In the sixties one of the suggested exist strategies for the War in Vietnam was “to declare victory and get out.” Alas, it was the road not taken, increasing the length and depth of the tragedy for all concerned. For the War on Drugs, there is an even simpler solution: stop calling it a war. According to Obama’s drug chief, that’s the attitude of his administration and it’s about time:
President Barack Obama?s plan to fight drug abuse and trafficking proposes spending $15.5 billion next year and shifting the emphasis from fighting a war on drugs to treating the problem as a national health issue, the administration?s top drug-policy adviser said in an interview.
?It?s a disease, it?s diagnosable and it?s certainly something that can be treated — but it?s not a war,? said Gil Kerlikowske, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.
The president?s plan calls for increasing drug-control spending by 3.5 percent in the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. It aims to reduce drug use among American youth by 15 percent over five years, and to make similar reductions in chronic drug use, deaths from drug use, and driving under the influence of illicit substances. (Peter Green, Bloomberg News)
By criminalizing use of opiates we have also denied their rational use to people with chronic pain. Not to mention criminalizing behavior like pot use which is certainly no worse than alcohol. If we could decriminalize these things than that would also undercut organized crime, a major part of the “drug problem.” They may be the alleged targets of the “war on drugs” but it is mainly foot soldiers and innocent civilians that are the collateral damage.
Addictions aren’t harmless. If their use doesn’t have medical benefits like pain relief and is only for recreation or use as a coping mechanism for other problems then they can be serious. Addiction is a public health problem, like alcoholism or smoking and should be addressed in that way. Kudos to the Obama administration for not only recognizing this but proposing to do something about it:
The administration proposes spending $1.7 billion, up 13.4 percent from this year, to increase prevention efforts, including mentoring programs for schoolchildren.
?If you start early? presenting children with drug- prevention messages, ?that?s been proven to be effective, and that?s where we want to go with this,? Kerlikowske said.
An increase of 3.7 percent in treatment funds, to $3.9 billion, includes a new emphasis on training primary care physicians to identify and help treat addiction before it becomes chronic. The funding request is part of Obama?s proposed fiscal 2011 budget.
?If you are able to do an intervention with somebody on drugs early, it saves money — treatment is about half the cost of incarceration,? said Kerlikowske. ?You can?t arrest your way out of the problem.? (Bloomberg)
That said, there is a lot of work to be done to undo the “war” footing that we have been hoodwinked into accepting. The decriminalization of pot is already starting but it isn’t going fast enough. There should also be a rational approach to the appropriate use of drugs for chronic pain. They are medically indicated more often than prescribed, but doctors are too nervous about becoming even more collateral damage in the phony war on drugs.
I am sure there will be push back from the hardnosed hard right. They not only want to be tough on crime, they also want everyone to accept what they think is a crime. Like abortion.
And of course drug use. While they drink a toast to prohibition.