ONDCP Blog

  • Video: Drugs in the Americas

    Watch Director Kerlikowske discuss drug policy with Stephen Johnson, Director, Americas Program, at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

  • National Minority Mental Health Month

    ONDCP is proud to join partners in government to acknowledge July as National Minority Mental Health Month. Mental health is an important component of prevention, treatment and recovery from substance dependence, especially in minority communities. We must all work together to ensure access to mental health support services across the Nation. In honor of National Minority Mental Health Month, we’re pleased to share the Congressional Tri-Caucus’s statement on the meaning of this month. Please visit the statement here, or read it in full below.

    (Washington, DC) Today, Rep. Grace F. Napolitano, Congressional Mental Health Caucus Co-Chair, joined by the chairs of the Congressional Tri-Caucus, recognized July as National Minority Mental Health Month, to enhance public awareness about mental illness in diverse communities.

    “Mental health has long been ignored, and we must continue to de-stigmatize the issue and increase funding, elevating it as any other illness or conditions, such as diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure, and other physical illnesses,” Napolitano said. “Mental health does not discriminate: it affects all of us regardless of race, class, or gender. Mental wellness is just as important as physical wellness. We must all be part of the solution and work to invest in mental health services for those who need help.”

    Rep. Charles Gonzalez, Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairman:“While mental illness does not discriminate, it disproportionately affects our minority communities. This month must be seen as an opportunity to not only increase awareness for mental illness, but also to promote long-term solutions that address the uniqueness of America’s minority communities.”

     Rep. Judy Chu, Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus Chairwoman: “Mental health issues affect every community within our nation, but the effects of these disorders are especially challenging for minority communities where resource limitations and cultural stigmas make it much harder to address these problems. In the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, young AAPI women have the highest rates of depression and suicide ideation of any racial group, and nearly 40 percent of Southeast Asian refugees suffer from acute levels of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. These problems are compounded by cultural and linguistic barriers to accessing mental health services, limited research on the unique mental health needs and challenges of the AAPI community, and the fact that AAPIs have the lowest rate of mental health care use among all populations.  National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month is a time to raise awareness of these critical issues, address systematic barriers to quality care, and ensure that our communities understand that saving lives is more important than saving face.”

    Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver, Congressional Black Caucus Chairman:“While the trend is getting better, far too little attention is paid to mental health and the racial and ethnic disparities that exist not only in mental health care, but in mental health status. For example, African Americans are 20% more likely than Whites to report psychological distress, yet are more than two times less likely than Whites to receive antidepressants, and a report from the Surgeon General found that the suicide rate among African Americans, aged 10 to 14 years, increased 233% from 1980 to 1995. Now that the Supreme Court has upheld the Affordable Care Act, we -- as a nation -- have never had a better opportunity to work to eliminate racial and ethnic mental health disparities, destigmatize mental health illnesses, improve our mental health screenings and diagnoses, expand access to needed mental health care services and treatments, and ensure that the mental health and wellness of every citizen in this nation is protected, preserved and improved.”  

    To honor a life-long advocate for mental health, Congress designated July as Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month in 2008. Before her untimely death in 2006, Campbell was an author and co-founder of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Urban Los Angeles. The goal of National Minority Mental Health Month is to increase awareness of mental illness, prevention, treatment, and research in diverse communities.

    According to the Office of Minority Health:

    • The death rate from suicide for African American men was almost six times that for African American women, in 2008.
    • African Americans are 20% more likely to report having serious psychological distress than Non-Hispanic Whites.
    • Older Asian American women have the highest suicide rate of all women over age 65 in the United States.
    • Suicide attempts for Hispanic girls, grades 9-12, were 70% higher than for White girls in the same age group, in 2011.
    • While the overall death rate from suicide for American Indian/Alaska Natives is comparable to the White population, adolescent American Indian/Alaska Natives have death rates at twice the rate for Whites in the same age groups.
    • National Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander mental health data is limited at this time. Data will be published as it is released in reports published by the CDC.

