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Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.

John Walters
Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy

January 7, 2005

John Walters

Hello, I'm John Walters. In 2001, President Bush asked me to become Director of National Drug Control Policy, a Cabinet-rank position that coordinates federal drug programs. President Bush has emphasized a balanced approach to drug policy, stressing prevention, treatment, and law enforcement. The President set ambitious goals: a 10 percent reduction in teen drug use in two years, and a 25 percent reduction in five years. Last year I was pleased to be able to tell him that we had met the two-year goal, and just last month was able to tell him that we are now actually ahead of pace to reach his five-year goal.

Bernie, from Saginaw Michigan writes:
Director Walters,It seems many of today's young have idols who seem to encourage and "celebritize" drugs whether through their music or clothing. As a parent, this frustrates me. What steps do you recommend taking in helping to teach our children to look to positive role models in today's society?

Thank you.

John Walters
Thank you for your question. You’re right. All too many young people are receiving mixed messages and inaccurate information about drugs. Some of these pro-drug messages come from popular culture. Some come from groups seeking to legalize marijuana and other drugs. As parents, we need to talk to young people about drugs and make sure they understand that drugs are dangerous, addictive substances that can ruin their lives and harm their communities. Parents should monitor their behavior, know who their friends are, and keep track of what they do. I encourage you to visit for more information about how to talk to teens about drugs. We all have an interest in making sure teens grow up healthy and drug-free.

Shelly, from Evanston writes:
What exactly is the "2004 Monitering the Future Study"? Did you work with the President on this?

President George W. Bush receives the results of the 2004 Monitoring the Future study from Director John Walters of the Office of National Drug Control Policy in the Oval Office Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2004. The study measures drug, alcohol and cigarette use among adolescent students nationwide. This year's report found that drug use among teens has declined 17 percent since 2001.
John Walters
The Monitoring the Future study is an annual survey of the behaviors, attitudes, and values of American secondary school students, college students, and young adults. Each year, a total of some 50,000 8th, 10th and 12th grade students are surveyed. Last month, I briefed President Bush on the results of the survey. We have good news to report. Today, there are now 600,000 fewer teens using drugs than there were in 2001. This is real progress. We know that if we can prevent kids from trying drugs in their teenage years, we dramatically reduce the likelihood that they will go on to have problems later in life. The results of this survey are good news for American parents and teens, and great news for our country.

In 2002, President Bush set ambitious goals to reduce teen drug use by 10 percent in two years, and 25 percent in five years. The 2003 MTF survey showed that we had exceeded the two year goal, with an 11 percent reduction. Over the past three years there has been a 17 percent decrease in teenage drug use.

Liz, from Greenville writes:
Are schools and the Dept. of Education helping our middle school and high school students fight against the use of drugs? It seems this is were lots of education should begin and continue.

John Walters
All school districts receive funds from the federal government, through the Department of Education, to support anti-drug education efforts. All the research and experience tells us that education begins in our families of matters of right and wrong, health and safety, and responsibility. We work to broaden the support for those efforts in schools, in local institutions from faith communities to youth organizations, and national efforts for prevention education.

Kristina, from Indiana County, PA writes:
As a high school senior, I feel that drug use is on the rise where I live. Most of the kids in my school are turning to alcohol and drugs for their entertainment, yet no one is doing anything about it. What makes you feel that teenage drug use is declining?

John Walters
Our national survey information give us a reliable national picture of a 17 percent decline for teens between 2001 and 2004 for the nation overall (, but that does not mean that the same decline is going on in every community and school. Your school may indeed have a serious problem and that is why we need your help and the help of adults to tell your peers that what some of them are doing is wrong and dangerous. It is not just adults who have a responsibility to lead. I have met students in a number of schools who have joined together and reduced drug use and underage drinking.

Kayla, from www.Tara writes:
is it fun being the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy?

John Walters
Yes, but I would put it differently. It is very rewarding to serve the country by helping President Bush work to reduce the drug problem. I urge young people to consider public service, whether they do it now by volunteering in their community or prepare for public service as an adult.

To work to make the lives or others better is the most rewarding work of all.

