July 30, 1986

When the President came into office in 1981, there was a lack of information or a focused national program on drug abuse. The main effort of the Government had been to reduce the supply of heroin. Legal, criminal, and moral issues surrounding drug use were confusing to the young and, really, to all citizens. Recognizing this, the President began a campaign that was designed to improve drug-law enforcement, to strengthen international cooperation, to expand drug abuse health functions, to reduce drug abuse in the military, and he created a nationwide drug abuse awareness effort to strengthen public attitudes.

Within the military, since 1981, this has been our most successful program. There has been a two-thirds drop in drug abuse in that timeframe. We found when we came in that 27 percent of all military personnel used drugs, and in some units the rate of drug use was nearly 50 percent. Independent studies show that last year we have reduced drug use in the military to less than 9 percent of all personnel. That is a 67-percent, two-thirds, drop in the number of people that were using drugs. The Secretary of Defense believes that there is more that can be done, and he is planning to continue the program of protection, prevention, rehabilitation, and education. And this will certainly be a model for the President's program.

In addition, the First Lady's leadership and dedication to the youth of America and the world has been a focal point of our efforts. She has had a crusade that has set the tone, really, on an international basis. She has raised the consciousness in the advertising industry, the television networks, in the high schools, sports programs, the medical profession, the entertainment industry, law enforcement officers, and many others joining in a nationwide effort to reduce drugs.

The President's program has been successful thus far, but the President is convinced that the best way to achieve the ultimate objective of total eradication of drug abuse and illegal trafficking is to reduce the demand side of the drug equation. To do that he intends to use the full power of the Presidency to accomplish his goal. This means a blend of the substantive program implementation and a personal communications effort to make sure that his program enjoys the support that will be needed to achieve his goal of total eradication of drugs.

He understands that the powers behind the drug industry are well entrenched. He recognizes this will not be an easy job, but he believes that the American people are ready to do something about drugs. He wants the public at large to face the program head on, and he believes it's imperative that we do it now. He believes there is a turnaround in public support, a major change in attitude: that we must do something about drugs, and we must do it now. The idea is to take the potential user away from drugs, and this will require the united effort of many elements of our society. The President's strategy, which is being finalized, will seek to remove drug abuse from schools, the workplace, athletic programs, and from all elements of our society. The President will seek to form a partnership with government, industry, schools, and the American public. He believes this must be truly a national effort if it is to succeed.

Note: Larry M. Speakes read the statement to reporters at 12:05 p.m. in the Briefing Room at the White House.