ONDCP Blog

  • The White House Honors “Champions of Change” in Youth Violence Prevention

    Yesterday, the White House recognized twelve leaders from across the Nation as “Champions of Change” for their work to prevent youth violence in their communities as part of the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention.

    One of the honorees was Fernanda Ocana, a young community activist from Salinas, California. Fernanda grew up in a community that had few positive role models for young Latinas.  To counteract the lack of positive influences, she got involved in the Community Alliance for Safety and Peace and in Building Healthy Communities for East Salinas.  Fernanda is now a sophomore in college and looks forward to continuing her work in the community once she graduates.

    Another honoree was De Quan O’Neal, an advisory board member of Neighborhood Service Organization’s Youth Initiatives Project (YIP), a youth leadership and advocacy training program in Detroit, Michigan.  De Quan got involved in community activism, working with 35 of his peers to kick off the 2012 “Hugs Not Bullets” Campaign to discourage gun violence, and working with other youth because he wants a better future for himself and his peers.  He also believes that young people need adults to provide strong leadership and mentoring, so that youth are provided with a clear roadmap for success.

    These “Champions of Change” were honored on the 44th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination.  As we reflect on his legacy, it is wonderful to see his vision of community service present in these young leaders, who continue to work toward violence prevention and improving the lives of youth all across the country.

    To learn more about these courageous leaders, visit the Champions of Change website.  You can also visit the ONDCP website for more information on ONDCP’s work on community-based prevention and breaking the cycle of drug abuse, crime, and recidivism through criminal justice reform.

  • ONDCP Celebrates National Public Health Week

    This week, ONDCP joins the American Public Health Association (APHA) and partners across the country in celebrating National Public Health Week.  Following the release of the Obama Administration’s National Prevention Strategy, Federal, state, and local officials around the Nation are participating in this annual observance to provide education, resources, and tools to help people lead healthier lives.

    As Director Kerlikowske stated in a recent interview with The Nation’s Health, the official newspaper of APHA, the drug problem is “…a public health issue as much as a public safety issue.  Whether it’s through (screening and brief intervention and referral to treatment) or moving to additional work with primary care physicians who become more knowledgeable about the issues around dependence and addiction, etc.—all of that means that we have a better chance of dealing with this and reducing the problem if it’s part of a public health, education, and criminal justice focus.”

    Research shows preventing drug use before it begins is a cost-effective, common-sense approach to promoting safe and healthy communities.  Teens who don't use drugs perform better academically, have fewer auto accidents due to drugged and drunk driving, and are more productive due to lower absenteeism.  Preventing drug use also lowers rates of HIV transmission due to decreased injection drug use and other risky behaviors, creates safer home environments for children previously considered drug-endangered, and revitalizes neighborhoods through coalition-based efforts.  Put simply, drug prevention saves lives and cuts costs. 

     For additional information, tools, and resources, visit the National Public Health Week website.

     For more information on ONDCP’s prevention efforts, visit our prevention page

  • Director Kerlikowske Addresses the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs

    In Vienna, Austria last week to attend the opening of the 55th Commission of Narcotic Drugs (CND), Director Kerlikowske spoke candidly about drug policy in the United States and the Obama Administration’s unprecedented efforts to rebalance the way we address this global challenge.  Outlining a coherent strategy that recognizes the answer lies neither with the extremes of drug legalization nor excessively punitive policies for individuals with substance use disorders, Director Kerlikowske called for global reforms in drug policies while affirming the vital role of the United Nations drug control conventions. See full remarks here.

    While in Vienna, Director Kerlikowske and U.S. Department of State Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Brian Nichols met with counterparts from other countries to discuss issues of concern such as synthetic drugs and other emerging psychotropic substances. Director Kerlikowske also led a panel discussion on drugged driving to promote awareness of the problem and effective ways reduce it.

