• Study: more than half of adult male arrestees test positive for at least one drug

    This blog post was originally published on The Huffington Post

    One month ago today, we released the Obama Administration’s 2012 National Drug Control Strategy, a drug policy grounded in sound research from the world’s preeminent drug abuse researchers.  This policy marks a departure from the debate I’ve seen develop during the past few years, which has lurched between two extreme views. On one side are those who suggest that drug legalization is the “silver bullet” solution to our nation’s drug problem.  On the other are those who still believe that the “War on Drugs,” law-enforcement-only strategy is the way forward. Our policies reject both these extremes in favor of a “third way” to approach drug control.

    The foundation of this “third way” approach is peer-reviewed, scientific research that provides us insight into the disease of addiction and a roadmap on how to prevent and treat it. The “third way” approach deals in facts—not dogma—and relies on research—not ideology.

    Here are what the facts show.  Drug use and related crime strain the resources of this country.  The latest evidence comes from the 2011 Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring Annual Report (ADAM II), released today, which tests for drugs in adult males arrested for a wide variety of crimes in 10 sites across the country. This study found a majority of adult males arrested for crimes tested positive for an illegal drug at the time of their arrest.  In fact, positive drug tests among arrestees ranged from 64 percent in Atlanta, GA, to 81 percent in Sacramento, CA.

    These data were obtained from individuals booked for all types of crimes, from misdemeanors to felonies, and not just those arrested on drug charges.  The ADAM program tests only for drugs marijuana, cocaine, opiates (including heroin and prescription pain relievers), amphetamines/methamphetamine, Darvon, PCP, benzodiazepines, methadone, and barbiturates—not alcohol. 

    This report highlights the urgent need for institutions at the federal, state, and local level to come together to support proven reforms that work to break the vicious cycle of drug use, crime, incarceration and re-arrest.  It’s a cycle my colleagues and I are committed to breaking because we care about the health and safety of our fellow citizens, our healthcare system, and our economy.

    Too often, the caustic debate over drug policy in America leaves out some revolutionary and innovative programs taking hold in communities across America. I was pleased to see the Wall Street Journal recently brought attention to some of these programs in an essay by drug policy experts, who argued that there is no quick fix to the complex issue of drug abuse and addiction. These experts pointed to the success of programs such as Drug Market Interventions, which close down open-air drug markets through community-based strategies and offer drug offenders a second chance. Other successful initiatives like Hawaii’s Project Hope probation program, which dramatically reduces probation violations through swift, predictable sanctions, represent the future of a progressive drug control strategy. These programs are part of the President’s drug policy Strategy because they have demonstrated records of success not only in dissipating criminal activity, but in actively building community and reducing incarceration rates.

    Although today’s data show a high rate of arrestees testing positive for illicit drugs, over the long term, we are actually seeing declines in drug use rates among the general population.  Over the past 30 years, the overall rate of current drug use in America has dropped by roughly one third. And more recently, the rates of current cocaine and meth use have dropped by 40 percent and 52 percent, respectively, and the number of cocaine overdoses has dropped by 42 percent. 

    The 2011 ADAM II findings are clear evidence of the link between drugs and crime. Too often, underlying substance use disorders are the driving force behind criminal activity. It is imperative, then, that we address our nation’s drug problem not just as a criminal justice issue but as a public health issue. We cannot arrest our way out of the drug problem. What we need are evidence-based reforms that break the cycle of drug use and crime, reduce recidivism, and make our communities healthier and safer.

    To read the ADAM II report, see an at-a-glance fact sheet on the findings, or view an interactive map reflecting the data by geographic region or drug type, please visit this page on our website.

  • Today’s Visit to DC’s Family Treatment Court

    Today, to celebrate National Drug Court Month, I had the honor of speaking at the 13th Recognition Ceremony for the District of Columbia Superior Court Family Treatment Court to recognize eleven Family Treatment Court participants moving to the next phase of their recovery. The DC  Family Treatment Court is a 15-month court-supervised, voluntary, comprehensive substance abuse treatment program for mothers or female guardians whose children are the subject of a child neglect case.  More than 150 women have successfully completed the program and reunited with their children.

