ONDCP Blog

  • A Week Dedicated to the Children of Alcoholics

    Nothing is more important in shaping the life trajectory of a child than the values he or she learns at home.  Children learn from the examples set by their parents, grandparents, siblings, and other caregivers.

    But what if the family at home is broken?  Far too many children in the United States are exposed to alcohol abuse or alcohol dependence in the family.  Many others are affected by a family drug problem.  Most will never receive the focused early intervention and support they need unless they attend a school with a student assistance program that addresses their issues.  They suffer in silence as they attempt to navigate through the chaos fostered by alcoholism and drug abuse in families. 

    According to data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, 90% of people who need treatment for alcohol or drug use disorders do not receive it.  Consequently, only a small fraction of the children in our country who are adversely affected by their parents’ alcohol or drug use see their parents recover from these destructive disorders.  Even when a parent recovers, it does not guarantee that the anxiety, guilt, anger, shame, or other hurts suffered by the child will be addressed.  It does not have to be that way, and during Children of Alcoholics Week, February 12 – 18, we honor and celebrate both the children who are healing and those who have helped them. 

    We know what helps

    Caring adults can change the trajectory of an affected child’s life.  Religious leaders, neighbors, grandparents, relatives, teachers, coaches, counselors, and other trusted adults can  provide needed support to affected youth, thereby breaking the silence that reinforces their sense of shame, stigma, and isolation, whether or not their parents find recovery.   In other words, these potential influencers in a child’s life matter greatly.  They have the power and opportunity to make the critical difference.

    Alateen, the extraordinary 12-step program of peer support for adolescents and teens offered by Al-Anon, has brought the promise of recovery to young people with addicted parents for generations.  The program is available across the country and is free (www.alateen.org).     Local organizations can play a critical role in educating and advocating for appropriate preventive interventions in community systems that serve children and youth in healthcare settings, in their faith organizations, and especially in supportive education programs in schools.

    As a caring society, we cannot and must not allow family alcohol and drug use problems to be transmitted to the next generation.  The outlook for people in recovery has never been better than it is today, and now there is greater recognition of the need to engage family members for their own recovery work so that they too can heal from the impact addiction has had on them individually and on the family system.  Working together, we can address parental alcohol and drug use problems and the adverse consequences they have for children and families.

    More information can be found at the National Association for Children and Alcoholics web site (www.nacoa.org), to include a special video message from ONDCP Director Gil Kerlikowske.

    Sis Wenger is the President and CEO of the National Association for Children of Alcoholics

  • The National Drug Control Budget

    Today, the President released a Budget that will help build a nation where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same rules.  As he said during the State of the Union, these are not Democratic or Republican values, but American values.

    The drug issue is also one that transcends party lines.  Whether you have someone in your family who struggles with a substance abuse disorder, have been a victim of drug-related crime, or have to pay for the healthcare or criminal justice consequences - all of us bear the burden of this public health and safety challenge. 

    With this in mind, the President’s National Drug Control Budget continues to support evidence-based programs and policies that seek to reduce drug use and its consequences in the United States.  Click here to read Highlights from the National Drug Control Budget.

  • Georgia Governor Nathan Deal Invests in Drug Courts, Treatment

    One year ago, Governor Nathan Deal was sworn into office with Georgia ranking among states with the highest incarceration and lowest rehabilitation rates in the country.  Recognizing that the “revolving door” of addiction, crime, and recidivism has resulted in overcrowded jails, stretched budgets, and damage to families and communities, Governor Deal created the Criminal Justice Reform Council to develop comprehensive solutions to increase the effectiveness of the Georgia Corrections System.     

    In Governor Deal’s January 10th, 2012 “State of the State” speech, the Governor doubled down on these efforts, recommending $5.7 million to build Residential Substance Abuse Centers and an additional $10 million to support the creation of new Drug, DUI, mental health, and Veterans Courts.  According to the National Association of Drug Court Professionals, drug courts have been shown to reduce recidivism by as much as 35% over other sentencing options.   

    As the Governor remarked in his speech, "We must make this investment.  If we fail to treat the addict's drug addiction, we haven't taken the first step in breaking the cycle of crime — a cycle that destroys lives and wastes taxpayer resources."  Through these efforts, Georgia has joined the Office of National Drug Control Policy and other state and local jurisdictions across the country in supporting innovative approaches to criminal justice reform.  These reforms have been shown to improve the cost-effectiveness of the justice system, improve public safety outcomes, and give individuals a second chance at becoming contributing members of their community.

