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CNN SUNDAY MORNING
Interview With John Walters
Aired December 21, 2003 - 09:40 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CATHERINE CALLAWAY, CNN ANCHOR: In the ongoing war on drugs, the federal government today is claiming a significant victory. A newly released survey found drug use among teenagers had declined 11 percent over the past two years. That exceeds the White House's target of 10 percent.
To offer some insight into the latest figures, our guest this morning, John Walters. He is director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. Thanks for being with us this morning. Let's get down to some specifics...
JOHN WALTERS, DIRECTOR, WHITE HOUSE OFFICE OF NATIONAL DRUG CONTROL POLICY: I'm sorry, I'm not hearing the program.
CALLAWAY: Can you hear me?
We obviously have a problem with our connection with him. We're going to take a break. We'll come back and speak with him in just a moment. Stay with us.
CALLAWAY: As we told you before the break, a newly-released survey found that drug use among teenagers dropped significantly, some 11 percent over the last couple of years, this according to a new survey. And we have with us this morning the director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, John Walters. We apologize far bad connection a moment ago. Thanks for being with us this morning.
WALTERS: My pleasure. Thanks.
CALLAWAY: Let's go over a little bit first, just to refresh everyone's memory about this survey. 11 percent reduction in drug use among 8th, 10th and 12th graders, is that right?
WALTERS: That's correct. It means between 2001 and 2003, essentially we have 400,000 fewer young people using drugs. It's great, not only for them, but it is also great for our future, and it's across multiple drugs. Ecstasy dropped 50 percent, LSD use had been climbing, dropped 60 percent. Also alcohol, teenage drinking and cigarette smoking are also down. So it's great news. It's a broad trend.
The president set a two-year goal of a 10 percent reduction. He's also set a five-year goal with 25 percent reduction. So he's challenged us to follow through.
CALLAWAY: John, this is just one survey, though, and you are relying on teenagers to tell the truth about illegal behavior. How much can you rely on this survey?
WALTERS: Well, this area is consistent with other measures. It's not the only survey we've had in the field. And for about 18 months we began to see signs of change. This is also the most extensive long-term survey we've had. It goes back, it's the 29th year of this survey. So the trends as it's predicted, good news and bad news, in the past have been borne out. So every instrument is one instrument, but this is the best we have and it's been very reliable in the past.
CALLAWAY: You know, you say it concurs with other surveys, but the privately funded Pride Survey that was released back in August certainly told a different story. It showed a sharp rise in monthly drug use among junior high students. And in the past, that survey, the Pride Survey normally corresponds with the survey that you're talking about, the National Institute Survey. So how do you, you know, explain the difference between these two surveys?
WALTERS: Yes, people shouldn't be misled about dueling surveys. The Pride Survey is not a random sample, it's the schools, it's a sample of schools that chose to use that survey. The other surveys we have have been random samples, and I think you see in those results. Also the, for example, such a survey results here -- the declines that we saw, for example, in LSD, we've seen that reflected in the last 18 months, emergency room cases involving this drug declined. We need larger movements to see some of these things, but I don't think there's much question that we've begun to see it.
But again, this is not an effort to declare we're done. The president, and I think parents, are aware we have too many young people who are compromising their futures and putting themselves at risk. We want to fix that.
CALLAWAY: It would seem that the survey, the results of the survey, would depend on which age group you talk to, which area of the country you talk to.
WALTERS: It does, to some degree. Some parts of the country are affected more by some drugs. For example, it's nice to see that amphetamine use has declined in this survey by young people by 13 percent lifetime exposure. Some parts of the country have been more affected, but overall I think the trends are pretty broad, pretty deep. But again, it's the largest decline we've seen in ten years, but again, we need to follow through.
And what it shows is when we push back, when young people make the right decisions, it has an effect on their peers, just as when they make wrong decisions it can have a detrimental effect on their peers. And I think it's a credit to young people and adults that are working with them in schools, in families, in athletic leagues, and to everybody who's lent a hand in communities across this country. CALLAWAY: All right, John. John Walters thank you very much for being with us, and again, we apologize about that technical glitch we had a little bit earlier. But thank you for getting up and being with us this morning.
WALTERS: No problem. Happy holidays.
CALLAWAY: You, too.
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