For many years, the focus of drug policy has been to stop the supply of drugs into the country. Much of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy budget has been delegated to stop drugs through border patrols, working with foreign governments to eradicate grows and law enforcement working across communities to stop those who deal drugs in our neighborhoods. And, there have been some success that have taken dangerous substances off of our streets. Yet, with all of that being done, the issue of drug abuse is a prominent issue today
The issue with “supply reduction” is that it doesn’t account for the other part of any person who has a substance use disorder -we have not spent or done nearly enough to work with the demand for substances. Policy makers tend to forget this part because dealing with this part is much more difficult than eradicating a substance from a community. Let us understand that we do not have a drug problem in our country – instead we have an addiction problem. Law enforcement has done an admiral job but when one substance is taken away, another is there to take its’ place.
We have seen this happen in Ohio within the last decade. About six years ago, legislation was signed that eliminated pill mills in the state. Yet, prescription pills were replaced by heroin. We put more squeeze upon heroin and substances like fentanyl and carfentanyl have risen. Cocaine interdictions have risen over 60% in this country. No matter what drug is eradicated, new ones are always ready to take the place.
The importance of evidence-based prevention has never been stronger and it is showing in the way that we are handling the drug issue in this country. Prevention can teach children the importance of healthy lifestyles. Prevention can show communities how to instill drug-free messages into every sector of the community. Prevention can give us examples of the promise of not wiping out drugs but instead, working on those things that want individuals to try them in the first place. Our work is important – as we must deal with the demand side with the same commitment and the same vigor that we have given to the supply side of drugs.
Legislative Update March 31, 2017