    Today I was inspired as I heard firsthand each woman’s story of courage and perseverance.  One graduate thanked the court for “teaching her how to live again.”  Another said “I’m really happy with the woman I’ve become—a good mother, a loving, kind, patient, trustworthy friend and sister…Now I know why I’m here.”  These women are living proof that we are not powerless over substance use disorders and that recovery is possible. 

    Drug courts, now entering their third decade in the United States, are a proven solution for halting the course of substance use disorders and remain a critical part of the Obama Administration’s “Third Way” drug policy.   There are now more than 2,600 drug courts across the nation, reaching 120,000 individuals annually.  By promoting models like family drug courts, family-based treatment, and family-centered reentry programs, we can help families stay together and get better, together. 

    Again, congratulations to the DC Family Treatment Court honorees.

  • U.S.-Colombia Trade Agreement Takes Effect Today

    We are pleased to add our voice of support for the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement, which goes into force today. The agreement, announced last month by President Obama and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, is a historic development in the strong relationship between our two countries, and it reflects our commitment to support democracy and economic growth in that South American nation.

    Colombia is a steadfast strategic partner of the United States and a leader in the region. Under the new agreement, which won strong bipartisan approval in Congress last fall, 80 percent of all industrial and manufactured products exported from the United States to Colombia will be duty free, effective immediately.

    The result is a clear victory for all concerned. Easing trade restrictions will boost U.S. exports to Colombia, making more American goods available to that country while at the same time strengthening the U.S. economy and helping to support more and better jobs for Americans. The agreement also will provide significant new access to Colombia’s $166 billion services market, supporting increased opportunities for U.S. service providers.

    Equally important, the agreement will help Colombia battle the production of illicit crops by creating alternative economic opportunities for its citizens, thus helping to staunch the flow of illegal drugs into America’s neighborhoods and homes.

    For an overview of the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement, click here. To learn more about how the agreement will benefit your community, click here. For more, read this blog post from the the Department of Commerce, and head to Twitter to folow @USTradeRep and @CommerceGov.

  • Making Treatment for Maternal Addiction a National Priority

    In honor of Mother’s Day, we’re featuring a guest blog post from Imani Walker, Co-Founder and Executive Director of The Rebecca Project for Human Rights. The Rebecca Project is an organization that advocates for justice, dignity and reform for vulnerable women and girls in the United States and in Africa. You can learn more about the organization here.

    As I look forward to spending Mother’s day with my four children, I cannot help but think of other mothers across the country who suffer from untreated addiction and wonder what this Mother’s day will be like for them and their children. As a result of receiving 18 months of Family-Based Treatment, I have been in long-term recovery from substance abuse for 13 years. In the United States, investment in Family-Based Treatment programs saves countless lives and families, because healing addicted mothers exponentially affects the child welfare system, juvenile justice and adult criminal justice systems. Family-based substance abuse treatment describes programs for pregnant or parenting mothers and their children that provide direct services or referrals for services including: substance abuse treatment, child early intervention, mental health, family counseling, trauma therapy, housing, medical care, nursery and preschool, parenting skills training, and educational or job training.

    The unavailability of family-based treatment is manifested in the overrepresentation of substance-abusing mothers in the child welfare system.  Many of the families who come to the attention of child welfare agencies are substance abusing. When mothers achieve access to family-based treatment services, they are able to find health, healing and stability for themselves and their families. Those beneficial outcomes translate to fewer children in foster care, less juvenile offenders and ultimately less adult offenders.