    National Mental Health Crisis Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK

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  • Detecting Substance Use Problems Before Addiction Develops

    Preventing the development of substance use disorders is fundamental to the Obama Administration’s approach to drug policy. If problematic substance use can be detected, interrupted, and treated before it reaches the “tipping point” to become a serious health problem, then the consequences of substance dependence can be avoided. By intervening early, we can reduce the harmful consequences of substance use.

    This common-sense approach is the principle behind Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT), an innovative program supported by grants from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).The goal of the program is to deliver early intervention and treatment services in traditional healthcare settings to people with, or at risk of developing, substance use disorders.

    With today’s announcement of $22 million in new SAMHSA funding to expand the program, the promise of SBIRT to prevent substance use disorders moved closer to reality for many Americans. The awards went to three states – New Jersey, Arizona, and Iowa – each of which will receive up to $7.5 million for as many as 5 years to implement SBIRT.

    The SBIRT program equips primary care centers, hospital emergency rooms, trauma centers, and other community settings with the ability to intervene early with at-risk substance users before more severe consequences occur. Healthcare providers using SBIRT screen patients by asking patients about their substance use during routine medical visits. They provide medical advice and, if appropriate, refer patients who are deemed to be at risk of substance use problems to treatment. In this way, SBIRT helps identify people with underlying substance abuse problems that might otherwise go unnoticed and untreated, then puts them on the road to recovery before their drug use becomes a life-threatening or criminal justice issue.

    SBIRT exemplifies the medical, prevention-based approach to the drug problem outlined in the 2012 National Drug Control Strategy.  It’s part of our “third way” forward in drug policy—a path defined by evidence-based strategies and a public health approach to America’s drug problem.

    We can be proud of the progress we have made in reducing substance use in America. The rate of overall drug use in the United States has plunged by roughly 30 percent since 1979, with a 40 percent decline in the rate of cocaine use just within the past four years. SBIRT represents the future of this continued progress, and we look forward to working with partners in government and in the health communities to implement this innovative program.

  • A Collaborative Approach to Reduce Drug Use and Prevent HIV Transmission

    Today, Director Kerlikowske participated in a preconference hosted by the International AIDS Society to help kick off the 2012 International AIDS Conference in Washington D.C. Director Kerlikowske underscored the Obama Administration’s commitment to preventing drug use and its consequences, particularly the transmission of HIV. Injection drug use is a leading cause of HIV in the United States.

    Director Kerlikowske made clear that the Administration and ONDCP recognize and acknowledge the connection between drug use and the spread of HIV/AIDS. The National Drug Control Strategy, the federal government’s primary blueprint for drug policy in the United States, includes an action item from the Administration to help reduce drug use and the attendant spread of HIV. The Strategy explores all avenues for curbing the drug problem in America, including areas not emphasized in past drug policies: treatment, prevention, and recovery.

    The Administration’s policy recognizes drug addiction not as a moral failing but as a chronic disease of the brain, a disease that can be treated and managed. The policy encourages and applauds those who have overcome the disease of addiction, and it supports former users who are now living healthy, productive lives in recovery.

    In recent years ONDCP has worked collaboratively with the Office of National AIDS Policy and the Department of Health and Human Services to develop the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, which calls for the coupling of HIV screening with traditional substance abuse treatment programs. The Nation’s first-ever comprehensive HIV/AIDS roadmap, the Strategy urges more medical facilities to employ rapid HIV screenings and, thus, give more people the opportunity to be tested in a variety of settings.

    Working together with our partners in and out of government, we are committed to “turning the tide together” while building a healthier, safer America. For more information on this year’s International AIDS Conference, please visit the event page on AIDS.gov.

  • New Safety Measures for Opioid Medications

    Today, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a plan designed to increase the number of health care professionals who are trained on how to properly prescribe certain types of painkillersand help patients use prescribed medications safely. The Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) targets extended-release (ER) and long-acting (LA) opioid drugs, including prescription medications containing oxycodone hydrochloride.

    The new FDA plan is the latest step in a multi-agency Federal effort to address prescription drug abuse, a major public health problem in the United States. These drugs, used for treating patients with severe, persistent pain, provide needed relief for millions but also pose a serious risk of abuse, overdose, and death. Nearly 15,000 Americans died from unintended consequences of pain reliever use in 2008, according to the Center for Disease Control.

