President Barack Obama’s top adviser on drug policy called Monday for greater emphasis on treating drug abuse as a public health problem in the United States rather than as a crime.
In a speech at the Betty Ford Center in Palms Springs, California, Gil Kerlikowske blamed US laws punishing drug consumption for making it harder for drug addicts to get treatment.
“Our nation’s drug problem should be treated as a public health issue, not just a criminal justice issue,” he said.
“Too many laws and regulations that were established for the purpose of punishing or deterring drug use make no distinction between the person who continues to use drugs and the person who is on the pathway to recovery,” he said.
Kerlikowske’s Office of National Drug Control Policy in April unveiled a new counter-drug strategy that calls for more than 100 changes in US law and counter-drug programs.
His office estimates that 23.5 million Americans were in treatment for alcohol or narcotics addiction in March.
It also reported that cocaine consumption has fallen by 40 percent since 2006, and drug consumption generally has declined by a third since 1979 in the United States.
But marijuana use among the young remains stable, and authorities are alarmed by the rise of synthetic drugs with devastating effects.
[A youth lights up a blunt in April 2012 in Denver. AFP Photo/Marc Piscotty]