    According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, approximately 5.1 million persons were current abusers of prescription painkillers. According to the CDC, in 2009, about three out of four deaths due to prescription drug overdose were caused by prescription painkillers. The number of deaths due to these class of drugs in 2009 was nearly four times the number in 1999; this increase is paralleled by a quadrupling of the sales of prescription painkillers from 1999 to 2010.  Overdose deaths due to prescription painkillers exceed those due to cocaine and heroin combined.  Grim consequences of this opioid abuse are babies born with Neonatal Withdrawal Syndrome.

    I co-founded the Rebecca Project for Human Rights ten years ago after recovering from substance abuse through a family-based treatment program. Back then crack cocaine was wreaking havoc in our urban communities; then methamphetamine emerged reaching nooks and crannies of Middle America.  Now with growing addiction to prescription drugs, mothers are increasingly younger, white and middle class. Family-Based Treatment should be an important piece of our nation’s drug control policy.

    I wish all mothers a happy and safe Mother’s Day!

    Imani Walker, Co-founder & Executive Director of The Rebecca Project for Human Rights

  • Summer Jobs+: The Launch Youth Entrepreneurship Program

    "America's young people face record unemployment, and we need to do everything we can to make sure they've got the opportunity to earn the skills and a work ethic that come with a job. It's important for their future, and for America's…That's why today, we're launching Summer Jobs+, a joint initiative that challenges business leaders and communities to join my Administration in providing hundreds of thousands of summer jobs for America's youth"

    President Obama

    As the White House and Department of Labor kick off the Summer Jobs+ program, we’d like to highlight another Drug Free Communities grantee helping young people find jobs: the Launch Youth Entrepreneurship Program based in Plymouth, New Hampshire.

    The Launch is a community-based, 12-month Positive Youth Development program that seeks to empower youth by educating and engaging them in entrepreneurship, offering enriching alternatives to risky behavior, and promoting community development through the preparation and launch of summer businesses and work-based learning.

    During the school year, community service opportunities, job shadowing, and skill development workshops with local business experts help young entrepreneurs prepare and plan for a summer business. Their summer business, Frosty Scoops ice cream stand, provides an opportunity to apply the skills they have learned in weekly workshops led by Community for Alcohol and Drug-Free Youth (CADY) staff, volunteers, and community experts. The Launch is the sole youth employment program in the region and since 2005, in collaboration with the Common Man Family of Restaurants, has provided paid summer employment to over 150 local youth.


    The Launch Program is divided into three phases:

    • Phase One (September – January): Youth explore personal skills, goal setting, communication skills, and teamwork through projects and community service.
    • Phase Two (January – June): Youth learn the principles of best practices from local business experts and develop business skills that will help them succeed in the workplace and in their futures.
    • Phase Three (Mid-June – August): Youth engage in paid summer employment, supported by the Common Man Family of Restaurants.

    ONDCP congratulates CADY on the success of its Youth Entrepreneurship Program, which provides youth with the skills necessary to enter the workforce competent and drug-free. For more information, please visit CADY’s website. 

  • Summer Jobs+: Brandywine Health Foundation’s ServiceCorps Program

    "America's young people face record unemployment, and we need to do everything we can to make sure they've got the opportunity to earn the skills and a work ethic that come with a job. It's important for their future, and for America's…That's why today, we're launching Summer Jobs+, a joint initiative that challenges business leaders and communities to join my Administration in providing hundreds of thousands of summer jobs for America's youth"

    President Obama

    As the White House and Department of Labor kick off the Summer Jobs+program, we continue our series of blog posts highlighting the work that Drug Free Communitiesgrantees are doing to help young people find jobs, while also supporting healthy, drug-free communities.

    Today, we highlight the Brandywine Health Foundation’s ServiceCorps Program.  The ServiceCorps is afree program combining an 8-week employment experience with a challenging life and leadership skills development curriculum.

    Each summer, 40 students between the ages of 14 and 18 in the Coatesville Area School District in Pennsylvania are selected to participate in the ServiceCorps program. Students are assigned to various work sites throughout the community, where they will work for the entire 8-week period, engagingin full-time employment.