    The REMS plan will affect more than 20 companies that manufacture opioid analgesics, requiring them to make continuing education programs available for prescribers based on models developed by the FDA. These programs will help prescribers weigh the risks and benefits of opioid therapy, manage and monitor patients correctly, and counsel patients more effectively. Opioid manufacturers must also provide prescribers and patients with information regarding the safe use of these drugs and the risks involved.

    In April, 2011, as part of its comprehensive plan to address the epidemic of prescription drug abuse, the Obama Administration called for training prescribers in proper use of ER and LA opioid analgesics. The FDA continues to support this approach by including company and prescriber compliance as part of its REMS plan.

  • Working to Make Our Roadways Safer

    Thermometers across the country have made it clear that summer is upon us. In conjunction with summer holidays, we often see campaigns designed to heighten our awareness of the dangers of alcohol-impaired drivers. However, there is an equally dangerous driver: the drugged driver. These drivers crash, and those crashes may not only result in injuries, but deaths.

    According to a survey by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, one in eight nighttime weekend drivers test positive for illegal drugs.  More alarming – one in three drivers with known test results who were killed in accidents tested positive for an illegal drug.  Young people are also at risk.  According to another study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, one in eight high school seniors admit to smoking marijuana before driving.

    The research is clear – driving high slows reaction time, impacts judgment, and all too often leads to deadly consequences.  So when people drive high, they don’t just pose a threat to themselves, but to others with whom they share the road.

    Our agencies are committed to reducing drugged driving. The Office of National Drug Control Policy is working with states to help them pass zero tolerance laws when it comes to drugged driving.  Already, 17 states have established per se laws, which means that any presence of an illegally used drug is a violation of the law.  We are also working with law enforcement agencies to increase the number of law enforcement officers who are trained to detect the signs of drugged driving and are properly trained to identify impaired drivers.

    But our efforts don’t end there.  Last month, the National Transportation Safety Board hosted its first-ever forum examining the substance-impaired driving problem. Over the next several months, NTSB will be reviewing the information obtained during the forum and conducting additional research to identify the best recommendations for preventing future drug-related highway crashes, injuries, and deaths.

     

    Americans deserve fewer risks when taking to the roads and highways; parents should not have to fear that their children will become another teenage drugged driving statistic. We at the Office of National Drug Control Policy and the National Transportation Safety Board are steadfast in our mission to reduce this threat, and we hope that Americans will join us in raising public awareness regarding this challenge.

  • Synthetic Drug Update: Congress Moves to Classify “K2” and “Spice” Chemicals as Schedule I Substances

    Just a quick update from the Hill—both houses of Congress have now passed S. 3187 which will classify 26 synthetic chemicals—used to make “fake weed,” “K2” ”Spice,” and “bath salts”—as Schedule I substances. Substances classified as Schedule I have a high potential for abuse, have no medical use in the United States, and “lack of accepted safety for use.

    Back in February, we worked with the Partnership at Drugfree.org to put together a toolkit to help parents talk to their kids about the dangers of synthetic drugs. To read more about synthetic drugs, see this page on our site.

  • Watch Live: 2012 UN World Drug Report

    Tomorrow in New York, the United Nations General Assembly will hold a thematic debate on drugs and crime as a threat todevelopment worldwide.

    At 10 a.m. EST tomorrow, Yury Fedotov, the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, will launch the 2012 World Drug Report.

    The webcast of the event will be streamed on Tuesday 26 June from 10 am - 1pm (first session) and from 3pm - 6pm (second session) EST (New York time) through http://webtv.un.org/. You can join the conversation on Twitter using #WDR2012--be sure to follow @ONDCP and @UNODC for highlights from tomorrow's sessions and from the report.

