This is Your Country on Drugs

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WASHINGTON: Americans are spending less on illegal drugs. So are we a cleaner nation or just shrewder shoppers?

An Office of National Drug Control Policy report maintained Monday that $57.3 billion of America's hard-earned dollars went up noses and into veins in 1995, part of a slow downward trend since the studies began in 1988.

That may sound like good news. But any economics professor will tell you that lower prices (demand) usually mean just one thing: higher supply. "These studies just underscore what most people familiar with the drug problem already know: that drugs are cheap and getting cheaper," says TIME Washington correspondent Elaine Shannon. "Interdiction does nothing; enforcement at the source (in countries such as Colombia or Mexico) does nothing. The only thing that works is education."

Which is why the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, under new co-heads Bill Bennett and Mario Cuomo, is gearing up for a December and January advertizing blitz. For the first time, the organization will be paying for prime-time TV ads. Let's just hope the anti-drug message won't be squeezed between "It's Miller Time" and "This Bud's For You."