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stopping drugs, part 2

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(4:29) This clip details some methods parents in East Greenwich, Connecticut used to stop their children from using drugs and alcohol--and how the kids reacted.
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#504
Original Air Date February 17, 1987
Produced and directed by Andrew Liebman
Written by Graham Chedd and Andrew Liebman
Part one can be viewed here.
NARRATOR
Tonight...on FRONTLINE...the national crusade...to keep kids away from drugs and alcohol.

GILETTE HUNT
We are aware, we do know what goes on, and we're not going to sit with our head in the sands, or say, "Gee, I wish this would go away."

NARRATOR
From Elementary School to high school...can drug use be prevented?

KID #1
The more they tell us not to do it the more we're gonna do it!

NARRATOR
And how many kids really use drugs?

NICOLE ANDERSON
...there are even some kids in my school who get great grades and they do

cocaine!

NARRATOR
Tonight..."Stopping Drugs, Part II."

JUDY WOODRUFF
Good evening. Tonight on FRONTLINE, the second in our two part special "Stopping Drugs." Last week we witnessed the personal challenge of kicking drugs. Tonight we explore the challenge of keeping our children off them.

As a nation we are spending over a quarter of a billion dollars on drug education and prevention. Are we getting our money's worth?

FRONTLINE producer Andrew Liebman set out to answer that question last fall after President Reagan declared war on drugs. Here is his report.

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, WASHINGTON, DC

Sergeant at Arms:
The house to come to order

Representative Jim Wright:
We all know why we are here. It's time to declare an all out war, to mobilize our forces-public and private, national and local in a total coordinated assault upon this menace which is draining our economy of some two hundred and thirty billion dollars.

NARRATOR
The war on drugs. In 1986, America's number one concern.

In an election year, the enemy is everywhere. The familiar images of the war fill television screens and magazines.

The traditional strategy for stopping drug use--intercepting drugs before they reach the customer--is escalated by Congress--nearly a billion dollars for extra law enforcement and the destruction of drug crops at their source.

Then--amid a growing perception that the war is being lost despite escalating the battle against drug suppliers--a new strategy--one aimed at drug users.

PRESIDENT REAGAN
All the confiscation of law enforcement in the world will not cure this plague as long as it is kept alive by public acquiescence, so we must now go beyond efforts aimed only at affecting the supply of drugs. We must affect not only supply but demand. I believe we have come to a time when the American people are willing to make it clear that illegal drug and alcohol use will no longer be tolerated. So, starting today Nancy's crusade to deprive the drug peddlers and suppliers of their customers becomes America's crusade.

NARRATOR
America's new crusade was born, not in.the White House, but in communities like this--East Greenwich, Rhode Island. And it's here, at a high school dance, that FRONTLINE begins its report on how the crusade is being fought.

East Greenwich is white, wealthy, suburban. Here, as in similar communities across the country, the most popular drug isn't cocaine or marijuana--but alcohol.

Nationwide, cocaine is only used often by one in 250 high school seniors- marijuana by one in 20.

Alcohol--which can be as destructive as cocaine--gets fifty percent of high school seniors drunk every other week.

But it's preventing the use of all drugs--including alcohol--that's the goal of the new crusade.

Gillette Hunt is one of the leaders of the new crusade. The mother of two teenage children, she's here to help enforce a get-tough policy on students using drugs and drinking.

GILLETTE HUNT
We are aware. We do know what goes on and we're not going to sit with our head in the sands and say, "Gee, I wish this would go away." We're going to act on it and be responsible for ourselves and for our own kids.

NARRATOR
While the students dance, East Greenwich police, the school principal and the town drug counselor inspect their cars outside--looking for signs of drugs or alcohol. The policy promoted by a parents' group Gillette Hunt belongs to--East Greenwich Citizens Who Care.

Sergeant Tom Joyce:
In the back seat of the car he found the plastic that holds together a six-pack of beer and you can see the shape of that six-pack in that backpack in the front seat. So, that's probable cause for him to check this car when it leaves.

Officer:
Look...there's about this much of it in the... that's all you need...that's definitely a roach. There's no question about it.

Sergeant Tom Joyce:
I'm going to stop the car when someone gets in and moves it and check it out. Just go in the ashtray and make sure that's what it is and we'll arrest them.

NARRATOR
By night's end, ten students will be arrested--a victory for East Greenwich Citizens Who Care and its policy of vigilance.

CITIZENS WHO CARE MEETING

Gillette Hunt:
I was chaperoning a dance at the high school and I watched a parent drive up to the high school, drop off about five kids. I think there were three girls and a couple of boys and I watched the kids walk right up to the high school and the parent pulled away and the kids kept right on going and I don't know where they went.

NARRATOR
For Citizens Who Care--which is trying to organize the whole community around the drug issue--getting parents to support searching cars is easy. But it's harder to convince parents to be firm about their children's drinking at home--in part because of ambivalence about whether alcohol is the same as other drugs.

Nancy Kimball:
I mean we are going to sit here and all say that no one should be drinking ever, forever. It should be outlawed. And, you know, we also have to teach the kids to use, if they're going to enjoy it sometime. I'm not saying that twelve and fourteen is the time to do that, but...

