Kansas City, Mo. — A new study showing fewer teens using illegal drugs proves that partnerships between the federal government and local agencies are working, the nation's top drug official said Friday.
"People talk about partnerships in government," said John Walters, director of the Cabinet-level Office of National Drug Control Policy. "Here is one of the places where it could not be clearer."
Walters was in Kansas City to present an award from his office to a local coalition working to reduce use of illegal drugs and alcohol by teens.
"We have communities like this across the nation, where people like yourselves are saving lives every day," Walters said. "We can save more lives, more rapidly, with more people reaching to lend a hand."
On Thursday, the government released its 2003 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. It found that American youths are using marijuana, LSD and Ecstasy, but more are abusing prescription drugs.
The study also showed a 20 percent decline between 2002 and 2003 in the number of youths who smoke marijuana at least 20 days each month.
Despite those encouraging numbers, Walters said, the conflicting ideas persist that drug use always will be part of American culture but won't affect people personally.
"Unfortunately, this problem has an important dimension of denial," he said. "People don't want to see it. They want to believe it's bigger than it is. They also believe there's nothing they can do. That's wrong."
While the federal government can provide material support, Walters said, local agencies can help Washington target that support because they see problems and solutions more closely.
"We provide a national estimate on a variety of dimensions and try to improve some of those, but it's very important that those be tied to local measures as well," he said.
The latest federal Drug Policy Information Clearinghouse report for Kansas, issued in April, found that in 2002, drug and alcohol violations accounted for a total of 2,796 juvenile arrests.