fred Collins had last been imprisoned in this very facility, had sued successfully for damages, and in the process had documented in sworn testimony how destructive this extremist organization was for many children. Rather, the White House, through its chosen instrument, the First Lady, was allowed to foist the lie upon visiting royalty—from a country which excels in the gentle treatment of real hard-drug abusers—that one of our most harmful drug-treatment programs was a model for the world.