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Obama Drug Strategy Stresses Evidence-Based Prevention

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President Obama said he is “committed to restoring balance in our efforts to combat the drug problems that plague our communities” in unveiling his 2010 National Drug Control Strategy, and while the plan does little to address the imbalance between demand-reduction and supply reduction spending in the drug budget, it does place stronger emphasis on implementing proven prevention strategies and investing in early interventions that are better integrated into mainstream medicine.

Prevention, drugged driving, and prescription-drug use are laid out as the priority focal points for 2010. The Strategy also sets out what drug czar Gil Kerlikowske acknowledged are “ambitious goals” to be met in the next five years, including reducing: 

  • the rate of youth drug use by 15 percent;
  • drug use among young adults by 10 percent; 
  • the number of chronic drug users by 15 percent; 
  • the incidence of drug-induced deaths by 15 percent; and 
  • the prevalence of drugged driving by 10 percent.

Kerlikowske, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), was recently grilled on Capitol Hill over the direction of U.S. drug policy, but the new Strategy received plaudits from a diverse array of organizations, from Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) to the National Narcotics Officers Associations' Coalition and the Partnership for a Drug-Free America.

“FAMM wholeheartedly support Mr. Kerlikowske's goal of implementing evidence-based prevention, treatment, and enforcement tools. We have long believed that criminal justice debates in this country would benefit from more science and evidence and less emotion and politics,” said FAMM President Julie Stewart. “This blueprint could not be more timely as Congress prepares to consider bipartisan legislation to establish a blue-ribbon national criminal justice commission that would examine all aspects of the system.”

Ethan Nadelmann, director of the Drug Policy Alliance and a longtime critic of U.S. drug policy, called the strategy “an imperfect improvement” over those offered by previous administrations.

“There's no question that it points in a different direction and embraces specific policy options counter to those of the past thirty years,” according to Nadelmann. “But it differs little on the fundamental issues of budget and drug policy paradigm, retaining the overwhelming emphasis on law enforcement and supply control strategies that doomed the policies of its predecessors.”

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