Gillette Hunt:
Let's say that your son comes home and tells you that he really wonders what it would be like to rob a store. Are you going to give him a gun, send him off down to the local grocery market?

Nancy Kimball:
But that's not something that's ever going to be legal for him.

Gillette Hunt:
Now, wait...wait a minute. We're talking about right now at fourteen, it is not legal for him now. It is breaking the law, it's the same thing. I'm not saying twenty-one it won't be legal I'm just saying right now.

NARRATOR
Gillette Hunt and the (60) families of Citizens Who Care are also taking steps to make sure any parties their children attend are properly supervised to prevent drinking and drug use.

GILLETTE HUNT
If my daughter were to tell me that she was going to Jane's house for a party, they were going to be there from seven to eleven, I would say fine. The next step is, I would call Jane's house, chat with her mom, make sure her mother was going to be there, point blank I would ask her, "Are you or your husband going to be around during the party?"

NARRATOR
Not surprisingly, many of the students at East Greenwich High finds flaws in parents' plans to monitor their whereabouts.

NICOLE ANDERSON
I think it will make kids not say where they are going and they'll go someplace..."where are you going?" "I'm going to the movies, then out to dinner and that gives you up until 12 o'clock to have a party. So, it may work for some kids who say I'm going to so-and-so's house and their parents will call, but I think it will make more kids go away from telling the truth to their parents.

Kid #1:
When you were a kid didn't your mother ever tell you not to do something, then you turned around and went and did it? The more they tell us not to do it, the more we're going to do it.

NARRATOR
The traditional opportunity for unsupervised parties is when parents go out of town. To block this teenage tactic, Citizens Who Care has worked out an unusual procedure with the local police.

Sergeant Tom Joyce:
All right, Trudy, how long were you going to be going away?

Trudy:
We're going to be going for a week and I will be leaving my son home.

Sergeant Tom Joyce:
How old is your son?

Trudy:
He's sixteen.

Sergeant Tom Joyce:
And he understands that you've given us permission to enter the home.

Trudy:
Yes, I explained to him that I do trust him that he will not have a party. However, when friends find out that parents are away I know for a fact that they are going to come over.

Sergeant Tom Joyce:
It's happened quite a few times.

Trudy:
Well, it has happened quite often in our neighborhood.

Sergeant Tom Joyce:
Before you sign this permission to search form with Marsha we want to make sure you understand that you are actually signing away all you're rights of search and seizure. In other words, you're going to give the police department a waiver saying that any time when we feel its necessary we can enter your home. It's just like a search warrant to us. You have to sign the top, fill out the address

NARRATOR
So far, fourteen families have signed Permission to Search agreements, and four children were arrested at a raided party. But the new get-tough policy is battling a potent force--the belief of many teenagers that there's nothing wrong with drugs or alcohol. Nicole Anderson.

NICOLE ANDERSON
The parents in the community think that if you drink you can not possibly be a normal kid. I drink...I drink often...I get good grades. I'm vice president of my class. I'm an editor of my high school year book. I'm on student council and I can't see how parents think if I drink I'm bad. I'm college bound. I want to go to a good school. I have a career in mind and I don't think that because I drink it's going to get in my way of any of it. A lot of my friends drink and they're the same thing. They all can have good standing in school and do drugs. There are some kids that get great grades and they do cocaine. And how can you say that everyone's bad, because it's wrong. They're wrong.

NARRATOR
For Gillette Hunt, this acceptance by today's teenagers that drug use is normal is the real enemy.

GILLETTE HUNT
When I was growing up in my class, in my group of friends there was one young man that I know of that drank--and that was it. The normal way of life was to be drug free. Over the past twenty some years, this has changed completely where the normal way of life is to be the drinker or user of drugs. Right now, the atmosphere is such that if you are drug free you're odd, you're weird, you're on the outside. And I think what our intent and our goal is--really is to turn all of that around so that by the time kids get to high school, the person who is drinking and using drugs is the person who is abnormal and weird.

NARRATOR
Turning around what's abnormal and weird is complicated by over a decade of popular culture that has portrayed student drinking as not just normal but an essential rite of passage and acceptance--as in John Belushi's 1978 movie Animal House.

ANIMAL HOUSE

John Belushi:
Grab a brew, don't cost nothing!

NARRATOR
More recently, the film The Breakfast Club showed a group of students who could get along with each other and have fun only after smoking marijuana.

These images have reflected and reinforced the notion that drug experimentation is a valuable--even necessary-- part of growing up.

Girl #1:
Most people, they can't do things that they can when they're sober so they get drunk to do it.

Boy #1:
Alcohol goes with parties because you can loosen up and meet new people and you won't feel embarrassed.

Girl #2:
I can handle it maybe twenty-five percent of the time. Seventy-five percent of the time after that, if I'm going out to drink, I'm going out to get smashed. That's all it is.

NARRATOR
As in any community, there are teenagers in East Greenwich whose instincts are to reject drug and alcohol use. But in a culture where drinking is the norm, kids often find it hard to resist the pressures to go along. These teenagers have formed a group to help resist the pressure.