    For the 55th CND, the United States developed resolutions on alternatives to incarceration and the centennial anniversary of the first international drug control treaty, the 1912 Opium Convention.  The resolution on alternatives to incarceration was developed with Mexico and emphasized how public health and public safety can be promoted through effective alternatives to incarceration such as drug treatment courts and drug testing and brief sanctions programs (modeled after the Hawaii HOPE probation program] for drug using offenders. This centennial resolution gained a record number of co-sponsors from Russia and China to European and Latin American countries, and recommitted countries around the world to continue to reduce drug production, trafficking, and use, while ensuring the availability of controlled drugs for medical and scientific purposes. The United States cosponsored several other resolutions including one on preventing drug use and another to help prevent overdose deaths, which requests the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the World Health Organization collect and circulate best practices on prevention, treatment, and emergency responses to drug overdose, including the use of naloxone.

    Established in 1946 as a functional commission of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the CND reviews and analyzes the global drug control situation, considering the interrelated issues of drug abuse prevention, the rehabilitation of drug users, and preventing the supply and trafficking of illicit drugs. The CND is also responsible for supervising the application of international drug control treaties and advising ECOSOC on matters pertaining to the control of narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances, and their precursors. Resolutions negotiated at the annual sessions of the CND shape global drug control policy and direct the work of UNODC on these matters and related initiatives.

    Christine Kourtides is Strategic Planning and Event Coordinator

  • New Report: Cocaine Smuggling in 2010

    Scientific data, research, and evidence drive U.S. drug policy.  Accordingly, ONDCP is constantly working with other Federal agencies and other partners to obtain as much data and information as possible to form a more complete picture of illegal drug trafficking, production, and use trends in the United States and throughout the world.  The surreptitious nature of the drug trade means that the information we have is often fragmentary and incomplete, leaving gaps that we continue to work to fill.  Nonetheless, over the past year, we have worked with the intelligence community to compile a picture of the latest cocaine trafficking trends based on the data we have available.  The most recent report—Cocaine Smuggling in 2010—is now available online

    Here are some key findings from the report:

    • Diminished availability of cocaine in the United States, which began in 2007, continued through 2010. Decreased availability was evidenced by diminished use, higher prices, lower purity, and lower seizure amounts when compared to 2006.
    • The amount of cocaine departing South America decreased for the third straight year. This decline also correlates to reduced potential cocaine production in Colombia. In 2010, for the first time in the last decade, most of the cocaine seized in South America was seized in countries other than Colombia.
    • Approximately 95 percent of all cocaine detected moving toward the United States transited the Mexico-Central America region, while the remaining 5 percent moved through the Caribbean region.
    • Available information suggests that some Bolivian and Peruvian cocaine is consumed in South America, but most is destined for Europe.  Bolivian cocaine moves into or through Brazil, and to a lesser extent Argentina, Chile, and Ecuador, for onward shipment to Europe. Although estimates of European cocaine consumption remained relatively stable from 2009 to 2010, both the increase in Bolivian and Peruvian cocaine production and the increase in related port seizures indicate expanded transatlantic flow via commercial maritime container.
    • Spain continues to be the primary entry point for cocaine smuggled into Europe, as indicated by the high percentage of European Arrival Zone seizures in that country.

  • New Study Highlights the Importance of Drugged Driving Prevention

    A recent teen driving study by SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) and Liberty Mutual Insurance highlighted a disturbing new finding about teens and driving:  According to the SADD/Liberty Mutual Insurance survey, nearly one in five teen drivers reported that they have driven under the influence of marijuana—a figure even higher than surveyed teens that had reported driving after drinking (13 percent).  The study also reports that more than one-third of teens who have driven after using marijuana say the drug presents no distraction to their driving.  “Marijuana affects memory, judgment, and perception and can lead to poor decisions when a teen under the influence of this or other drugs gets behind the wheel of a car,” said Stephen Wallace, Senior Advisor for Policy, Research, and Education at SADD.

