Office of National Drug Control Policy

Fact Sheet: Lifting the Stigma of Addiction

June 11th, 2012

"Throughout her long and active life, Elizabeth Anne Ford distinguished herself through her courage and compassion. As our nation's First Lady, she was a powerful advocate for women's health and women's rights. After leaving the White House, Mrs. Ford helped reduce the social stigma surrounding addiction and inspired thousands to seek much-needed treatment.”

-President Obama July 8th, 2011

Today, White House Drug Policy Director Gil Kerlikowske delivered a milestone address at the Betty Ford Center in Palm Springs, California recognizing the legacy of former First Lady Betty Ford’s work to lift the stigma associated with drug addiction and calling upon Americans and government institutions to treat substance use as a public health issue, not just a criminal justice issue. 

Decades of scientific study show that drug addiction is not a moral failing on the part of the individual—but a disease of the brain that can be prevented and treated.  While smart law enforcement efforts will always play a vital role in protecting communities from drug-related crime and violence, the Obama Administration has remained clear that we cannot arrest our way out of the drug problem through an enforcement-centric “war on drugs.”   

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.  To expand efforts to treat Americans suffering from substance use disorders, lift the stigma surrounding substance use disorders, and support those already successfully in recovery, the Obama Administration is taking several key actions:

  • In October of 2009, the Administration established the first-ever Recovery branch at the Office of National Drug Control Policy to support the millions Americans in recovery by eliminating barriers to recovery and lifting the stigma associated with drug addiction.
  • In March of 2010, the President signed the Affordable Care Act into law.  The new law helps guide patients to recovery by requiring insurers to cover treatment for substance use disorders the same way they would other chronic diseases starting in 2014.
  • Over the past three years, the Obama Administration has spent over $30 billion on drug treatment and prevention programs.
  • The Administration is supporting Access to Recovery, an innovative program that provides drug-addicted individuals vouchers with which they can purchase clinical treatment and recovery support services, including transitional housing, child care, transportation to work or employment aid.
  • The Administration is reviewing, identifying, and reforming laws and regulations that impede recovery from addiction including needs for housing, employment, or student loans.
  • The Administration is fostering the expansion of community-based recovery support programs, including recovery schools, peer-led programs, mutual help groups, and recovery support centers.

In April, the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) released the 2012 National Drug Control Strategy, the Obama Administration’s primary blueprint for drug policy in the United States.  The Strategy reviews the progress we have made during the past three years and also looks ahead to our continuing efforts to reform, rebalance, and renew our national drug control policy to address the public health and public safety challenges of the 21st century.  Specifically, the new Strategy is guided by three facts:  addiction is a disease that can be treated; people with substance use disorders can recover; and innovative new criminal justice reforms can stop the revolving door of drug use, crime, incarceration, and rearrest.


 The Facts:   Drug Use in America and the Administration Response 


A full copy of the 2012 National Drug Control Strategy is available here.

Click here to download the infographic: “Obama Administration Drug Policy: A Record of Reform

Click here to see videos and read more about innovative alternatives to drug control supported by the Obama Administration.