Girl #3:
There's a lot pressure...I think, because these people who do drugs and alcohol they think... this person doesn't do this kind of thing so he's probably really weird or whatever.

Boy #2:
If they really rejected you, you wouldn't have any feeling. You would just feel lost and then I think that you might turn saying, "Well, I really need friends," because you do need friends. And so I think if you didn't have anyone I think you might turn to drugs just to be accepted or something.

Girl #4:
Being in a group... you look around and see these are my friends and they don't do this either and I don't have to go alone to a party and totally out of place, because I know three of my other friends are going to be there and together we won't feel out of place.

STUDENTS OPPOSED TO DRUG & ALCOHOL (SODA) MEETING

Student #1:
Our group is sort of Students Opposed to Drug and Alcohol. The purpose of this group...I think. This is my personal opinion, is we're trying to say to kids in elementary schools, junior high, and high schools, it's okay not to drink and use drugs.

Gillette Hunt:
The question now is deciding how we are going to spend our time?

NARRATOR
Gillette Hunt and Citizens Who care actively support the SODA group. Most of SODA's members are girls, representing about 5 percent of East Greenwich High's 700 students. But SODA and its advisors believe that by sponsoring activities, the group's popularity will grow.

SODA MEETING

Bob Houghtaling, Drug Counselor:
We're going to be having the trash bash, okay? Trash bash is basically a community effort where a bunch of people are going to get together, go around cleaning out the community. The Fun Run is going to be November 2, it's the following week. It's on a Sunday.

Gillette Hunt:
We're going to have a great "hug-in" at the high school and we're going to have a big banner. In other words, we'll make arrangements the Sunday before the week we do it. We'll come over and hang up a big banner that will have this same little logo of the bears. It will say "Hugs not Drugs." Then you'll all be armed with buttons and the whole idea is that you will be wearing yours when you start the day that Monday. You go up and give someone a hug, you give them a button and you give them one more to pass on. So, I want to see how many people can end up hugged by the end of the day and everybody wearing a button.

Kids:
One, two, three..."hugs not drugs."

NARRATOR
The buttons--and the hugs--prove popular. SODA gets better known. Whether it's changing kid's attitudes is another question.

Boy #3:
Maybe it will influence some people, but if they don't want to do drugs that's their decision. I don't think they should try to make other people's decision for them.

Boy #4:
We don't go around and say let's do drugs. We don't force our ideas of doing drinking and drugs so why should they tell us not to do something. I don't think that's right.

Girl #1:
All those groups against drug abuse and alcohol abuse are sitting there talking about how other people, the drug user and the alcoholics...the drinkers, are pressuring people that don't do it, to do it. Actually it's them that are pressuring us.

Gillette Hunt:
I feel like the other students, let's say that are part of the party crowd the drinking crew, are beginning to get a little on edge about that, a little nervous about that, maybe beginning to feel self-conscious, because now there are just as perhaps as many people thinking you can have a good time and being drug free and being part of those activities as perhaps in the past where there were kids who mostly drank and went to those types of parties where no parents are at home. And so as they begin to feel a little threatened, those people who are the partiers and the drinkers by the kids who are not using drugs, it creates a little bit of tension.

NARRATOR
The battle for the hearts and minds of the students at East Greenwich High is a crucial one in the new crusade against drug and alcohol use. It represents a conscious attempt to return the community to the values of an earlier age.

And in this attempt, Gillette Hunt and East Greenwich Citizens Who Care are part of a national movement--the National Federation of Parents for Drug-Free Youth. The Federation--and two similar organizations--were influential in getting Congress to allocate two hundred and fifty million dollars a year for extra drug prevention and education efforts. And Nancy Reagan has been influential in directing some of this federal money to the activist parent groups represented here.

NANCY REAGAN
As leaders in our efforts, you are the beacon for all the parents every-where, showing them they can save their children. You are the symbol of health and hope and you can't let up now. It's essential that you set the tone for other parents by creating an intolerant attitude about drugs in this country. And it's essential that you push the issue to the point of making people very, very uncomfortable.

NARRATOR
This activist stance reflects the views of the Parents' Federation and is evidence of the close ties between the parent movement and the government's drug prevention strategy. In fact, a former board member of the Parents' Federation now heads the government's superagency that controls all drug and alcohol abuse funds. Pediatrician Dr. Ian Macdonald.

IAN MACDONALD
I think that the parent movement and Nancy Reagan's involvement and her saying things like, "unless you have an actively hostile position against drug use you give tacit approval." That's important, what that basically says is that as a society I don't think that we can afford to take a neutral position. We're either for drug use or we're against it.

NARRATOR
Today much of the media is clearly against it.

In recent episodes of NBC's "Punky Brewster," Punky and her sidekick are pressured to try drugs to join an older girls club. Instead, Punky announces they'll form a club of their own.

PUNKY BREWSTER EPISODE

Punky:
It's called the Just Say No club.

Kate:
Your club sounds fun. How do I join?

Punky:
It's easy Kate. All you have to do is just say no.