Bryan, from Roswell, GA writes:
Mr. Walters, What is the best way to make sure kids undertand the hazard drugs candoes inflict? Can we as parents feel confident that our kids are in a safer school environment, far as drugs are concerned, than say 10 years ago?

John Walters
Teen drug use went up dramatically in the 1990s. This was a result of a number of factors, but we do know that the messages kids get about the harms of drugs has a significant impact on their decision on whether or not to use. In recent years, we have been sending a clear, consistent signal about the harms of drugs, particularly marijuana, which for most young people is the first illegal drug that they are exposed to. Teen marijuana use has dropped 18 percent over the past three years, in large measure due to these messages. But the problem remains too large. Research shows that parents are the single biggest influence on children – if you are worried about your teen and drugs, talk to them. Tell them clearly how destructive drugs are, and let them know about your concern.

Jason, from Provo, UT writes:
What is the government doing to prevent drugs from entering the country and how is the U.S. working with other nations to combat the production and transportation of illegal drugs from foreign countries? Thank you for your time.

John Walters
The dramatically-increased border protection called for by President Bush since 9/11 will have positive effects for our anti-drug efforts. It has become much more difficult to smuggle dangerous substances across our borders over the past three years, and this is creating real problems for drug traffickers. We have stronger and deeper cooperation with our allies in the fight against drugs than ever before. The governments of Mexico, and particularly Colombia, are working closely with us, and are achieving striking results.

James, from New York writes:
It has been one of the Bush Administration's most trumpeted drug policies to introduce testing into schools. Do you not think this sends kids the wrong message as rather than reasoning with them as to the damaging effects of drugs, it simply seeks to scare them with the threat of punishment and being caught into not using drugs?

John Walters
Educating young people about the harms of drugs is essential. However, if we are to continue the progress we have made in reducing drug use among young people, we must explore other ways to bring drug use down. We know that random student drug testing ( is a powerful tool that school administrators can use to prevent young people from using drugs and identify those who may have a drug problem. The purpose of random testing is not to catch, punish, or expose students who use drugs, but to save their lives and discover abuse problems early so that students can grow up and learn in a drug-free environment. I have visited several schools with drug testing programs and I have found that random drug testing gives kids an excuse to say what they really want to say when offered drugs – “no.”

Pete, from Bloomington, Illinois writes:
Isn't there a problem with giving kids misleading information regarding marijuana that overstates the actual dangers? I worry that when they find out we've been lying to them about marijuana that they'll stop believing us when it comes to more dangerous drugs. After all, when you call Canadian pot the "crack cocaine of marijuana," the message kids may hear is that crack must not be too bad.

John Walters
Actually Pete, you’ve got the question exactly backwards. Marijuana is a much bigger part of the American addiction problem than most people – teens or adults – realize. There are now more teens going into treatment for marijuana dependency than for all other drugs combined. And there are more teens now seeking treatment for marijuana than for alcohol. Today’s marijuana is also twice as strong as it was in the mid 80’s. One of the reasons we have such a serious problem with marijuana in our country is because of the misinformation that has been spread about it over the past 30 years – that marijuana is “harmless” or a “soft drug” or a “rite of passage.” These are all myths – and for too many Americans they are costly myths. We need to educate Americans about the real harms of marijuana if we want to sustain the gains we’ve made over the past three years.

We’ve recently released a report entitled “Marijuana Myths & Facts: The Truth Behind 10 Popular Misperceptions” to help get the facts out about marijuana.

Ashley, from Oklahoma writes:
When do you think we should start educating our children to say no to drugs? How young is too young so that this great decline can continue?

John Walters
That’s an excellent question. While it is important that parents send their children the right messages about drugs, it’s also important that these messages be age-appropriate. You don’t want to give kids an idea that they might not have thought of. Our media campaign ( is aimed at 13-17 year olds. That’s the age when teens are usually first confronted with drugs, and the age when they are forming their own judgments about the harms of drugs.

John Walters
Thank you for the intelligent questions today. And I.d like to thank all the people in this country who have worked hard and made sacrifices to keep their friends, children, co-workers, and fellow citizens away from dangerous illegal drugs. Addiction is a serious problem for our nation, and the efforts that individuals make against this problem benefit us all. making real progress in this area, but I know that it is the work of people like you that makes the real difference.

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