Blog Editor’s Note: Today, the Obama administration released its 2012 National Drug Control Strategy. We asked Kevin Sabet, Ph.D., former Senior Advisor at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), to comment on this new plan.
Though it likely won’t garner much attention from the mainstream media, the Obama Administration released its third National Drug Control Strategy today. I had the privilege to co-author the President’s inaugural Strategy in 2010, which emphasized a balance between public health and safety approaches to drug policy. I was also lucky enough to have a second go at it, assisting in its update in 2011, which laid out progress and challenges to date and emphasized the challenges related to special populations acutely affected by drug use – women and girls, young people, the military community, those in the criminal justice system, those in college and universities, and Native Americans and Alaskan Natives.
The 2012 release is likely to be attacked by those who are waiting for the day the President will make a U-turn and support legalization—but attackers will unfortunately miss the nuance and striking clarity which characterizes this particular document and its connection with the first Strategy. Indeed, the opening words set a tone:
“The Administration’s inaugural National Drug Control Strategy, published in 2010, charted a new direction in our efforts to reduce illicit drug use and its consequences in the United States. The Strategy pursued a mainstream approach to the drug problem—an approach that rejects the false choice between an enforcement-centric “war on drugs” on the one hand and the notion of drug legalization on the other. Science shows that drug addiction is not a moral failing on the part of the individual—but a disease of the brain that can be prevented and treated.”
This year’s Strategy is essentially pleading with the Nation to wake up and grow up. It tells us that it’s no longer acceptable to react with indifference to the fact that more than 10 people every day of the year die from prescription drug abuse. In plain language it wisely asks us to put aside polemical and nonsensical defenses of either the status quo or drug legalization in favor of an intelligent, honest analysis of the hard work that goes into demand and supply reduction efforts.
It also articulates a wise, but delicate balance between recognizing successes (for example, the striking manner by which the supply and demand of cocaine in the United States has fallen in the past 8 years) and major challenges (like the dire situation in Mexico, Guatemala, and other nations in the region). And it reminds us not to forget to complete the work many of us started in areas like recovery and the importance of creating environments (legal and social) conducive to abstinence, whether that be for a kid who has never used or for an adult on the journey to a positive life change.
There is nothing sexy or glitzy about this piece of policy work. It wasn’t released with pomp and circumstance, and it doesn’t have anything in it that you can put on a bumper sticker. It’s a pure, simple, and factual call to action for a nation in trouble. And that is its greatest strength.
Kevin Sabet, Ph.D.
Sabet is currently a drug policy consultant and a regular contributor to thefix.com and HuffingtonPost. When he was at ONDCP, Sabet was a principal drafter of the President’s first Strategy in 2010. Follow him on twitter @kevinsabet.
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