    Each Friday of the program, participants take part in the skills and leadership development component of the program, called Resource Days.  Resource Days are an opportunity for staff to connect with youth and for participants to talk to one other about lessons learned, share great stories about their experiences, and address challenges they have faced in their workplaces. Resource Days are also a chance to display the gifts and talents in the room, and develop the students’ leadership abilities.  In addition to the skill-building, students receive hourly wages for the 35 hours worked per week.


    Photo: Kourtne’ Harden, Henok Abraham, Samuel Brown, and Kai Tooles, ServiceCorps participants at the Brandywine Hospital, their worksite.

    ServiceCorps students also complete a student-led, community-wide service project.  This summer, ServiceCorps will build on its successful ServiceCorps Recycling and Living Green Festival.  Youth will expand on the existing plans and create their own plans to implement the recycling awareness and collection event.

    During last years’ ServiceCorps program, participating students completed a total of 9,882 hours of community service, 19.25 hours of leadership training, and 10 hours of life-skills training while earning a total of $74,000 in wages. ServiceCorps students leave the programinspired and prepared to become healthy, contributing members of the greater Coatesville community.

    We congratulate the Brandywine Health Foundation for their efforts to encourage summer employment for youth in their community and to build a drug-free workforce for the future.  For more information, please visit: http://brandywinefoundation.org/cyi/meet-our-youth-making-difference-coatesville

  • Visiting Boston: Inspiration at Roca Inc.

    Today I was in Boston for an event with Senator John Kerry to highlight the issue of prescription drug and heroin abuse and discuss what we can do to keep our communities healthy and safe. While I was there, I was heartened to learn that Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts will soon institute a new policy to help decrease prescription drug abuse. The steps taken by Blue Cross/Blue Shield demonstrate that everyone, including insurers, have a role to play in addressing the rising tide of prescription drug abuse. 

    Untreated substance use disorders and drug abuse touch everyone.  Theystrain our economy, our healthcare and criminal justice systems, and endanger the future of our young people. When I look at the challenges facing America’s youth today, who are competing an increasingly globalized, changing economy, I know that America cannot reach its full potential unless our youngest generation is healthy and drug-free.

    As part of my visit to Boston, I also had the chance to hear from youth involved in Roca Inc. Roca is a local organization whose mission is to help  break the cycle of violence and poverty by giving young people a better shot at a brighter future.

    Photo: Senator Kerry and Director Kerlikowske speak with AmeriCorps/City Year participants.

    Inspirational people like those I met today at Roca are vital to our efforts to reduce drug abuse. We know that drug education works to prevent abuse and to empower young people to help educate their peers. I applaud Roca for its groundbreaking work in creating a better, brighter future for high-risk youth and I look forward to keeping up with their progress in the years to come.


    Photo: Senator Kerry and Director Kerlikowske pose youth forum participants at Roca Inc.

    To learn more about Roca Inc., read about its mission here. To see the Administration’s 21st century approach to drug policy, read the 2012 National Drug Control Strategy. For more information on national efforts to reduce drug use and its consequences, visit our website at www.WhiteHouse.gov/ONDCP.

  • Teaming Up With Kent County Prevention Coalition for Above the Influence Youth Summit

    On April 27th, we teamed up with the Kent County Prevention Coalition (KCPC) for the first ever Kent County Above the Influence (ATI) “Live Out Loud: Dream IT, Believe IT, Achieve IT” Youth Summit. This two-day summit brought together more than 650 middle and high school students from across the Kent County, Michigan, area to engage youth in dialogue about negative influences, including drugs and alcohol. 

    During the summit, youth joined group discussions and activities designed to challenge them to think critically about the pressures they face to use drugs and alcohol.  We were pleased to have the opportunity to present an award to one of the students in attendance, Thalia Vega, who participated in the summit’s “Be It” challenge.  Thalia’s slogan, “Let your heart do the speaking,” has been copied on billboards throughout the Grand Rapids area and exemplifies the creativity local and community partners put into the Above the Influence campaign.