    Katie Greene is Deputy Associate Director of the Office of Intergovernmental and Public Liaison

  • NIDA Releases New Guide for Those Seeking Treatment

    The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has recently released a new guidebook to help those in need of treatment make the right decisions regarding their care.  The guide, “Seeking Drug Abuse Treatment: Know What to Ask”, provides evidence-based information on various types of treatment that are effective in addressing substance use disorders.

    The publication provides information regarding five key questions an individual should ask when searching for a treatment program:

    1. Does the program use treatments backed by scientific evidence?

    2. Does the program tailor treatment to the needs of each patient?

    3. Does the program adapt treatment as the patient's needs change?

    4. Is the duration of treatment sufficient?

    5. How do 12-step or similar recovery programs fit into drug addiction treatment?

    The Obama Administration is committed to reducing the demand for illegal drugs in the United States through a comprehensive approach that includes prevention, early intervention, treatment, and recovery support.  More information on treatment for substance use disorders can be found on ONDCP’s Treatment and Recovery page.

  • Governor Beshear Addresses Rx Abuse in his State of the State Address

    On January 4th, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear delivered his State of the Commonwealth address where he outlined his legislative priorities for the next year. One of those priorities includes taking on prescription drug abuse. According to the Governor, more Kentuckians die from prescription drug overdoses than from car accidents.  He also cited a poll that found that 32 percent of Kentuckians have a family member or friend who has suffered because of prescription drug abuse.

    To address this challenge, Governor Beshear is partnering with Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway and Speaker of the Kentucky House Gregory D. "Greg" Stumbo to call upon their legislature to strengthen Kentucky’s current prescription drug monitoring system.  Last year, the Governor also created an interstate task force with the Governors of Ohio, Tennessee, and West Virginia to find solutions to address the growing prescription drug problem in the region.

    We look forward to working with Kentucky to address this serious challenge.  That is why last year Director Kerlikowske accompanied various Members of Congress and interested congressional staff during visits to Louisville, Lexington, London, and Pikeville to share the latest information on the prescription drug abuse epidemic with officials from the public and private sectors and offer Federal assistance in combating the problem.  

    There is no single solution to tackle this epidemic.  It takes a balanced and comprehensive approach at each level of government.  The Commonwealth of Kentucky is a shining example of what can be accomplished when state and local leaders unite to address the issue of drug abuse in their communities. 

    Tony Martinez is Associate Director for Intergovernmental and Public Liaison

  • A Strategy to Reduce Drug Trafficking along our Northern Border

    Today, I joined Director Kerlikowske in releasing the Obama Administration’s first-ever National Northern Border Counternarcotics Strategy.  The Strategy outlines new actions that seek to reduce the two-way flow of illicit drugs between the United States and Canada by increasing coordination among Federal, state, local, and tribal enforcement authorities, enhancing intelligence-sharing among counterdrug agencies, and strengthening our Nation’s ongoing counterdrug partnerships and initiatives with the Government of Canada and Canadian law enforcement agencies.  The Strategy places a special emphasis on improving cooperation with tribal governments, devoting an entire chapter to enhancing law enforcement coordination on tribal lands.  By strengthening integrated cross-border law enforcement between our two countries, the Strategy supports a key area of cooperation outlined by President Obama and Prime Minister Harper in the Beyond the Border declaration.

    Ecstasy and marijuana are common drug threats to the United States from Canada, and the United States remains the primary transit country for cocaine from South America entering into Canada. The National Northern Border Counternarcotics Strategy provides an overview of current counterdrug efforts and identifies supporting actions aimed at disrupting this two-way flow of illegal drugs.  Some key strategic objectives outlined in the Strategy include:

    • Enhancing coordination of intelligence collection among U.S. Federal, state, local, tribal and Canadian law enforcement agencies with Northern border counternarcotics responsibilities.
    • Increasing the amount seized of illicit narcotics and drug proceeds crossing the Northern border by bolstering security at and between ports of entry.
    • Enhancing air and maritime domain awareness and response capabilities along the Northern border.
    • Developing resources and providing training opportunities to tribal law enforcement agencies.
    • Targeting the financial infrastructure of Transnational Criminal Organizations and increasing judicial cooperation with the Government of Canada.

