• Advocates for Action Guest Post: Providing Hope and Opportunity

    The prescription drug abuse epidemic has ravaged southern and eastern Kentucky. We have been hit harder than most, but our pain is now being felt by others as the scourge has spread across the country.

    Drug abuse affects virtually every family in the country, including my own. I have two nephews struggling with substance abuse and a brother who has been recovering from addiction for the past 20 years. Their successes and setbacks provide motivation for me to help others in similar situations. I persevere armed with faith that God will guide our efforts and strengthen our resolve.

    My heart breaks every time I meet a child who has not eaten at home in days because his or her caregivers are more concerned about feeding their drug habit than feeding their children. I want to scream when these children share stories about seeing parents inserting needles in their arms or describe their deplorable living conditions. Far too many kids have become innocent victims of abuse or neglect because of their parents’ addiction.

    Sometimes it is difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel; drug abuse is like a dark cloud obscuring the possibilities of a brighter future. Before we can turn things around, we must reach out to the next generation. We must show young people that no matter how dire their current circumstances may appear, there is a way out. The road may not be easy, but with the help of loving, caring adults and their peers, there is hope and opportunity for a better future.

    These stories are repeated in every community across our great Nation. Many dedicated individuals and organizations are leading crusades against prescription drug abuse. But success comes slowly. That is why UNITE organized the first National Rx Drug Abuse Summit in 2012 (and will host a second Summit in 2013). Stakeholders discussed prescription drug problems in their communities and came together with a focus on ways to make an impact through holistic collaboration.

    UNITE’s efforts seek to impart hope: Hope for addicts seeking help. Hope for families confused and frustrated by a loved one’s addiction. Hope for those in recovery that they can once again become productive members of society. And, most important, hope that our children realize there can be a better tomorrow.

    Operation UNITE is a non-profit organization providing a holistic approach to substance abuse through law enforcement, treatment, and education initiatives.

  • California Makes Progress in Drugged Driving Legislation

    Drugged driving is a threat to public health and safety.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) 2007 National Roadside Survey found that approximately one in eight weekend, nighttime drivers tested positive for illicit drugs.[1]  In 2010, a study conducted by NHTSA found that among fatally injured drivers who were tested and the results reported, 33 percent tested positive for at least one drug.[2]   While these statistics are useful, more data is needed to determine the full extent of the problem.

    The Office of National Drug Control Policy supports efforts to obtain better information on drugged driving so that state and local governments can better tackle this growing problem.  A few weeks ago, California took an important step forward in providing better data on drugged driving. 

    On September 29, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Assembly Bill 2552 which will distinguish the offenses of driving under the influence of alcohol, driving under the influence of any drug, and driving under the combined influence of alcohol and any drug.  The law goes into effect on January 1, 2014.  California joins New York and Hawaii as the only states to separate these three offenses. “Up to now we have had limited statistics that seemed to point to increasing drug involvement in crashes,” said Christopher J. Murphy, Director of the California Office of Traffic Safety.  “With this new legislation, we will be able to gather a greater quantity of much more detailed information on the size and scope of the problem.  It will help in law enforcement, court system, and public awareness efforts to combat this growing problem.”

    California recognizes that drugged driving is a serious threat to public health and public safety, and this law compliments other work being done in the state to address it.  The California Office of Traffic Safety considers “Alcohol and Other Drugs” a priority area and funds a number of initiatives to better understand and reduce drugged driving.  These initiatives include new drug testing equipment, grants for the Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement (ARIDE) program and Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) training, and a survey modeled on the 2007 NHTSA National Roadside Survey to determine the prevalence of drug and alcohol impaired driving.

    [1] National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Results of the 2007 National Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drug Use by Drivers. U.S. Department of Transportation Report No. DOT HS 811 175. Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2007.

    [2] National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Drug Involvement of Fatally Injured Drivers. U.S. Department of Transportation Report No. DOT HS 811 415. Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2010. 


