*The Obama Administration has released what it calls a 21st century drug policy. The 2013 National Drug Control Strategy gives priority to drug prevention rather than incarceration.
“This is a 21st century plan that acknowledges you can’t have simplistic approaches to the drug problem,” Rafael Lamaitre, Communications Director, Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP,) maintains. “A war on drugs approach where you kind of focus all your resources on enforcement and incarceration is just simply not efficient. Can’t arrest our way out of the drug problem.“
Drug abuse in America is more than a problem; it’s an epidemic, particularly with prescription drug abuse. Yet according to the ONDCP, of the 21.6 million Americans aged 12 or older who needed treatment for an illicit drug or alcohol use problem in 2011, only 2.3 million received it.
Lamaitre says one of the things that’s been successful that they’re working on expanding is for drug offenders, who are non-violent, being put into treatment rather than being locked up.
“We can identify and intervene where appropriate so that we can make sure that non-violent offenders who are entering the system don’t get caught up in the system and don’t get put into that vicious cycle of drug use crime, incarceration and re-arrest.”
The ONDCP‘s strategy claims to have the most significant expansion of access to substance use treatment in generations.
The spokesman for ONDCP feels it’s important for people who don’t already know, to realize an important sobering fact about drug addiction.
“Drug addiction as it turns out is a disease of the brain, a chronic disease of the brain- just like any other disease. It’s a disease that can be successfully prevented, treated and recovered from.”
While 19 states have approved medical marijuana laws, Maryland being the latest, Lamaitre makes it clear the White House isn’t going to pot, so to speak.
“Legalization policies would make drugs more available or more accessible aren’t a good way to approach this from a public health perspective. In terms of the details- what’s the federal government going to do over states and what’s the enforcement posture; it’s important to note that’s something that’s currently under review before the Department of Justice.”
Some points from the 2013 National Drug Control Strategy –
- Details actions to implement the Affordable Care Act, which – for the first time in history – ends discrimination against people with substance use disorders by requiring insurance companies to cover treatment for substance use disorders as they would for any other chronic disease;
- Works to implement innovative criminal justice reforms, including specialized Drug Courts, to break the cycle of drug use, crime, arrest, and incarceration by diverting non-violent drug offenders into treatment instead of prison;
- Works to expand treatment and reentry services for those incarcerated; and
- Promotes national and community-based programs – including the Drug-Free Communities Support Program – that are evidence-based and work to prevent substance use in schools, on college campuses, and in the workplace.
You may find the complete policy at www.wh.gov/drugpolicyreform
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Listen to Tene’ Croom and Rafael Lamaitre interview: