U.S. Drug Strategy Shifts To Prevention, But Mostly Funds Enforcement
April 23, 2012

SAN DIEGO -- The Obama administration says it's charting "a new course" in its efforts to fight drug abuse in this country, focusing on more prevention and treatment of drug users. The administration recently presented its 2012 National Drug Control Strategy, along with its budget request to Congress for funding drug control and prevention strategies in the coming fiscal year.

Despite the administration's pledge to take a more balanced approach to fighting drug dealing and lower usage, nearly 60 percent of the administration’s requested budget for fiscal year 2013 would target the supply side of the drug equation — law enforcement, interdiction and support for international anti-drug trafficking efforts. The remaining funds would go toward prevention (6 percent) and treatment for drug addiction (36 percent).

Many states, like California, have severely cut funding for drug abuse treatment in prison in recent years. Funding for prevention is also on the decline.

The Obama administration has given itself a goal of reducing drug use — and its consequences — by 15 percent by 2015. However, according to its recent report, the number of young people using drugs last year was essentially unchanged from 2010. Meanwhile, over the past five years, drug use among 10th graders increased by nearly 25 percent.

Still, some experts have applauded the administration for its efforts to break the cycle of crime and drug addiction. It’s funding several innovative parole programs across the country that have proven to significantly reduce recidivism among drug users.

Plus, if President Obama’s Affordable Care Act survives scrutiny by the Supreme Court, insurers will be required to offer coverage for substance abuse treatment.

"There will be incentives for physicians to do drug screenings, including alcohol, of course, on the annual physical exam," said Mark Kleiman, a drug policy expert at UCLA.

Kleiman added that this represents: "the biggest opportunity the health care system has to interfere with drug abuse.”

The Obama administration also released its latest Southwest Border Counternarcotics Strategy, which focuses on improving the ability of U.S. law enforcement to reduce the flow of illegal drugs into the U.S., as well as interrupting the flow of drug proceeds and stemming associated violence.

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