    SADD, a peer-to-peer youth education and prevention organization, has been working with ONDCP to educate young people about the dangers of driving while under the influence of marijuana and other drugs.  In October 2011, ONDCP held a Drugged Driving Summit that brought together leaders in youth prevention, highway safety, law enforcement, government, and research to discuss how to best address the growing concern of drugged driving.  As part of these education efforts, ONDCP has released a toolkit aimed at teens, parents, and community leaders to help prevent drugged drivers from hitting our roads.  

    Next week, ONDCP staff will meet with more than 30 SADD state-level directors to discuss how teens can get involved in their own communities to prevent drugged driving and to support President Obama’s goal of reducing drugged driving in America.

  • George Washington University Reaches Out to Those in Recovery

    This month, George Washington University (GWU) in Washington, D.C. joined the growing number of campuses across the Nation that are establishing programs to address the needs of students in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. The Association of Recovery Schools, which worked with GWU in creating its program, lists 14 member colleges and universities with links to additional information, including Rutgers University in New Jersey, the University of Texas at Austin, and Augsburg College in Minneapolis.

    In 2009, President Obama set a goal for the United States to have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020. Assisting students who are seeking help for substance use disorders and effectively supporting those already in recovery are important ways to accomplish this goal. That is why the Obama Administration broke new ground by making support for those in recovery an integral component of the National Drug Control Strategy.

    More information about the GWU program can be found in this article from The GW Hatchet, the student newspaper.

  • New Synthetic Drugs Information Kit for Parents

    This morning Director Kerlikowske and Steve Pasierb, President and CEO of The Partnership at Drugfree.org, co-hosted a working group session at ONDCP to share information regarding the emerging threat of synthetic drugs and promote a coordinated response.  Participants included high-level officials from the Department of Health and Human Services; the Drug Enforcement Administration; the Department of State; the Department of Defense; the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America; the American Association of Poison Control Centers; and the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.

    Public health authorities across the Nation continue to report serious adverse effects from these drugs, including seizures, elevated blood pressure, nausea, hallucinations, and paranoid behavior.  There have also been news reports of fatalities. 

    To help parents address the threat posed by synthetic drugs, today The Partnership at Drugfree.org introduced a kit for parents and adult influencers that provides the tools they need to talk with their teens about these drugs and to recognize the warning signs of use. The information kit includes a slidecast about synthetic drugs, a corresponding podcast and video, and a printable guide so parents can share details on what to look for, what the street names are, and what the effects of these substances are with others in their community.  The information kit is available at The Partnership at Drugfree.org website and is part of a "Parents360" community education program funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance.

    Rafael Lemaitre is Associate Director for Public Affairs

  • Prevention: Creating a Path to a Healthier and Stronger Nation

    Ed. Note: This post was updated at 10:00 am on February 16, 2012.

    The concept of substance abuse prevention is a simple one: the most efficient and cost-effective way to reduce the damage caused by drugs and alcohol, is to prevent abuse and addiction before it starts.  However, translating that concept into actionable objectives and measurable results is a difficult task that many of our National, state, local, and tribal partners have been perfecting for years.  It is in celebration of these outstanding and ongoing efforts, and in recognition of all of the Americans’ lives that can be improved through prevention that I stand with President Obama in commemorating National Substance Abuse Prevention Month.

    Millions of Americans struggle with substance abuse and the negative consequences of their addiction also impact their families, friends, neighbors, and communities.  In fact, substance abuse touches every sector of our society, straining our health care and criminal justice systems – costing the U.S. as much as $193 billion annually in recent years. Prevention is the key to reducing this financial burden and building healthy and safe communities across the country.  Put simply, it makes more sense to stop drug use before it begins to generate addiction and crime than it does to warehouse people in prisons.  

    We know that prevention works.  Recent research has shown that each dollar invested in an evidence-based prevention program can reduce costs related to substance use disorders by an average of $18.  Community programs have been effective in encouraging prevention at the local level and parents can serve as positive role models by talking with their children about the dangers of drug use.  Through effective prevention programs we can decrease emergency room visits, and lower rates of chronic disease, improve student achievement, and enhance workforce readiness.  All of these actions are vital at a time when the Country is working tirelessly to recover from a lagging economy. However, this is also the ideal time to get personally involved.