NARRATOR
This story on Just Say No clubs was the idea of the nine-year old who plays Punky--but the clubs themselves are an important part of the federal prevention strategy. Following this broadcast, thousands of school children wrote to find out how to form their own clubs. Today, there are reportedly fifteen thousand Just Say No clubs across America.

The theory behind these clubs is that children under age ten or eleven are naturally anti-drug--and that reinforcing this attitude may be easier than trying to stop children who've already experimented with drugs or alcohol.

Today, millions of federal prevention dollars are supporting the Just Say No concept--paying for this rock video, for instance.

Just Say No aims at stopping any drug experimentation--on the grounds that the surest way to prevent anyone from abusing drugs is to prevent everybody from using. Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Dr. Robert Schuster.

DR. ROBERT SCHUSTER, Director, National Institute on Drug Abuse
We're often asked whether or not experimental use of drugs is not just a natural part of growing Up. Kids are obviously inquisitive, they like to try new things. They like to have new experiences and so forth. And after all, they do a variety of things, they ski, they take risks in a variety of ways. Why not drugs? Well, the answer for me is very simple and that is first of all a certain percentage of the kids who initiate drug use are going to go on to compulsive use and addicted use of those drugs. Their lives will be seriously if not permanently affected by this. And we can't predict at this point with great accuracy which of those kids it is going to be. So, it's a game of Russian roulette. If you start initiating experimental drug use, you don't know if you're going to be one of the people who can handle it, if you're going to be able to walk away from it or whether you're going to find the experience so overwhelming that you just want to repeat and repeat and repeat it.

NARRATOR
Though it's at the heart of the Just Say No approach, this argument is a hard one to sell to children. Determined to try is retired businessman Otto Moulton.

OTTO MOULTON
I think that one of the greatest things that's happened in this country in the last year is the Say No clubs. Now that's wonderful, but we have to give them the reasons why just to say no to drugs use, and the key in my opinion is good education.

NARRATOR
Moulton once coached Little League--and saw kids lose interest when they started smoking marijuana. He decided to give up his business and now goes from school to school helping kids understand why drugs can hook you.

Otto Moulton:
All right, now, I want to tell you the day-one problem associated with all psychoactive drugs is that they cause chemical imbalances in the brain and if you mess with your brains your brains are going to get even with you. Would you agree with that? I think that makes sense. Now, I'm going to draw on the blackboard only to demonstrate. We have neocortex. We have a core brain and a limbic system. Now, in the limbic system there is an area called the septum and the septum is the pleasure center. How many of you like chocolate cake and ice cream? Raise your hand. Now, I like chocolate cake and ice cream and how can you tell I like chocolate cake and ice cream?

Kids:
You're fat.

Otto Moulton:
Yeah, too big, and I have to do something about that. True, when we eat chocolate cake and ice cream, or when we do something that makes us feel good, the messages are coming from that area of the brain. now, what happens to people that get into drugs in the beginning?

Student:
It sends a message to your pleasure center and it goes off.

Otto Moulton:
Exactly right. You know a few years ago there was a very famous comedian and unfortunately he died of an overdose of what they call speedball-that's a combination of heroin and cocaine, and you see Mr. Belushi, what happened to him, he kept hitting his reward system or his pleasure center with drugs to the point where the drugs took over, took over his personality. And this is usually what happens to these people. The drugs are the only thing they want to do. They get disinterested in almost everything else. What's the answer to drugs?

Kids:
No.

Otto Moulton:
Or just say no. Thank you very much.

NARRATOR
But telling kids why to say no still may not be enough...so in this Seattle school, children are taught how to say no--how to resist pressure from their peers.

Nancy (Teacher):
Here is my friend Missy. She's going to ask me something that could get me in trouble. I'm going to think out loud while we're doing it for you so you know exactly where we're at.

Missy:
Hey Nancy, after school do you want to meet me out behind the portable?

Nancy:
You know, sometimes when Missy asks me to meet her behind the portable it's no big deal, but sometimes Missy asks me to do things that could get me into trouble, so I'm going to ask her a couple of questions. What do you have in mind Missy?

Missy:
I got these cigarettes from my mom's purse this morning.

Nancy:
Missy, that's smoking. I'm going to tell her the name of that trouble. I'm going to go on to step two. You know Missy that's against school rules.

Missy:
Oh, that's true.

Nancy:
Yeah that's true. (I'm going to go right on to step three, and I'm going to tell Missy what could happen if I get caught.) You know Missy if we got caught here on school grounds, we'd probably get suspended. That would be a bummer.

Missy:
Yeah.

Nancy:
So I'm going to go on to step four, and I'm going to tell her something that's an alternative. Listen, it's recess time, let's go play foursquare, I'll challenge you. Wanna come?

Missy:
You can beat me?

Nancy:
Yeah. Okay, how's that look? Not too bad? You think you guys can do that?

NARRATOR
This 5-step formula for resisting peer pressure is based on a technique that's been successful in preventing cigarette smoking in children.

ROLE PLAYING, GROUP 1

Girl #1:
Hey, I wanted to know if you wanted to go to the store with me?

Girl #2:
What are we going to do?

Girl #1:
Get some candy.

Girl #2:
Do you have any money?

Girl #1:
No, we can just take it.

Girl #2:
That's shoplifting.