  • A Veterans Day Message from Director Kerlikowske

    This Veterans Day, on behalf of the entire staff at the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), I would like to express my sincere thanks to our veterans for their service to the United States. We are indebted to you for your courage and unwavering dedication.

    ONDCP is committed to strengthening and supporting our military families and veterans and supports programs such as VetCorps that further this work.  One year ago, the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) launched VetCorps to establish support for military families and service members through community-based coalitions.  Programs such as VetCorps help to provide our veterans with the support they need and deserve.

    We will continue to work today and every day throughout the year to provide services and support for our military heroes in our effort to give something back to those who are in service to our Nation.

    Learn more about our commitment to veterans in the report Strengthening Our Military Families: Meeting America’s Commitment.

  • School Nurses: Trusted Student Health Professionals and Agents of Substance Abuse Prevention

    For more than a century, school nursing services have served a critical role in public health and ensuring the academic success of students in America. Particularly over the past five decades, school nurses have become more involved with addressing students’ mental, behavioral, and emotional issues, including substance abuse prevention. In fact, according to the 2007 Government Accountability Office report School Mental Health: Role of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and Factors Affecting Service Provision, school nurses spend one-third of their time providing mental health services, including those for substance abuse.

    A school nurse and student patient

    With a presence in 75 percent of the Nation’s schools, school nurses comprise a significant force of professionals who serve as prevention agents. School nurses are in touch with substance abuse trends within the school and in the greater community, enabling them to make educated assessments when students visit their offices.

    Many school nurses also spend time in classrooms providing substance abuse prevention curricula, and some with advanced training start treatment support groups. School nurses often work in teams with other specialized instructional support personnel, such as school psychologists, social workers, and counselors, to address substance abuse issues in schools.

    When the rate of prescription drug abuse began to increase rapidly, school nurses recognized the trend and took action. The National Association of School Nurses (NASN) got the word out by providing school nurses with data showing that more teens are abusing prescription drugs than illegal drugs (except for marijuana);[i] that prescription medications, along with marijuana, are the drugs of choice among 12- to 13-year-olds;[ii] and that every day, approximately 2,000 young people use a prescription pain reliever non-medically for the first time.[iii]

    The NASN provides materials to help school nurses understand and promote drug use prevention, including:

    A school nurse administers a vaccination.NASN recommends the following tips for school nurses:


    [i] Results from the 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH): National Findings, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 2012.

    [ii] Results from the 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH): National Findings, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 2012.

    [iii] SAMHSA, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality (formerly the Office of Applied Studies), National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2009 and 2010.

  • HIDTA Joins Badges for Baseball

    Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings, Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler, National HIDTA Director Michael Gottlieb, and Washington-Baltimore HIDTA Director Thomas H. Carr enjoyed a beautiful autumn day as they launched the Badges for Baseball Program in Baltimore, Maryland. 

    The Badges for Baseball program aims to reshape and improve the relationship between law enforcement and youth from high-crime areas.  Police volunteers help youth refine and improve their baseball skills while also mentoring the young participants and providing positive role models.  Badges for Baseball seeks to build a safe and positive environment in which young people have fun, build character, and learn to make good decisions both on and off the field.

    Congressman Cummings, who represents the 7th Congressional District in Maryland, referred to the multi-purpose field where the event took place as Baltimore’s “Field of Dreams.”  More than 50 young people from Baltimore are expected to participate in the ongoing initiative.

    Badges for Baseball is funded in part by the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation and the Washington-Baltimore High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) program.  The Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation is a non-profit working with underprivileged youth throughout the United States through baseball and softball programming.  The Washington-Baltimore HIDTA is funded by the Office of National Drug Control Policy’s High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program.  

    HIDTAs have recently placed an increased emphasis on prevention programs like Badges for Baseball.  Since 2008, the number of HIDTAs implementing prevention initiatives has increased from four to 20, including all five Southwest Border HIDTA regions.  This expansion of prevention initiatives illustrates ONDCP’s commitment to further integrate the law enforcement and prevention communities.     