    The National Northern Border Counternarcotics Strategy is the product of an extensive consultation process that began with hundreds of letters from ONDCP soliciting input from relevant Congressional delegations, the Government of Canada, and Federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement officials. As part of this process, I traveled to Seattle, Washington; Blackfeet Nation, Montana; Grand Forks, North Dakota; Detroit, Michigan; and upstate New York.  The consultation meetings in these locations included discussions with U.S. Attorneys, High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) directors, our Canadian counterparts, and panels of Federal, state, local, and tribal officials. The input we received at these meetings played a significant role in shaping the Strategy, and we look forward to continuing our partnership with law enforcement at all levels here and in Canada to reduce the threat that drug trafficking poses to communities on both sides of the border.

    Ben Tucker is Deputy Director for State, Local, and Tribal Affairs

  • NY State Attorney General Working to Address Prescription Drug Abuse

    Yesterday, New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman unveiled a report regarding the prescription drug abuse crisis in New York and outlined specific actions on how this growing problem needs to be addressed by both health care providers and law enforcement officials.  The Attorney General’s efforts reinforce the importance of the work the Obama Administration is undertaking to address prescription drug abuse in America. Last April, ONDCP released the Administration's comprehensive action plan on prescription drug abuse - Epidemic: Responding to America's Prescription Drug Crisis. The plan, which coordinates efforts among Federal agencies, focuses on four key areas: education for healthcare professionals, patients, and the public on safe and appropriate use of prescription drugs; expansion of state-based prescription drug monitoring programs; convenient and environmentally responsible disposal methods to remove unused medications from the home; and smart law enforcement to reduce the prevalence of pill mills and doctor shopping.

    Public officials like Attorney General Schneiderman are working across the country to address the prescription drug abuse epidemic within their own state borders while also working with neighboring states to prevent prescription drug diversion by implementing many of the practices called for in the Administration’s Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Plan. These practices include updating existing prescription drug monitoring programs like those in New York and Tennessee. And in Utah and Massachusetts, state legislatures are establishing mandatory prescriber education laws, which require doctors to undergo training before prescribing powerful painkillers.

    Prescription drug abuse and its consequences is the fastest growing drug problem in the United States, and there is no single solution to tackle this epidemic. Everyone has a role to play, and success will require coordination and collaboration at the Federal, state, local, and tribal levels.

    Tony Martinez is Associate Director for Intergovernmental and Public Liaison

  • Youth Drug Use: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

    Ed. Note: This post originally appeared on HuffingtonPost.com

    Recently, I joined officials from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Department of Health and Human Services to announce the results of the largest annual survey on youth drug use in America. NIDA's annual "Monitoring the Future" study, which questions more than 46,000 teens in over 400 public and private schools across America, is a vital source of information about the types of substances young people are using, as well as their attitudes and perceptions regarding substance use -- including alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.

    This year's data revealed some troubling new trends, including startling new information showing an emerging threat of so-called "synthetic drugs," which have been marketed as "legal" alternatives to marijuana. According to the survey, one in nine high school seniors has used synthetic marijuana marketed as "K2" and "spice" in the past year. That means the use of these drugs now rank as the second most frequently used illegal drug among high school seniors, second only to marijuana.

    To address this emerging challenge, the Drug Enforcement Administration recently used their emergency regulatory authority to temporarily ban the sale of the chemicals used to manufacture K2 and spice. I have also convened officials from across the federal government at the White House to share data and coordinate a federal response to the threat of synthetic drugs. We are also working with Congress; and just two weeks ago the House of Representatives passed legislation that would permanently ban the chemicals used to make synthetic drugs, including those marketed as "bath salts."

    New data also shows that youth marijuana use is on the rise. In fact, more high school 10th graders smoke marijuana than smoke cigarettes. Making matters worse, young people's perception of harm regarding marijuana use is declining. Unfortunately, the barrage of mixed media messages and legalization campaigns that seek to normalize drug use shape young people's attitudes toward drug use. Let's keep this in mind: Using illegal drugs is not part of everyday life in America, nor is it a rite of passage. Given the wide array of public health research outlining the serious consequences of using marijuana, we must work to ensure teens understand that marijuana use can harm a young person's health and his or her future.