ROLE PLAYING, GROUP 2

Girl #3:
Well, see, my mom has this collection of bottled wine and stuff, and I wanted to know if you wanted to drink some with me?

NARRATOR
Peer resistance formulas have now been widely adopted in school drug prevention programs, and are being promoted by the new federal office on drug prevention. But whether they work in helping children say "no" when friends offer drugs and alcohol is still unclear.

Girl #4:
So why don't we just go over and get up a kickball game.

Girl #3:
Okay.

Teacher:
Super.

DR. ROBERT SCHUSTER, National Institute on Drug Abuse
I think the evidence for it is mixed. I thank that there is no question that there is some positive evidence that this could be effective, but I think that we still have a long way to go. I think the idea is a good one. Translating that into meaningful action that a child can engage in when their best friend says, "Hey, you want to do drugs with me?" is a very difficult proposition cause that kind of pressure is very strong.

NARRATOR
This raises one of the central questions in drug prevention. Tens of millions of dollars are being spent on a variety of prevention approaches--this curriculum being packaged in a Seattle warehouse is one of the more elaborate, involving lessons for kindergarten through twelfth grade. Yet little is known about whether this approach, or any of the others--including Just Say No--actually works.

DR. ROBERT SCHUSTER
When it comes to prevention activities we often times fly by the seat of our pants, we really don't know whether what we're doing is good, bad or indifferent.

NARRATOR
That it might actually be bad is a lesson learned the hard way.

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT

Dealer:
Hey kiddies gather round, the man with the goodies is here. Here's a little beauty from me to you-dy.

NARRATOR
This public service announcement was made in the early 1970s as part of President Nixon's war on drugs.

Kid:
Isn't it true that sniffing glue can damage your liver and kidneys?

Dealer:
Cool it kid, lookie amphetamines, bennies, dexies.

Kid:
They say amphetamines can cause something like schizophreem.

NARRATOR
Over a billion dollars was spent in just a few years--to give children straight factual information on drugs.

DR. ROBERT SCHUSTER
I think in the early days of prevention, where we were attempting to simply give children factual information about the drugs. What is the name of the drug, what actions does it have on the body, what possible toxic effects does it have, and so forth. Given that information, in sort of a straight scientific sense, really didn't have an impact on their behavior. All it did was say, "Okay, well you know all these things about drugs," and in a sense we almost told them how to avoid the toxicity. And, in fact, we found that it increased people's interest in and their drug use. So that sort of clinical, scientific approach without any value judgment about it, really failed--it backfired on us.

NARRATOR
Today, prevention campaigns take the "Madison Avenue" approach--slogans and celebrities, instead of detailed information. So making drug use unfashionable has become no different from selling merchandise--at least to the owners of a successful New York clothing company.

EDWARD WACHTEL
The apparel industry is one that dictates to the entire population: how wide your tie should be, whether you should wear a wide lapel or narrow lapel, whether womens' skirts should be long or short. And that gave us the impetus to decide, if we're able to do that as an industry, why can't we talk people out of trying drugs.

MEMBERS ONLY AD

Assistant Director:
"You're gonna lie, you're gonna cheat, you're gonna steal, you're going to do anything you have to--that's what cocaine does to you." Then scratch out this and say, "I know, that's what it did to me."

NARRATOR
Country and Western singer Larry Gatlin--an ax-addict--is about to make a television commercial for Members Only, warning people not to make the same mistake he did in using cocaine. The company is paying for the commercial in response to President Reagan's call for individuals and business to enlist in the crusade against drugs.

HERBERT GOLDSMITH
It's a way of us paying back to the public the success that they gave to us and we feel that we owe them something and in our very small way we feel very positive and excited about it.

EDWARD WACHTEL
You get up in the morning, look in the mirror, you just feel a little bit better than you did before we got into this. It's a terrific feeling.

NARRATOR
Members Only is spending its entire television advertising budget for sixteen months on a series of anti-drug messages.

Assistant Director:
Scene 101...Sound 1...action.

Larry Gatlin:
This is for anyone tempted to fool around with- cocaine. You 're money is going to run out before your habit does. Then what? You're going to lie. You're going to cheat. You're going to steal. You're going to do whatever you have to. That's what cocaine does to you. I know, that's what it did to me. I was just one guitar strum away from wrecking my whole life. I was a real messed up cowboy. Don't let anyone or anything push you into doing cocaine. Just say no.

DR. ROBERT SCHUSTER
I think we have to be very careful in some of the mass media advertising we do where we show people who have used drugs and have recovered. They now look healthy, reasonably wealthy, and they say, "Well, I was on death's door and now I've recovered." There's a mixed message there--for the non-user it says, "Gee, I could try it and if I get in trouble I'll just stop and then I'll be like this guy and recover from it." That's a danger, but on the other hand, for those people who are currently using drugs perhaps in an abusive fashion that they're really getting in trouble with them. Seeing that person can also act as a model saying, "Hey, it is possible to get out of what I'm doing." So, we're not clear. I think that for different audiences it may have different effects.

NARRATOR
In the face of this uncertainty about what works and what doesn't, communities across the country continue to experiment with their own drug prevention strategies.