  • Director Joins DEA for Red Ribbon Week Rally

    This week, we join millions of young people across the country to celebrate Red Ribbon Week. Students, parents and educators this week participate by pledging to lead healthy, drug free lives and wear red ribbons while participating in community-wide, anti-drug events. 


    Director Kerlikowske meets Elementary School Red Ribbon Bookmark Contest Winner, Haley Chilton. (Photo courtesy of DEA)

    Red Ribbon Week is also a time to pay tribute to DEA Special Agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena, whose tragic murder led to the creation of the Red Ribbon Program.  Red Ribbon Week is October 23 – 31 each year. On Wednesday, October 24, ONDCP Director Kerlikowske delivered remarks at the annual DEA Red Ribbon Rally at DEA headquarters in Arlington, VA. 


    Director Kerlikowske joins DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart, Deputy Attorney General James Cole, and other officials for the singing of the National Anthem as the program begins. (Photo courtesy of DEA)


    DEA Youth Dancers from Drew Model Elementary School. (Photo courtesy of DEA)

    Deputy Attorney General James Cole, DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart, Peggy Sapp, President of the National Family Partnership, and Red Ribbon Youth Contest Winners also attended. They were joined by area youth who presented dance and musical performances for the audience. 


    Afro Blue, Howard University's Vocal Jazz Ensemble, receives plaque after performance and poses with DEA Administrator Leonhart (Photo courtesy of DEA)

    To learn more about Red Ribbon Week and take the pledge to live drug-free, please visit www.redribbonweek.org.


  • Director Kerlikowske Visits Phoenix Multisport

    Last Wednesday, Director Kerlikowske visited Phoenix Multisport, a nonprofit “sober active community” for individuals in recovery from substance abuse who are seeking to make a transformation and choose a healthy, active lifestyle. Scott Strode is the Founder and Executive Director of Phoenix who, as an avid athlete, outdoorsman, and recovering alcoholic, understands firsthand the impact and the benefit Phoenix can have for individuals in recovery.

    Director Kerlikowske prepares for a training session at Phoenix Multisport.

    When Strode began working toward a sober lifestyle, he lost his old friends and social circle. To cope with these changes, Strode began hiking, running, climbing, biking, and boxing, where he found a peer network to help him in his recovery.

    Director Kerlikowske and Scott Strode in front of Phoenix Multisport.

    Phoenix provides the same type of network Strode found to be invaluable in his own recovery. Strode and 14 staff members offer support through sport with approximately 40 free events each week to anyone who is 48 hours sober. With chapters in Boulder, Denver and Colorado Springs area, Phoenix has seen over 6,000 individuals participate in its programming. Phoenix also has a special program offering support to members of the military and veterans. 

    CNN praised Strode for his work by naming him a CNN Hero in 2012. He was also featured in Newsweek, Comcast’s Newsmakers program, Renew Magazine, and a 25 minute documentary called “Turning Point.”

    Director Kerlikowske with the Phoenix Multisport team.

  • Advocates for Action Guest Post: Turning Tragedy into Purpose

    At the time our son David died in June 2010 after smoking K2, virtually no one had heard of this synthetic drug.  There was literally no information from the scientific community available—it was just too new. We made a decision very early on that we needed to do something; we needed to share our story in the hope that we could prevent this from happening to another family.

    We came across many terrible stories while searching for answers, but no one seemed to be connecting the dots concerning these synthetic cannabinoids. With an abundance of people pushing their drugs online and no place for parents and kids to go for the truth, we thought it was important to launch www.k2drugfacts.com.  Through this site, we started collecting stories from all over the country and gave families the opportunity to share their experiences.

    Working through our Iowa Office of Drug Control Policy and local coalitions, we continue to speak at many high schools, colleges, church groups, EMS providers, and anyone else who will listen to us on the dangers of these drugs.  We have done multiple interviews with every local and many national media outlets to help get our message out. This has been a slow, difficult, and painful process, but we know we are making a difference.

