EDITORIAL | Swimming upstream against drug abuse

In last week’s News, we featured a story on the NW Drug Coalition for a Drug Free Community and the bootstrap effort among parent-volunteers to turn the tide on drug and alcohol abuse among the young.

That effort, formed last fall out of Ballard High School, also engages McClure, Whitman and Salmon Bay middle schools.

Initiative 502, which should allow limited retail marijuana sales by next spring, complicates the coalition’s message by sending a different sort of message. That initiative, which addressed the supply side of the equation, had a great deal of common sense behind it. But it’s the market demand for cannabis that dampens our enthusiasm for the coming reality change.

The United States is the No. 1 consumer of illegal drugs in the world, according to the World Health Organization. The 2010 National Survey of Drug Use and Health reports 21.5 percent of our citizens between 18 and 25 years of age have used illegal drugs, an increase from previous years driven by increased marijuana use.

Studies and statistics can be challenged, but emerging studies draw a connection between adolescent marijuana use and a constellation of indicators that pull down a young person’s potential, including harmful effects on IQ levels.

It’s a running joke that The Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards remains among the living, or that he fell out of a coconut tree upon his head while high on cocaine. After all, the Stones sang, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” a boomer anthem, with the critical, little qualifier: “But if you try, you’ll get what you need.”

The drug culture and its solipsistic universe as we know it didn’t exist until the 1960s — we live downwind from those years. It’s an accepted fact of life. Take a stroll through Pioneer Square at summer dusk, or parts of the International District, or even lower Queen Anne to survey the casualties. Better yet, on a warm day visit our cute cousin to the south, Portlandia, and survey the young sprawled across pavement and parks like a post-apocalyptic army. A little on-line research on Portland-area drug use will reinforce what you see.

The voters spoke on I-502. And, of course, the consumer is king, if a little muzzy-headed.

The NW Drug Coalition can’t stop current cultural trends, but it can reduce the number of young people headed down the wrong path. The coalition is gaining institutional support and is poised to make a difference. It is looking to the community for support. Here’s a chance to weigh in. Visit www.preventionworksinseattle.org[[In-content Ad]]