In Lynnfield, Massachusetts, for instance, a group of high school juniors and seniors--including class presidents, a football star, and the cheerleading captain--have been organized by parents who believe it's not enough just to say no.

HELENE NAIMON
We do not believe in preaching to kids--don't do this--don't do that. What we want the kids to do is make responsible decisions and I emphasize the word responsible so that they aren't forced to make a decision based on fear. But a decision that would be based on self-knowledge.

NARRATOR
The student group is called PEP--Peers Educating Peers. Its members have been chosen because they are among the student leaders in the high school. Today they are heading for a retreat session in the country.

Throughout the day, they'll be challenged by a professional counselor to explore and express their feelings.

The day begins with an exercise designed to build trust.

Terry Phillips, Counselor:
Body back, bodies back...ok, Go...go...go... go...

We're going to do a real simple excercise. All we're going to do is go from one person to the next and look right in their eye and say, "No." That's it just "No," right in the eye, "No.~

Kids:
No...No...No...

Terry Philips:
Okay, let's stop it right here...Why are you crying right now?

Boy #1:
I can't say no to like Tricia and Casey. I can't say no to them. They're my friends.

Girl #1:
You say no to yourself. You can't say it to other people. You can't come out and say no.

Terry Philips:
Why not?

Girl #1:
I don't know. I just take it

Girl #2:
You say no and you wonder what they're going to think...what people are going to think and you don't want to even risk it.

Girl #1:
I am afraid of if I say no I can't be specific, but if I say no I'm going to lose something. I'm going to lose what I have with what that person, you know what I mean?

Terry Philips:
Yeah.

Girl #1:
And that's like my biggest fear.

Terry Philips:
Okay, I think that's pretty common. I really do. We're afraid we're not going to be liked. We want to be liked. Lets all say it..."I want to be liked," say it!

Kids:
I want to be liked.

Terry Philips:
Say it again.

Kids:
I want to be liked.

Terry Philips:
Say it again, Say it louder.

Kids:
I want to be liked.

Terry Philips:
Damn right!

TERRY PHILIPS
I think the most honest sharing of feelings that children and adolescents have an opportunity to do the less they will abuse drugs.

Terry Philips:
How soon after your mother's death did your father remarry?

Monica Sheehan:
Like two years after.

Terry Philips:
So, pretty soon.

Monica Sheehan:
Yeah, and I was the little brat who resented her. I feel like I'm just keeping a low profile...

NARRATOR
A major aim of the session is to get students to talk openly about what troubles them.

Monica Sheehan:
...with Donna she'll wake me up in the morning and say, "Get up and do laundry." It's like I just do it...I'm a robot...I just get up and do it. And I don't say like so many times I feel like saying, "Couldn't you say hello?"

MONICA SHEEHAN:
I think that, you know, releasing your feelings is a really good form of prevention, because why would you want to start drinking if you, I mean, when you think of alcohol or drugs you think of an alcoholic you think of someone who is trying to escape their life, whatever is going on in their life. Any little problem and then as their disease develops it's anything they need to escape they do by alcohol. So, if you don't have to escape anything, if you know that you like yourself and you know that your body is clean of you know, bad feelings or bad emotions and you're not going to have to escape. You don't have anything to run away from.

NARRATOR
Besides learning to express themselves, PEP members also learn how to counsel others--to help peers share their feelings.

Boy #1:
What's your conflict or what's bothering you?

Monica Sheehan:
What makes you a wise guy?

NARRATOR
Today, PEP is visiting with eighth graders in the middle school.

Monica Sheehan:
Once you really learn to get to know yourself and really learn to like yourself you feel like you don't have to do that stuff. You know what I mean? You'll be satisfied with how you feel...

NARRATOR
As with the other prevention strategies, it's not clear what influence PEP will have. Many of the PEP counselors have had their own experiences with drugs or alcohol, and like most of society make a distinction between using responsibly and abusing.

PEP KIDS

Girl #3:
I think that it's okay for people to drink when they can shut themselves off. When they know that once they're getting their effective "buzz" they can stop. But I don't think people should drink if they're not going to be able to know when to stop. And Marijuana...I think...is the same.

Boy #1:
A couple beers once in a while, everybody has a couple of beers once in a while, is all right, cause sometimes it just makes a person feel good just to have a couple beers. But when you're drinking like every night or if you get drunk every weekend or a couple nights a weekend then I think that's abusing.

Monica Sheehan:
I've seen to many people make fools out of them- selves and hurt themselves to stand it. And I think if PEP could teach kids that you don't have to in order to be popular or to have someone like you. That's what I'd like to see done.

Some people get a good feeling out of having it be Monday morning and people saying, "Oh, you were pretty trashed Friday night." Some people like that, but in the back of their mind they must be thinking, "I really made a jerk out of myself."

NARRATOR
PEP members don't pass on a message that "responsible" use is OK--but neither do they say never use--which is perhaps why PEP is more popular than the East Greenwich SODA group.

The parents who set up PEP would prefer their children not to use at all-but are more concerned with preventing occasional use from sliding into addiction. This less-than-hard-line approach, however, isn't favored by federal officials.

