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The White House
For Immediate Release

White House Drug Policy Director Urges Americans to Help Lift Stigma Surrounding Drug Addiction

Kerlikowske Commends Review of Government Laws and Regulations that Place Obstacles in the Way of Recovery from Drug Addiction; Calls for Expansion of Unique Community Programs that Support Americans in Recovery Including Specialized High Schools, Peer-Led Programs

(Washington, DC) – Today, Gil Kerlikowske--Director of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and President Obama’s top drug policy advisor—applauded a continuing review and reform of laws and regulations that impede recovery from addiction and called for the expansion of community-based treatment and recovery support programs that help Americans recover from substance use disorders.  In a major speech at the Betty Ford Center in Palm Springs, California, almost 1 year following the passing of the former First Lady, Director Kerlikowske also called upon building on her legacy by urging the recovery community to come together to fight the stigma surrounding addiction and  encouraging more people to seek treatment to achieve recovery.

“Our Nation’s drug problem should be treated as a public health issue, not just a criminal justice issue.  Too many laws and regulations that were established for the purpose of punishing or deterring drug use make no distinction between the person who continues to use drugs and the person who is on the pathway to recovery,” said Director Kerlikowske.  “As we work to expand treatment, we must also remember the millions of Americans who are already in recovery and deserve our support in removing unnecessary obstacles that are placed in the way of receiving housing, gaining employment, obtaining a driver’s license, or even getting a student loan.”

“I want to thank Director Kerlikowske for his tireless efforts to raise awareness of the dangers of addiction, especially when it comes to prescription drug abuse,” said Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack, who represents Rancho Mirage and the surrounding area.  “Today, two classes of medicines – painkillers and insomnia and anxiety drugs – are responsible for about 70 deaths and nearly 3,000 emergency room visits a day.  These are alarming numbers.  As a Nation, we must do more to combat this growing public health epidemic.”

According to estimates from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 8 percent of Americans age 12 or older – about 21 million people – needed but did not receive substance abuse treatment at a specialty facility in 2010.  As a result, the Obama Administration is making an unprecedented effort to bring treatment and recovery into the center of discussions about drug policy. In 2010, ONDCP established a recovery branch that actively engages the recovering community on a range of policy issues and presses for consideration of recovery across the Federal Government.  The Administration is also supporting these efforts by emphasizing public health approaches to drug policy.

“Over the last 30 years, we at the Betty Ford Center have witnessed almost 100,000 women and men begin the journey of recovery.  People recover from addictive disease every day in many different ways.  It is important that people suffering from substance use disorders and their loved ones have hope and confidence in their ability to do well,” said John Schwarzlose, CEO of the Betty Ford Center. “I applaud the Administration and the Office of National Drug Control Policy as they embrace recovery and support and encourage the entire recovery community.”

In April, President Obama released the 2012 National Drug Control Strategy, the Administration’s primary blueprint for drug policy in the United States.  The new Strategy supports a “third way” approach to drug policy, supporting alternatives to a law enforcement centric “war on drugs” or drug legalization.  The new drug policy strategy outlines 113 specific actions to be undertaken throughout the Federal Government to reform U.S. drug policy through innovative and evidence-based public health and safety approaches including reviewing laws and regulations that impede recovery from addiction, expanding access to drug treatment, and expanding community-based recovery support programs.

To read the Strategy, or for more information about the Office of National Drug Control Policy, visit: