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For four decades, the United States has been engaged in a bare-knuckle 15 round fight with drugs and alcohol and its’ devastating impacts on society. From its start in the summer of 1971 by the Nixon administration, the War on Drugs has been a campaign of prohibition on drugs and has poured a trillion dollars into increasing the size of federal drug control agencies and pushing through strict measures such as mandatory minimum sentencing and no-knock warrants.
Despite the epic allocation of resources and the efforts of government and law enforcement agencies, the War on Drugs has largely been considered a failure. Since its’ inception, The War on Drugs has lead to the arrest of over 45 million people and over 2 million people are currently in jail or prison for drug-related offenses. However, nearly 23 million people in the United States are struggling with drug addiction and the country is in the grips of a heroin and prescription painkiller epidemic that shows no signs of slowing down.
Changing the Dialogue
It’s time for a change, and a growing and louder chorus of voices are calling for a shift in how we view drug addiction and how it is treated. Ultimately, changing the conversation on addiction in America centers on removing the continuing stigma of addiction and understanding that people who struggle with substance abuse should be viewed as patients and not prisoners. One person who is leading the charge in changing that conversation is Michael Botticelli.
Botticelli is the director of the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy, and his primary goal to reform and refocus American drug policy to change the vocabulary of addiction and find solutions that can bring about meaningful change. In a recent interview that aired on 60 Minutes, Botticelli was upfront is pointing out that the policies that have been in place have failed and have accounted for the country’s overflowing prison population:
It has been all wrong. Blunt force didn’t knock out the drug epidemic. 21 million Americans are addicted to drugs or alcohol. And half of all federal inmates are in for drug crimes. We can’t arrest and incarcerate addiction out of people. Not only do I think it’s really inhumane, but it’s ineffective and it cost us billions upon billions of dollars to keep doing this.
Botticelli seeks to change policy to reflect the philosophy that drug addiction is a problem that cannot be treated by simply locking people up or not providing the appropriate resources for addicts to get the help and support they need. In the same interview, Botticelli states that addiction is a brain disease and not a moral failing. Addiction changes brain chemistry and it affects those brain areas responsible for judgment.
Seeing Addiction From A Personal Perspective
The patients not prisoners approach that provides the foundation for Botticelli’s vision for American drug policy was used when he was the Director of Substance Abuse Services for the state of Massachusetts. Among the initiatives he helped put into place included a high school for teens in recovery and expanding the presence of drug courts.
His passion for reform and changing the dialogue on how America views substance abuse is personal. Botticelli himself is a recovering alcoholic and has been clean and sober for 27 years. In his sobriety, he has felt an enormous sense of gratitude from the support and fellowship he received on his journey towards recovery. Addiction causes great isolation, and those who seek to break the vicious cycle of substance abuse need understanding, compassion and meaningful support.
On a national level, this includes instituting a drug policy that is informed by an understanding that addiction is a complex issue. Botticelli states that a singular strategy will not change the focus and scope of drug use in America. Instead, drug policy must evolve to account for the social, medical, psychological and biological factors that give rise to addiction in the first place. It certainly isn’t an easy task and it will be the subject of continuous and often contentious debate, but Botticelli’s openness and vision can certainly be seen as a clear starting point to have those discussions.
Information is Empowering
For those who struggle with drug and alcohol addiction, the path to finding the help and support they need can be an overwhelming experience. The frustration in understanding the mechanics of addiction and knowing where to look to find the right help can oftentimes keep people stuck in their substance abuse and with feelings there is no way out. The key to beating addiction is knowledge, and Sober Nation is your ultimate resource. We are the leading provider of addiction, treatment and recovery resources on the internet and our number one purpose is to help you get clean and sober–period.
We offer all people a comprehensive library of informative articles and blogs as well as an extensive drug treatment directory featuring over 40,000 quality rehabs nationwide. We also offer a dedicated, experienced and compassionate staff who are available 24 hours a day and 7 days a week to answer any and all questions. Don’t wait another minute to get the help you need; call Sober Nation toll-free today or visit our website and get the information you need to help you make recovery a reality in your life.