DR. ROBERT SCHUSTER
Back in the 1970's, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, of which I am the director, actually talked about responsible drug use. They talked about teaching people to use drugs in a responsible fashion. I think that was a mistake, because if we accept responsible drug use and only talk about drug abuse, that is where people are using too much of the drug or a high enough dosage that they're getting into trouble with it. We open ourselves up to a use of the drugs by millions if not hundreds of millions of people in population and we can't control that.

IAN MACDONALD, Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Administration
The president uses the word zero-tolerance for drugs and by that he means that this little bit of drug use--we've argued with a number of words for the last twenty-five years. We talked about things like responsible use of drugs which meant that a little bit was okay as long as you didn't run into trouble. We talked about mild drugs and hard drugs as if these drugs wouldn't really cause you great difficulty. We talked about victimless crime like somebody who uses drugs as long as he keeps it to himself as if that were possible, doesn't cause problems. I think what we realize now is that our society and in our society in the president's words, the workplace and the schools is infected with this plague of the 1980's and the only way to eliminate it is to eliminate all the carriers use. I mean we're not trying to eliminate people.

PRESS CONFERENCE

Nancy Reagan:
There's no middle ground; indifference is not an option. For the sake of our children I implore each of you to be even more unyielding and unflexible as you continue your crusade against drugs.

NARRATOR
And so the federally approved crusade against drugs continues to focus on creating public intolerance toward drug use as the only sure path to prevention.

But at the University of Washington in Seattle, drug prevention researchers are concerned that this approach misses the root causes of abuse. David Hawkins.

DAVID HAWKINS, University of Washington
The point is that if you just try to deal with drug abuse as an isolated phenomenon, you know, we're just stamping out drug abuse. You're going to miss the fact that it's related to lots of other problems a number of other young people have. You've got to look at the whole picture. What goes wrong as young people develop, to lead some children into anti-social behaviors that cost themselves, their families, and society incredibly.

NARRATOR
Looking at the whole picture of why some children get into trouble with drugs is what Hawkins and his colleague Richard Catalano have been attempting to do. They've compared the histories of people who became drug and alcohol abusers with the histories of people who didn't--looking for common threads in their lives which might explain the difference. Their research included interviews with young drug abusers getting treatment.

Counselor:
Can you talk a little bit about what it was like growing up for you? What was life like at home?

Abuser #1:
It was pretty painful.

NARRATOR
What emerged was a picture of things going wrong in children's lives that were often beyond the control of the children themselves.

Abuser #1:
My daddy used to drink off and on and you could kind of say he's an alcoholic and my dad would go out and get drunk and come home and yell at us. He'd find something to yell at us for. Things got thrown around the house.

NARRATOR
Having a parent who abused drugs or alcohol, or not having clear family rules prohibiting drugs and alcohol, seemed to put kids at high risk for becoming abusers. So did failing in elementary school.

Abuser #2:
The whole year he just kept giving me F's on all my report cards, you know. I mean I did a lot of work before he started acting this way. Every quarter he gave me F's and I had 56 F's the whole year. He put a big red F on the last one.

Counselor:
Now did that make you feel?

NARRATOR
The question is whether children with life histories like these will in any way be helped by approaches like Just Say No.

DAVID HAWKINS
I think these broad, widespread efforts to change the social norms and values about alcohol use or about drug use will probably have some beneficial effects on reducing casual drug use among a broad range of students. I'm not sure that they will affect those children who are at the highest risk of drug abuse very much, because if you look at children who have high rates of school failure, high rates of anti-social behavior, don't care about school, alienated from family and school, etc, those children are not always so responsive to what President Reagan has to say or if you're starting a Just Say No club in their school it's not clear to me that they will sign up and join the Just Say No club.

NARRATOR
It's too late now for these young drug abusers to be helped by any prevention strategy. But what if their childhoods could have been different

In eighteen Seattle elementary schools, an experiment is going on to see if it's possible to prevent certain problems at school and home--and if so, whether that reduces drug abuse. The experiment will last twelve years and cost two million dollars.

Half the experiment concerns teachers--retraining them to teach in ways that involve even the kids who usually don't do well in class.

In this fifth grade class, for instance, the teacher is trying to get every child to participate actively in the lesson.

Teacher:
Watch how the word ends and think about what the word omnivore might mean. Number One...everyone.

Class:
Camouflage.

Teacher:
Go.

Class:
Omnivore.

Teacher:
Go.

Class:
Herbivore.

Teacher:
Go.

Class:
Carnivores.

Teacher:
Go.

Class:
Hibernate.

Teacher:
And what is it?

Class:
Predators

Teacher:
And...

Class:
Prey.

NARRATOR
The teacher has also organized her class into groups--mixed to include fast and slow learners, the misfits and the well-behaved.

Teacher:
To...tomorrow afternoon Miss Lindsey and I will figure out which group has earned the greatest amount of points this week. Dynamite ending. Friday morning, Polaroid picture of your group. Your group alone displayed downstairs beside the office door. All right, go to work with your group. Let's roll it.

NARRATOR
When the children work as a team, the group gets only one grade--so everyone must help each other.