    Deputy Director of State, Local, and Tribal Affairs Benjamin Tucker, provided remarks and welcomed conference attendees.  Deputy Director Tucker was also featured on ABC’s WZZM 13in Grand Rapids, PBS’s WGVU Radio, CBS’s WWMT, Mlive, and Fox 17.

    In the words of Shannon Cohen, Coordinator of the Kent County Prevention Coalition, “This conference really gotour youth excited about making positive choices. This isn’t your grandfather’s typical ‘drugs are bad!’ lecture; it’s about giving teens something to walk away with on a more personal level.” To learn more about the Above the Influence campaign and partners, please visit www.ATIPartnerships.com

  • 276 Tons of Rx Pills Collected at National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day

    On April 28th, the fourth annual National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, the DEA and its partners around the country collected 552,161 pounds—276 tons—of unneeded prescription medication. This initiative is an important piece of our strategy to decrease prescription drug abuse, especially in light of our recent data analysis showing new Rx drug abusers are more likely to get their drugs from friends or family.

    Volunteers at two of the 5,659 take-back sites across the country were visited by senior leaders from our office. In Washington State for official travel, Director Kerlikowske stopped by a collection site in Des Moines, WA, where residents dropped off more than 290 pounds of unneeded prescription drugs.

    Back in D.C., David Mineta, our Deputy Director of Demand Reduction, showed his support with volunteers at Bolling Air Force Base


    We applaud everyone who made last Saturday such an overwhelming success, bringing the four-year total of collected medication to 1.5 million pounds, and we look forward to marking a new record next year.

  • Summer Jobs+: The Pulaski Community Partners Coalition Youth Training Center

    "America's young people face record unemployment, and we need to do everything we can to make sure they've got the opportunity to earn the skills and a work ethic that come with a job. It's important for their future, and for America's…That's why today, we're launching Summer Jobs+, a joint initiative that challenges business leaders and communities to join my Administration in providing hundreds of thousands of summer jobs for America's youth"

    President Obama

    As the White House and Department of Labor kick off the Summer Jobs+ program with the announcement of some innovative smartphone apps to assist in the job search, we’d like to highlight the work our Drug Free Communities grantees are doing to help young people find jobs.

    After the Pulaski Community Partners Coalition (PCPC) in Pulaski, Virginia, became a Drug Free Communities grantee, members found that joblessness was contributing to a sense of hopelessness in the area, which in turn greatly increased substance abuse in all ages.  Businesses in the area also had difficulty finding a skilled, drug-free work force.

    PCPC set out to build a skilled, drug-free workforce by giving youth the experience necessary to help them to visualize a successful future without alcohol and drugs.  To do this, PCPC developed a “Youth Training Center” (YTC) program, which they will pilot this summer.  The pilot program will target 14- to 18-year-olds and those that successfully complete the program will receive a stipend.

    The YTC program has two parts: classroom training and hands-on work experience. 

    The program teaches soft skills like resume writing, filling out job applications, interviewing, appropriate dress and body language. The youth participants will be trained in how to take initiative in the workplace.  Program staff will discuss the impact substance abuse can have both on current employment and future prospects.  Then, the youth will put their skills to work in a safe, supervised job setting.

    Pulaski youth learn job skills with Pulaski Community Partners Coalition

    The program has partnered with various businesses and organizations including: the Pulaski County Juvenile Court Services, the Chamber of Commerce, the YMCA, the Pulaski Police Department, the Pulaski Library, and the Department of Business at Virginia Tech. These partners will provide training and employment opportunities to youth involved in the program.

    ONDCP applauds PCPC for their efforts to create and train a young, drug-free workforce for the future of their community and looks forward to the success of the program in the coming years.