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First Look at Obama’s New Drug Control Strategy

“This Administration remains committed to a balanced public health and public safety approach to drug policy. This approach is based on science, not ideology—and scientific research suggests that we have made real progress.”
– President Barack Obama

Michael Botticelli, President Obama’s Acting Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, publically unveiled the White House’s 2014 annual drug control strategy on Wednesday. While a portion of the 93-page plan contains the same empty political language we’re used to seeing, it also provides practical solutions to many of our drug-related problems.

A New Kind of Conversation

Botticelli stressed that “we cannot arrest or incarcerate our way out of the drug problem.” The concept of wiping out addiction via legislation is, at best, misguided and it appears the White House is now acknowledging this fact.

Another refreshing topic in the 2014 strategy revolves around the science of addiction. Multiple studies have proven addiction is a disease. Despite the label, addiction is a condition that can be prevented, treated, and managed. This time, the Administration is looking to emphasize prevention and treatment.

Addressing the National Opioid Epidemic

Opiates like heroin or prescription painkillers are being abused at an alarming rate. According to research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 113 Americans die each day from drug overdoses. Fatalities brought on by opiate overdose eventually grew to be such a problem that they outnumbered the deaths caused by gunshot wounds or motor vehicle crashes.

President Obama’s 2014 strategy supports the expansion of state-based prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) and reducing the prevalence of pill mills and diversion through targeted enforcement efforts. The Administration hopes to make a positive impact on the already rampant abuse of opiate drugs.

Major Points of the 2014 Strategy

Prevention is always preferable to incarceration. The President’s plan calls for an expansion of national and community-based programs, health education, addiction prevention, and the criminal justice system. Specific initiatives include:

  • Training healthcare professionals in the early detection and treatment of addiction.
  • Providing access to quality and affordable treatment options.
  • Drug policy emphasizes the expansion of innovative “smart on crime” strategies proven to help break the cycle of drug use, crime, arrest, and incarceration.
  • Reforms to the U.S. criminal justice system, lowering incarceration rates, reducing recidivism, and protecting public safety.
  • Creating a recovery branch at the Office of National Drug Control Policy to support newly sober Americans.

Changes from the Norm

The President’s 2014 plan also had its share of surprises, including:

  • The Administration officially supports medication-assisted opioid treatment and overdose prevention.
  • Taking legal action against criminal organizations that traffic and deal opioid drugs.
  • The White House officially acknowledged the dangers of synthetic drugs, such as “K2” and “Spice.”
  • The term “impaired driving” is somewhat obsolete, as most intoxicated drivers are found to be under the influence of multiple drugs. Over the next 12-months, the President’s goal is to reduce drugged driving by 10 percent.

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