    Despite these challenges, this year's survey also contains some very promising trends. Rates of drug use among young people are far lower than they were 30 years ago. And while still far too high (alcohol is still the most widely abused drug among teens), rates of teen cigarette smoking and drinking are at the lowest levels ever measured. Moreover, far more teens disapprove of smoking today than they did 20 years ago.

    This progress didn't happen overnight or by accident. Over the past several decades, a concerted effort by parents, the private sector, and public health and safety institutions was mounted to keep young people healthy and protected from harmful substances through a balanced combination of education, treatment and enforcement. Nationwide media campaigns have encouraged young people to make healthy choices by rejecting drug use. Local community coalitions have formed across the nation to address local threats with local solutions. Law enforcement agencies have targeted the supply of substances, making them expensive and less available to teens. Not only have these efforts substantially reduced the number of young people hurt by drugs, but they have also changed the culture surrounding these substances. This is important because when society disapproves of drug use, and its harms are accurately and frequently communicated to young people, fewer will begin using drugs. For example, the rate of smoking goes down when the acceptability of smoking goes down. The percentage of students reporting daily cigarette use is significantly lower, along with the percentage of students who think smoking is acceptable.

    Preventing drug use before it ever begins is, after all, the most cost-effective way to address our drug problem. Successful prevention means fewer people will develop substance use disorders, and the consequences of substance use -- including health care, treatment costs and criminal justice system costs -- will all decrease.

    The Obama administration has taken a comprehensive approach to the substance abuse problem, and science directs that effort. Research shows time and again that adult influencers are the most powerful force in the lives of young people. We will continue working with local communities to decrease substance use rates across the nation. In the meantime, we hope you will join us in making America healthier and safer.

    For more information or help on how to talk to teens about drugs, visit TheAntiDrug.com.

    R. Gil Kerlikowske is Director of National Drug Control Policy

  • Federal Funding Ban on Needle Exchange Programs

    Ed. Note: This post was updated at 6:10 pm

    On December 16, 2009, President Obama signed into law an end to the longstanding ban on most Federal funding for needle exchange programs, giving us more opportunities to stop the spread of HIV and other infections among injecting drug users (IDUs). The Administration continues to support a consistent policy that would allow Federal funds to be used in locations where local authorities deem needle exchange programs to be effective and appropriate. Unfortunately, Congress has reinstated the ban.

    As noted in the President’s National Drug Control Strategy, we will continue to work with Congress and public health agencies to ensure that, to the extent possible, needle exchange programs are implemented in the context of comprehensive, recovery-oriented public health systems that also offer IDUs treatment for addiction, other medical care, and testing for HIV and hepatitis B and C.  On a global scale, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) continues to work with governments worldwide on synchronizing drug control and HIV prevention and treatment.  In combating the problem, special attention has been paid to comprehensive HIV prevention services for IDUs that include providing HIV prevention education. The recommended core package of comprehensive HIV prevention services for IDUs includes needle and syringe programs; drug treatment (including medication-assisted treatment for opioid dependence); HIV testing and counseling; antiretroviral therapy for HIV-positive IDUs; prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted infections; condom programs for IDUs and their sexual partners; targeted information, education, and communication for IDUs and their sexual partners; vaccination, diagnosis, and treatment of viral hepatitis; and diagnosis and treatment of tuberculosis.

  • I Was Determined to Save My Life

    Cross-posted from Faces and Voices of Recovery

    I am a 35 year old survivor who has been clean and sober for almost seven years.  My drug of choice was Methamphetamine. I would stop at nothing to get my next hit.  I was very ill, both mentally and physically from not eating or caring for myself. I lost everything including my son and my freedom in a matter of 4 years.  In 2001 I was arrested and charged with many crimes, all due to my addiction. 

    In 2002 I was given the gift of being able to enter into a long term drug treatment facility.  I was determined to save my life.  I had to be taught how to be productive, goal orientated, have a positive self-esteem and how to fight for my life. They taught me how to be proud of my accomplishments and who I am.  In 2004 I graduated the program.   

    Sobriety has brought so much back to me, including my son as of 2 months ago. I have found a new love for life and others.  I now work as a counselor helping individuals to overcome and cope with their disease.  I enjoy helping others to help themselves.  I assist in guiding those who are in the same position I was over seven years ago.  

    Sobriety and life is worth fighting for.  We just have to be shown the way.

    This post is part of the ONDCP Stories of Hope blog series.