The hope is that all students will learn better--and that the well behaved kids will have a strong social influence on the troublemakers

The children in these experimental classrooms will be followed through high school--to compare their rate of drug abuse with children taught in conventional classrooms.

But the experiment isn't just retraining teachers. Parents also have to go back to school.

CONFERENCE WITH PARENTS

David Hawkins:
What does it mean as they become adolescents? It means they become more independent. They begin to think even more for themselves. They want to stand on their own two feet. They want to make sure that we know they're different from them, that they're their own people

NARRATOR
In a series of seminars, Hawkins is trying to change the way parents raise their children. He started five years ago teaching. These parents were taught how to reward and punish their seven year-olds. Now that the children are entering their teens, Hawkins is helping the parents deal directly with the issue of drug experimentation.

David Hawkins:
I'd like to ask you to talk with your neighbors at your table about your own views about this issue: teenagers and alcohol and other drugs. What do you think is right for kids to do?

Woman #1:
It's the child's decision. You can tell them this is what I would like or this is what I expect and this is what will happen if you do. But it's going to be their decision.

Woman #2:
I explained to my daughter after that she wouldn't be able to be that famous track player that she wants to be one day if she starts using alcohol.

DAVID HAWKINS
It's probably the toughest job we have raising children and yet nowhere are we trained to do this and so the skills I picked up from my parents are great but they might not help me in dealing with the possibility of drug abuse in my family, because that wasn't such a big issue a few generations ago. And so, I think, although we'd like to assume that parents all know how to do it, the evidence is that we can all learn to do a better job at parenting.

David Hawkins:
Think about this now. We're adults. Some of us smoke. Some of us drink alcohol. Some of us may even use other substances okay. Do we as parents have a right to have a different set of expectations for ourselves and for our children? What do people think?

Woman #3:
I feel that when you say kids can't, and you can, it gives an impression that when I can't wait until I get to be twenty-one because I can drink. And so I feel that it should be something that no one can do.

David Hawkins:
Are you willing to live with that?

Woman #3:
I'm willing to try very hard.

Man:
My wife and I do enjoy an occasional glass of wine. Now, we don't get drunk. We don't drink when we drive at all, but I think if you have mature enough children the likelihood of them abusing later on is greater if they have seen their parents for years drink some wine and never been allowed to go near this forbidden fruit-than if in moderation--I never offer it, I never tell them to go to the refrigerator and get it, but if they say, "Daddy, can I have a sip?" I'll say, "yes."

David Hawkins:
The most important thing...

NARRATOR
Hawkin's research shows that most people who've become substance abusers tried drugs or alcohol before age fifteen--so his aim here is to persuade parents of the need to set firm rules against early drug experimentation.

David Hawkins:
I want to give you some examples of some rules that different families have set, not because this is what you should do.

NARRATOR
Hawkins hopes that if parents can be taught how to make and enforce family rules, they'll be more comfortable telling their children "no."

David Hawkins:
This first one says we agree no alcohol, no drugs, no tobacco, no exceptions and the consequences if that's violated are also clear. The first time you're grounded for a month and no allowance for three months. That is very clear. Frequently parents who are particularly concerned about alcohol and other drugs say, "Look, if I ever catch you with drugs, you're out of this house young man." It's fine to have that kind of an expectation if that's what you really mean, but what happens the first time you find your child with a can of beer hidden someplace or with a pack of cigarettes. If you don't mean to follow through on the consequence, don't set it.

NARRATOR
It will be many years before Hawkins knows if trying to change children's home and school environments is actually useful in preventing drug and alcohol abuse. The whole approach could prove worthless--little comfort for the mothers and fathers here, whose children are about to enter an age when drug experimentation becomes commonplace. Yet, Hawkins believes experiments like this are necessary--because he's convinced preventing drug abuse will take much more than a "say no" crusade.

DAVID HAWKINS
It's important for people to take an approach that's based on knowledge. What do we know about the problem and things it adds to the risk of being serious problems and address those factors? Not just go off with our gut reaction doing something that we believe is going to make a difference because it's right. The problem here is that we do have a behavior. The abuse drugs that can wreak all kinds of havoc with lives that can hurt people a lot. It's also a behavior that's all tied up with certain people's morality, with ethics and morals and right and wrong and good and bad and everything else and so it gets very complicated and sometimes people advocate solutions in this area that are less based on what we know and more based on just a set of personal beliefs.

NARRATOR
In fact, almost everything being done in prevention today is based on personal beliefs.

The government-backed crusade to create a new attitude of intolerance for drugs and alcohol--conceived by activist parent groups--is itself largely untested--and like drug prevention programs of the past, could have unintended consequences. The crusade is in many ways a new round in the traditional battle for autonomy between teenagers and their parents. What's different today--when drugs and alcohol have become so pervasive-is that the stakes are much higher.

Judy Woodruff:
It has been six months since President Reagan declared war on drugs, four months since Congress responded by passing the three billion dollar anti-drug bill. Now in his 1988 budget, the president is recommending cuts of nearly one billion dollars from drug education, enforcement, and prevention programs. I hope you'll join us again, new week for FRONTLINE.

I'm Judy Woodruff.

Good night.

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