Shifting The Rhetoric from War to Treatment

Last month, the new so-called ‘drug czar’, Gil Kerlikowske, the White House Office’s Director of National Drug Control Policy, announced plans to move away from the ‘war on drugs’. The Obama Administration’s viewpoint, in contrast to Administration’s past, favors treatment over incarceration.

For October 2009, the Obama Administration is increasing funding for substance abuse treatment programs to $3.6 billion–a 4% increase, moving away from a criminal-justice approach, framing it as a public health issue including a needle-exchange program, which has been banned federally in the US.

“Regardless of how you try to explain to people it’s a ‘war on drugs’ or a ‘war on a product,’ people see a war as a war on them,” he exlpained in an interview. “We’re not at war with people in this country.”

This moves the American’s approach to illicit drugs to more closely align with the drug policies of Europe–policies that have time and time again proven more effective in countering drug abuse. This isn’t to say that we will be seeing the US loosen their drug crime laws, but that a focus on treatment and prevention will be added to the mix.

For those of us in the addiction community on both sides of the border, this is what we have all been waiting for. We’ve known for years that a purely punitive approach is not successful in combating substance abuse and addition. Your approach may fall into the 12-step framework, it may not. Each person’s recovery is different, a personal road filled with its own curves and pitfalls.

But we all have a common goal: treating the deeper issues at hand, burrowing down to each individual’s unique root of the addiction, and finding forgiveness both for oneself and others. We seek to provide solace, not punishment.

And it is only once you have healed can you grow and find release from the addictions that have haunted you.