  • Health IT programs to help fight prescription drug abuse to be tested in Indiana and Ohio

    Today in Indiana and Ohio, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) launched a pilot program that promises to give prescribers another powerful tool for combating prescription drug abuse. The Enhancing Access to PDMPs Project is designed to test the feasibility of connecting a prescription drug monitoring program to other health information technology (Health IT) systems to help emergency department physicians deliver better and more timely care to patients needing substance abuse treatment.

    Prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) are statewide electronic databases that collect, monitor, and analyze prescribing and dispensing data submitted by pharmacies and dispensing practitioners. The programs collect a considerable amount of useful information, but their effectiveness at combatting prescription drug abuse is often limited because prescribers fail to access them.

    The purpose of the new project is to help hospital staff quickly identify a patient’s controlled substance history and alert them to patients with a potential addiction to painkillers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has declared that prescription drug abuse in the United States is an epidemic. Programs such as this one can address the prescription drug abuse epidemic by expanding timely access to PDMP data and helping doctors provide quality care.

    The Enhancing Access to PDMPs Project was created through the joint efforts of public sector and private industry experts who participated in the White House Roundtable on Health IT and Prescription Drug Abuse in June 2011. Later that month, the HHS Prescription Drug Abuse and Health IT Work Group of the Behavioral Health Coordinating Committee followed up with an Action Plan for Improving Access to Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs through Health Information Technology. The pilot program launched today in Indiana and Ohio is managed within HHS by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology in collaboration with ONDCP, CDC, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

    Read more about the Enhancing Access to PDMPs Program here. More information about prescription drug abuse is available on ONDCP’s website here.

  • A Veteran’s “Father’s Day Thank You” to his Girls

    Editor's note: In honor of Father's Day, we have two posts today about fatherhood, family, and recovery. This post comes from Bob Curry, a Vietnam veteran in recovery and the founder of Dryhootch, a veterans' network. Notes from his two daughters, Amy and Kristy Curry, are included in the following post.

    During the past year, I’ve had the honor to be a part of both of my daughters’ weddings. There was a time when I believed that would never be possible.

    As a young solider more than three decades ago, I left Vietnam and shut the door on all that happened there. I moved on to the promises of life that every American hopes to enjoy. I married my high school sweetheart, finished college, and got a great job at an iconic American tech company. Soon after, my wife and I bought our first home and our two beautiful daughters joined us.

    Life was great; the war was a distant memory, and my family was flourishing. We were fortunate—my wife was able to stay home with our girls and we both spent as much time as possible with them. We enjoyed weekends at home, and our parties revolved around the family; drinking was never an issue.

    It was never an issue, that is, until the drums of our wars in the Middle East began to beat and the demons of my own war experience demanded my attention. It was like a switch was flipped in my head. Images and reports of these new wars became intertwined with my own memories, and I found myself withdrawing from my family. I found alcohol could calm the storms in my head, at least for a while. Denial is the hallmark of an addicted person, everyone else around you knows what going on; and the only one you are fooling is yourself.  My daughters, then in college, along with my wife, watched me self-destruct but were powerless to stop me. They couldn’t talk to me anymore, and they couldn’t understand me. They could only suffer and watch my descent into darkness.

    A dad often thinks of his daughters as his “little” girls, who need to be protected and shielded from the world. Yet, when my life collapsed, I learned that my “little girls” were in fact women capable of protecting me. Who was strong when I no longer had hope? Who refused to quit when I had given up? Who reached out to other veterans to get me help for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder from a war that refused to let me go?  My daughters and wife are the ones who fought for me when I was convinced my fight was over.

    It has been a long journey. They say that life is ten percent what happens to us and ninety percent how we react to it. These women reacted when I was unable, while their own lives crumbled underneath them. They have given me the greatest gift a father could ever hope to receive on Father’s Day. They gave me their unconditional love. And now, more than nine years sober, I now help other veterans deal with their struggles, and I’ve rebuilt my relationship with my daughters.

    There is hope for those struggling with addiction and mental disorders. In my case, my girls and my wife—and the veterans and doctors they reached out to— were my hope.  They made it possible for me to regain my sanity and sobriety. My girls give me a Father’s Day gift every day of my life. They give me their love. They’ve given me today. And I will be eternally thankful.