As Jeb Bush met with New Hampshire officials on Wednesday to discuss how to confront the state’s heroin epidemic, his campaign touted Bush’s drug control record in Florida as a huge success. In fact, use of certain drugs increased among Florida students during Bush’s tenure as governor, according to reports commissioned by his administration.
On Wednesday, Bush held a roundtable discussion about drug abuse in Manchester, New Hampshire, a city that has seen a surge in heroin-related overdoses. Bush shared his own experience as a father with a daughter who struggled with addiction, and he offered some policy ideas informed by his efforts to reduce drug use in Florida.
In his first year as governor in 1999, Bush created the Florida Office of Drug Control to tackle increased substance abuse among teenagers. One of the agency’s primary initiatives was to conduct an annual "Florida Youth Substance Abuse Survey" to ask students about their drug habits.
In an email to reporters after the event, Bush’s campaign cited the results of those surveys to say that among Florida students, “drug usage decreased across the board, between 2000 and 2006.” But an International Business Times review of the annual substance abuse reports calls that claim into question.
Over the course of Bush’s time as governor, there appear to have been increases in the percentage of students who reported that they had used alcohol, marijuana and cocaine in the previous 30 days. The statistics provided by Bush’s campaign, however, show substantial decreases in use of those drugs.
It is not clear how they arrived at their numbers, though the campaign does not seem to have included numbers from the 2000 annual survey in its figures. That means the campaign’s data does not cover the entirety of his two terms as governor.
When IBT calculated the changes in students' drug use from 2000 to 2006, there were still decreases in usage of heroin, methamphetamines and cigarettes, but they were smaller than advertised.
Spokespeople for Bush did not respond to IBT’s questions about their drug control statistics.