    Join your friends and neighbors by getting involved today:

    Visit the prevention website for more information about ONDCP’s prevention efforts, including the Drug-Free Community Support Program and the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, and read the President’s National Substance Abuse Prevention Month Proclamation.

    R. Gil Kerlikowske is Director of National Drug Control Policy

  • Above the Influence Teen Group Wins MTV’s Unwasted Weekend Challenge

    On Thursday, February 9, 2012, an Above the Influence teen group from Essex, Vermont received national attention as winners of MTV’s Unwasted Weekend Challenge.  The Challenge asks teens to submit a video depicting what they would do to make the most of a weekend in their hometown.  The Essex CHIPS (Community Helping to Inspire People to Succeed) Above the Influence teen group was selected out of hundreds of submissions nationwide to share their ideas and creativity.

    Over 200 high school students attended a first viewing of the winning video created by CHIPS in advance of its public debut on February 14, 2012.  The event provided students and community leaders with a true premiere experience—a walk along the red carpet with gold posts and a photo opportunity in front of a backdrop branded with the logos for Above the Influence and Essex CHIPS.  Local elected officials from the Vermont State House of Representatives, Vermont State Senate, and officials from the Vermont Department of Public Health also participated in the Unwasted Weekend Challenge celebration.

    Above the Influence is reaching teens in local communities across the country. Young people are engaged directly to inform and inspire the campaign with the goal of rejecting drug use and other negative influences, and youth-serving organizations have found value in partnering with the national campaign to further their respective missions.

    More information on Essex CHIPS and its winning video submission can be found here.

  • The 2012 CADCA Leadership Forum: Strategy in Action

    The 2012 Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) Leadership Forum, held February 6 – 9 near Washington, DC, drew thousands of coalition leaders and supporters from all over the country.  This annual Conference is an opportunity for grassroots activists from across the country to learn, network, and get motivated to reduce youth substance use. 

    ONDCP was out in force at the conference, hosting workshops, giving presentations, and even receiving awards.  One of ONDCP’s very own interns won the prestigious CADCA Youth of the Year Award for his work in the State of Washington.  Teddy McCullough, a student at American University, is currently an intern with the Office of State, Local, and Tribal Affairs at ONDCP.  Just 18 years old, Teddy gave an inspirational speech at the Awards luncheon and serves as an excellent example of the power of community coalitions.

    Also speaking at the luncheon was Maryland Congressman Elija Cummings, who commended the attendees for their activism and encouraged those present to speak their mind in the face of substance abuse. 

    ONDCP’s Ben Tucker, Deputy Director for State, Local, and Tribal Affairs, David Mineta, Deputy Director for Demand Reduction, and Marilyn Quagliotti, Deputy Director for Supply Reduction, all presented at a well-attended session entitled “Connecting Communities with the National Drug Control Strategy.”  The three deputy directors spoke with coalition leaders about ways in which communities could contribute to the implementation and success of the National Drug Control Strategy.

    Deputy Director Tucker opened the conference with a speech emphasizing the need to reduce youth drug use so our Nation can remain competitive, reach its potential, and fulfill what the President envisioned in his State of the Union address as an “America built to last.”

    Deputy Director Mineta addressed graduates of the National Coalition Academy, praising those who had successfully completed a one-year course designed to enhance the ability of anti-drug coalitions to reduce drug use and its consequences in communities.

    The energy and enthusiasm of the group was palpable as participants gathered to put the National Drug Control Strategy into action.

    Ben Tucker, ONDCP’s Deputy Director for State, Local, and Tribal Affairs, speaks at the 2012 CADCA Leadership Forum. Joining him on the panel are David Mineta, left, Deputy Director for Demand Reduction, and Marilyn Quagliotti, right, Deputy Director for Supply Reduction.