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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

2014 National Drug Control Strategy Emphasizes Prevention, Treatment

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This week, the Obama Administration released the 2014 National Drug Control Strategy, the fourth since its inaugural report in 2010. The plan outlines the administration’s approach to reducing drug abuse and preventing and treating substance use disorders.

According to the White House, the economic costs of drug use are enormous: in 2007 alone, illicit drug use cost our nation more than $193 billion in lost productivity, healthcare, and criminal justice costs. Nationwide, drug-induced overdose deaths now surpass homicides and car crash deaths in America.

The National Drug Control Strategy contains more than 100 specific reforms, grouped into four major buckets:

  • Emphasizing prevention over incarceration
  • Training health care professionals to intervene early before addiction develops
  • Taking a “smart on crime” approach to drug enforcement
  • Giving a voice to Americans in recovery

In a blog post accompanying the report, the White House noted that “science demonstrates that addiction is a disease of the brain—a disease that can be prevented and treated, and from which people can recover. The Administration’s drug policy reflects this understanding by emphasizing prevention and access to treatment over incarceration, pursing “smart on crime” rather than ‘tough on crime’ approaches to drug-related offenses, and support for early health interventions designed to break the cycle of drug use, crime, incarceration, and re-arrest.”

Michael Boticelli, Acting Director of Drug Control Policy, said that the 2014 plan is the result of countless meetings over the past year with Federal, state, local, and tribal officials, nongovernmental organizations, Members of Congress, international partners, and private citizens. In response to concerns voiced by these groups, the 2014 Strategy includes several new action items, such as:

  • Focusing on providing support to areas with emerging drug-related problems but limited law enforcement resources such as oil-booming towns in North Dakota; and
  • New proposals to address the threat of new synthetic drugs, such as “K-2,” “Spice,” and “bath salts,” which have been emerging in communities across the country.

The report also highlights the growing epidemic of opioid and heroin abuse. In 2010, opioid pain relievers like oxycodone, hydrocodone, and methadone were involved in more than 16,600 overdose deaths—approximately 45 Americans every day. The report proposes to educate the public about overdose risks and interventions (such as through the HHS Opioid Overdose Prevention Toolkit); increase access to naloxone, an emergency overdose reversal medication; and work with states to promote Good Samaritan laws and other measures that can help save lives.

In introductory notes, President Obama and Acting Director Boticelli pledged to work side-by-side with Congress, federal agencies, and the public to promote the reforms included in the 2014 Strategy.