TESTING, TESTING The White House might want to pay attention to the
conferences sponsored by its Department of Health and Human Services
(HHS). None of the doctors leading last week's gabfest on "Substance
Abuse and the American Family" had a kind word for the
administration's push to institute random drug testing for all students.
The treatment mavens were gathered by the National Center on Addiction
and Substance Abuse (CASA)-a $70-million, New York-based Beltway
bandit that's garnered the respectability of a Columbia University
imprimatur along with funding from big pharmaceutical companies and 12
different government entities. It boasts "the brightest group of
individuals ever assembled under one roof to deal with" substance abuse.
One young panelist-ketamine his particular route to
transcendence-spoke of the salutary episode when his parents had him
first jailed and then locked on a psycho ward. (This, though he was
working two jobs at the time and doing well in school.) Cornell
Medical Center's Dr. Ralph I. Lopez said parents should ban all booze
from the home if they expect their kids to shun reefer. ("You can't
expect kids to go to church if you don't go yourself.")
The prospect of widespread and ever-more sophisticated testing was
greeted with disdain. Duke University's Dr. Cynthia Kuhn said that
random drug testing doesn't actually decrease student drug use.
Rather, it just reflects "the country's sense of desperation about
drugs" and is part of the Bush administration's "punitive and
legalistic approach." Said Dr. Ross B. Brower, a Cornell psychiatrist:
"Testing to find a lot of low-level marijuana users [yields] pretty
The 120 attendees didn't raise a clamor for citizens to offer up their
bodily fluids. They were more concerned with how families could pay
for treatment. One panelist whose kids had gone haywire said parents
remain in denial because they can't afford treatment. A counselor in
the audience described the typical four days of in-patient treatment
covered by many insurance plans: two group sessions and a single
appointment with a therapist.
There was a call for the HHS assistant secretary in the room, Wade F.
Horn, to respond, but he remained seated. Earlier, he'd spoken of
family dinners growing up that lasted for three hours or more. As a
result, all of the seven kids in his family had achieved matrimony and
none were substance abusers. ("Family Day-A Day to Eat Dinner with
Your Children," is CASA's current big push.)
Interestingly, CASA let the White House pay for this month's white
paper on marijuana that bears the subtitle "Rite of Passage or Russian
Roulette?" But it goes off the reservation, stating that medical
marijuana use should be decided by doctors and scientists.
Has anyone told Karl Rove about this?