This year's strategy focuses on the science behind drug addiction. The new policy is based on the growing body of scientific evidence that addiction is a disease of the brain that can be prevented and treated and is an illness from which people can recover—not a moral failure on the part of the individual, a once widely accepted misconception. "Public opinion on drug policy is finally catching up to what the science has demonstrated for quite some time," said Botticelli. "We cannot incarcerate addiction out of people. While law enforcement should always play a vital role in protecting communities from violent drug-related crime, at the end of the day, we must acknowledge that public-health and criminal-justice initiatives must work together to address this complex challenge in a smarter way."
The updated strategy will continue efforts implemented in 2013 to address the alarming rates and adverse consequences associated with opioid use by highlighting the importance of opioid overdose prevention and treatment and the administration of the overdose drug naloxone by first responders, when necessary. Also, the administration is calling for improved data collection to improve the ability of federal, state, and local officials to identify and respond to emerging drug addiction threats.
Richard Rosenthal, M.D, a professor of psychiatry at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and an addiction expert, told Psychiatric News that "This new approach will bring more access to evidence-based prevention and treatment to those with addiction problems or disorders, which is a de facto public-health gain. The emphasis on prevention of harm, such as providing access to emergency opioid overdose medication, is consistent with other population-based interventions such as teaching the public the Heimlich maneuver or basic resuscitation techniques." Rosenthal concluded that the Obama Administration must increasingly support the National Institutes of Health and other science-based agencies for the much needed addiction research that can serve as part of the factual basis for continuing the evolution of drug policy and strategy.
To read more about the drug reform efforts of the White House, as well as Congress, see the Psychiatric News articles, "White House Wants Primary Care More Involved in Drug Treatment,", and "Bill Would Give Liability Exemption for Use of Overdose-Fighting Drugs."