A report conducted by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, and reported recently by Reuters, indicates that treating substance abuse as a public health issue could result in lower crime rates. The report indicated that while illegal drugs play a major role in criminal activity, drug use in the United States has decreased significantly since 2003, which may be an indication that education programs and law enforcement efforts are having an effect. In cities such as New York and Chicago, cocaine use has decreased by half in the past decade, and overall drug use in the US has decreased by 30 percent since 1979.
Despite these encouraging numbers, 71 percent of all males arrested in 10 metropolitan areas tested positive for drug use at the time of their arrest, the study showed. White House officials pointed to this fact as an indication that Obama’s strategy of breaking the drug/crime cycle by treating drug abusers instead of jailing them, is an effective course of action. In an interview with Reuters, ONDCP Director Gil Kerlikowse said, “Tackling the drug issue could go a long way in reducing our crime issues, these data confirm that we must address our drug problem as a public health issue, not just a criminal justice issue.” According to Dr. Redonna Chandler of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 5 million out of the 7 million Americans who live under criminal justice supervision would benefit from treatment, but only 7.6 percent actually receive it.
Photo by Rapyobro