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Epidemic or False Alarm? - How Likely Is “moderate” Use?

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First Lady Nancy Reagan started the “Just Say No” advertising campaign against illicit drug use during her husband's presidency (1981–1989). The “Just Say No” message urged zero tolerance in drug abuse prevention programs. Zero tolerance warns not to try drugs at all because experimentation subtly can lead to a loss of control.

The zero tolerance attitude worries some educators, even though they agree substance abuse is a serious problem among teenagers. They fear that severe school policies, which might include expulsion for drug possession, alienates first-time and casual users. Such rules, they say, may turn students away from helpful counselors and programs into the welcoming world of heavy drug users and distributors.

Critics of the government's antidrug policies have called the “Just Say No” campaign simpleminded and have responded with “say yes” books, government lobbying groups, and Internet sites and blogs. They call for drug reform and advocate the legalization of many banned substances.

The “say yes” faction does not openly promote heavy use of mind-altering substances. Its supporters assume that hallucinogens and other banned substances, if legalized, will be used privately and in moderation for the most part, with few negative effects impacting society at large.

Skeptics, though, note that hallucinogens are already being widely abused and are causing serious problems for individual users and for society. If relaxed laws make these substances easier to obtain, they warn, the problems will multiply, not diminish. Most health professionals agree it is wise to avoid illicit substances.

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