Substance abuse

THE MONITOR is to be applauded for its wide-ranging and superbly written "Special Issue on Substance Abuse." There was, however, a gap in the coverage of one important area. It's an area which the movie "Traffic" spoke to in loud and explicit terms: that families are of inescapable importance where drug abuse is concerned.

This point is buttressed by more than 40 years of research. For instance, 28 of 30 reports, across seven countries, show that the vast majority of drug-addicted adults either live with or are closely tied to their parents or the people who raised them (among the U.S. studies, the "living-with" rate is five times the national norm). Such closeness often stems from prolonged grief in the family--consequent to one or more sudden or unexpected losses--in which the person who eventually becomes addicted is, in a sense, "held onto" as a replacement for the lost loved one(s). Further, researchers have conducted at least 18 randomized clinical trials documenting the efficacy of family treatment for drug abuse. Finally, family members have been shown to be instrumental in getting drug abusers to enter treatment, as well as in helping them stay there.

The special issue gave excellent coverage to couples/family treatment for alcohol problems, but overlooked that alternative for drug abuse. It would seem that Monitor readers and their clients would be well served to be informed of this option, and its empirical underpinnings, when drug abuse is the problem.

Louisville, Ky.

MISSING FROM THE RECENT Monitor--an article on older adults. This is not new, however. Programs on alcohol and substance abuse almost always ignore the older adult population. It is even more unfortunate for APA to ignore the older adult. Who else could have better presented the information on the physical and psychological needs of older adults, the special knowledge base that makes the needs and problems of older adults very different from teens and young adults?

Beaumont, Texas

Supporting students early

IN THE MAY ISSUE, THE ARTICLE, "The ones to watch" prompts me to point out what can be done at a local level. For the last 62 years, Western New York has held a science fair--we call it a Science Congress--which today attracts 370 students from grades five through 12 from the eight counties. After serving as a judge for 25 years, I joined the Congress's Board a few years ago as head of judging. Catching the board in a weak moment in 1999, we established a "behavioral science" category to distinguish our many psychologically oriented projects from "animal biology." We now have added several judges from local psychology departments for those sections.

Over the years, I have seen many students show a remarkable feel for scientific method for their behavioral projects. In 2000, the first year of the official behavioral science category, our senior-level gold prize winner won from that category, and went on to win top honors at the New York State Science Congress. Now a high school senior, he returned this year with another behavioral project and won the second place silver medal.

Buffalo, N.Y.

Great April issue

JUST A NOTE TO TELL YOU THAT the April issue was the best I can remember in my 15-plus years of subscription. I am not sure if you just happened to hit a lot of my interests, but the information seemed more relevant and useable to me. Incidentally, I love the new magazine format. Thanks for your ongoing work.

Hendersonville, Tenn.

On prescription privileges

HATS OFF TO DR. BUSH (LET- ters, May Monitor). The issue isn't whether psychologists can prescribe safely, or help their clients by doing so, but that there will be a deleterious effect on our profession if we go down this path. A concurrent ancillary nurse-practitioner profession makes far more sense, and won't require sacrificing training in psychology for training in medicine in our graduate schools.

Encino, Calif.

Clarifying Claude Steele's research

RICHARD MCCARTY DEVOTED his April Monitor column to Claude Steele's innovative work on the effects of stereotype threat on performance on tests like the SAT and GRE. McCarty characterizes Steele's work as showing that African-American students scored lower on a test when it was labeled a measure of intelligence than when it was not given that label. More importantly, he asserts that when the test was not labeled as a measure of intelligence, African-American students performed just as well as white students.

However, McCarty fails to note that Steele's work examined African-American and white students statistically equated on the basis of prior SAT scores. What Steele reports is not that actual test scores are the same for African-American and white students, but rather that after scores are statistically adjusted for differences in students' prior SAT performance, scores of both groups are the same. Thus, the findings actually show that absent stereotype threat due to labeling the test as a measure of intelligence, the African-American and white students differ to the degree that would be expected based on differences in prior SAT scores.

Thus, while Steele's work is important in calling attention to issues linked to test-taker motivation, it would be a serious mistake to conclude that the research shows that the test-score gap between majority and minority students is solely an artifact due to the way a test is presented to examinees. Such a conclusion would wrongly lead to the belief that there is less need for research and intervention aimed at a broad range of causes, such as differences in educational and economic opportunities.

University of Minnesota

Further Reading

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