WASHINGTON, DC—In a surprise announcement with wide-ranging implications for U.S. narcotics policy, Drug Enforcement Administration director Thomas Constantine acknowledged Monday that some winners "may occasionally" use drugs.
"Apparently," said Constantine, addressing reporters at Justice Department headquarters, "contrary to the DEA's long-standing conviction, drug use may not be limited solely to the domain of losers. It appears that some successful Americans have experimented with illegal narcotics, as well."
The announcement was the result of a comprehensive three-year DEA study of more than 40,000 U.S. winners, including thousands of successful business executives, doctors, lawyers, scientists and civic leaders. The study, originally designed by the DEA to help shed light on the qualities shared by winners that make them resistant to drugs, instead revealed that over 71 percent of winners had at one time or another experimented with controlled substances.
Constantine said that it remains unclear why winners, who enjoy successful, productive careers and feelings of love and acceptance from their families, would choose to engage in drug use.
"Time and time again, DEA tests have shown that no feeling you could get from drugs could be better than the great feeling you get from being a winner," Constantine said. "Why a heart surgeon, an architect or a straight-A student would use drugs when his senses are already enormously heightened by the 'high' that comes from being a winner is beyond me."
Making drug use by winners all the more puzzling, Constantine said, is the fact that winners are more than strong enough to resist the peer pressure associated with drug use, do not need to get high to escape from a terrible life, and do not associate with the sort of people most likely to use drugs—namely, losers.
DEA scientists said it also remains unclear how drug-using winners have managed to avoid addiction and the many well-known destructive side-effects of controlled substances.
"Winners seem to have an unknown quality that enables them to use drugs and keep on winning," DEA head researcher and narcotics expert Howard Tobin said. "It goes against everything we know about drugs, but many of the drug-taking winners we studied did not, in fact, become losers. They did not lose control of their lives, nor did they lose their loved ones, their jobs, their homes, or their physical or mental well-being. There is clearly something at work here that we still do not understand."
Tobin cited the five-time Super Bowl champion Dallas Cowboys as a good example of winners who achieved greatness while engaging in frequent recreational drug use.
"In 1993 and 1994, the Cowboys clearly were winners, trouncing the Buffalo Bills—a team with no drug-users on its roster, mind you—in two straight Super Bowls by a combined score of 82 to 30," Tobin said. "It's puzzling, to say the least."
One winner, Cupertino, CA, neurosurgeon Richard Frankel, a devoted family man and casual marijuana smoker, said that the DEA should not necessarily be surprised. "I find that a little pot every now and then really helps me relax," he said. "When you consider that marijuana is less addictive and less harmful than both nicotine and alcohol, it shouldn't be all that surprising that I, like so many of my esteemed and accomplished colleagues, choose to smoke up occasionally."
As a result of the study, the DEA has been forced to change many of its anti-drug awareness campaigns. On Tuesday, the agency ordered the recall of more than 150,000 U.S. video arcade games displaying anti-drug messages, including 27,000 Mortal Kombat II and N.A.R.C. units, which will be reprogrammed with an altered on-screen message from former FBI director William Sessions, "Very Few Winners Use Drugs."