More than ever, Americans recognize addiction as a health issue. According to a recent report by Pew Research, support for treatment-based approaches to illegal drug use spans nearly all demographic groups. While we agree on much, there’s work to be done before new knowledge changes the way drug use is addressed in local communities. Our values need to be made visible.
Michael Botticelli, the acting director at Office of National Drug Control policy may well be the right person at the right time to lead the effort. Last Friday, Mr. Botticelli was nominated by the White House to serve as permanent director in the directorship role also known as “drug czar”.
Mr. Botticelli has regularly discussed his own addiction and recovery. He speaks candidly about his personal journey in the short video above, and in a recent profile piece by the Washington Post. While I do not know him personally, I hope to see his nomination succeed. Leadership with direct experience is bound to be a positive thing.
Importantly, early signs are that Mr Botticelli strengthens existing efforts to use evidence-based (proven) approaches to drug use. His experience as a former public health chief is Massachusetts is good background for advancing a public health agenda.
We know that lectures are not deterrents and punishments aren’t remedies. Prevention is about strengthening communities, creating opportunity, and protecting consumers and young people.
Working in tandem with health care reform, drug policy should serve to increase health and safety, ensure public costs are reasonable and sustainable, and prioritize fairness for Americans of diverse race and ethnicities.
The newly updated National Drug Control Strategy is ambitious. The goals outlined by Mr. Botticelli’s office would have direct, positive impact on communities. Progress is being made, but it remains to be seen how resources will be realigned at the federal level. States will also need to take part in these changes, and the way we work together in communities will continue to evolve. I have high hopes for Mr. Botticelli, but if Americans want reform we have to commit to making progress together. Treating addiction as a health issue will improve individual lives and make the country better. There’s work to be done, and now is the time.