    We are excited to be working with The Partnership at Drugfree.org and their PACT360 program to continue advocating for action on synthetic drugs—preventing other families from experiencing the tragedy we suffered.

  • First-Ever National ‘Above The Influence’ Day

    Yesterday, ONDCP’s “Above the Influence” Campaign engaged youth from across the country to celebrate its first-ever National “Above the Influence” Day.  The keystone event of National Substance Abuse Prevention Month, National “Above the Influence” Day turned the spotlight on teens in a national discussion centered on how America’s young people stay “above” negative influences.

    More than 200 teens and community organizations across the Nation participated in National “Above the Influence” Day by taking part in various youth-focused activities derived from the campaign, such as “Tag It,” “Be It” and “Express It.”  In addition, approximately 85 communities conducted teen panel discussions on the importance of staying “above the influence”, during which teens shared the positive and negative influences they face, including the pressures to use alcohol and drugs.

    Washington, D.C.-area youth participate in an influence-inspired discussion in celebration of National ‘Above The Influence’ Day at the Newseum on October 18, moderated by Carla Brooks, Prevention Services Coordinator, Covenant House Washington.

    In Washington, DC, I joined area youth in a panel discussion on how they stay “above it” in their own unique ways.  Teens from various community organizations engaged in song, dance, and poetry performances  related to their participation in the campaign’s “Express It” activity earlier this year. 

    Similar activities occurred simultaneously in three featured communities – Aberdeen, Maryland; Elkins, West Virginia; and Elko, Nevada .  Young people also joined in the ATI Facebook Challenge to share online what they did in their local communities on National “Above the Influence” Day.

    Youth from Aberdeen, Md., pose with Deputy Director Marilyn Quagliotti following their event celebrating the first annual National ‘Above The Influence’ Day at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Harford County on October 18.

    America’s success in the 21st century depends in part on its ability to help young people make decisions that will keep them healthy and safe.  ONDCP is thrilled to celebrate and recognize teens who are rejecting the pressure of drugs, alcohol, and other risky behaviors and the power of community organizations to support our teens nationwide.

    Deputy Director Ben Tucker meets with local partners and teen panelists from Harrison, Randolph and Taylor counties in Elkins, W.Va., during the first annual National ‘Above The Influence’ Day at Davis & Elkins College on October 18.

    Throughout National Substance Abuse Prevention Month, we will continue to join with Federal, state, and local partners to highlight the importance of prevention. Our collective efforts are the key to building healthy and safe communities across the country.


    Deputy Director David Mineta  addresses community partners and area youth participating in a panel discussion on influence during the first annual National ‘Above The Influence’ Day at Elko Convention and Visitors Authority on October 18.

    I hope you will get involved and join others in their prevention efforts during this month. Learn what resources and coalitions are located near you. Visit our prevention page for more information and read the President’s 2012 proclamation here.

    We know that prevention works and, with your help, we can help keep Americans safe and healthy.

  • Family Checkup: Positive Parenting Prevents Drug Abuse

    As part of National Substance Abuse Prevention Month, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) launched a new online tool for parents to use with their families in an effort to prevent drug abuse. Family Checkup: Positive Parenting Prevents Drug Abuse  is based on research results from NIDA that highlight the essential role parents play in teaching their families about the consequences of the use and abuse of substances including tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, and prescription drugs.

    The Family Checkup, hosted on NIDA’s website, provides questions that guide parents through five skills beginning with communication, then encouragement, negotiation, setting limits, and supervision. Each question, developed by the Child and Family Center at the University of Oregon, presents the skill by first explaining its importance.

    Each skill is accompanied by a video demonstrating both a positive and negative example of the skill in action along with suggestions for parents on how to communicate with young people. The information is also available for download as a PDF.

    This type of early intervention does a great deal to mitigate the potential for substance abuse and addiction among teens and young adults. By providing accurate information about the risks of substance abuse and addiction, and through practicing positive communication skills, parents can help prevent drug use during the critical teenage years.