ONDCP Blog

  • What does the New Budget Deal Mean for Drug Policy Reform?

    Over the past four years, we’ve worked hard to support drug policy reform rooted in science, evidence, and research.  A difficult budget environment hasn’t made it easy.  Damaging cuts caused by sequestration have placed real obstacles in the way of ensuring full support for services and programs that expand prevention, treatment, and smart-on-crime initiatives that represent a 21st century approach to drug policy. 

    But there is good news.  

    The bipartisan appropriations bill passed by Congress this week finally begins to repair some of these cuts. It also includes support for innovative alternatives that will protect public health and public safety while saving taxpayer dollars over the long run.

    Some highlights from the bill:

    • $1.8 billion in funding for the Substance Abuse Block Grant – a $110 million increase compared to FY2013. The grant gives states the ability to establish and expand substance use prevention and treatment services in order support people recovering from substance use disorders.  
    • $92 million will support the Drug Free Communities Support Program, which provides resources to local coalitions working to prevent substance use among young people.  
    •  $45 million to support early health interventions through SAMHSA’s Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) initiative. SBIRT helps doctors and medical professionals identify and address the signs and symptoms of problematic drug use before it becomes a more serious, chronic condition.
    • Supporting the administration of an estimated $4.6 billion for drug treatment services and related costs through the Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services. 
    • Restoration of a significant portion of funding for vital drug abuse research through the National Institutes of Health, including research emphasizing the health effects of heroin and prescription painkiller abuse.
    •  $68 million to fund programs designed to help formerly incarcerated offenders find employment, housing, and support through the Second Chance Act, and $27.5 million to advance criminal justice reforms at the state and local level via the Justice Reinvestment Initiative
    • Drug Courts, which work to divert non-violent offenders into alternatives to incarceration, including treatment in appropriate cases, were provided $40.5 million. 
    • For the first time ever, the bill also includes $4 million to support expansion of the innovative HOPE diversion model for drug offenders. The HOPE program uses swift, certain sanctions that have shown promise in reducing recidivism and drug use.

    This bill is not perfect, and no one got everything they wanted (that’s the nature of compromise), but these are real investments in making our Nation healthier and stronger. Reducing drug use and its consequences is a vital issue that spans the political spectrum and this is a step in the right direction.  

  • A Message from Director Kerlikowske and Congressman Ben Ray Luján on National Impaired Driving Prevention Month

    This holiday season, as millions of Americans travel to see family and friends, it is important to take a moment and consider the role we all can have in keeping our roads safe. December is National Impaired Driving Prevention Month, a time to be especially mindful of preventing loved ones from getting behind the wheel when impaired by drugs or alcohol.

    Beginning in 2010, President Obama declared December National Impaired Driving Prevention Month and called on all Americans to commit to driving sober, drug free, and without distractions. Whether linked to alcohol, drugs, or some other cause, impaired and distracted driving can have tragic results. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, 10,322 deaths in 2012 were a result of alcohol-related highway accidents.[1] A nationally representative survey by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that 16 percent of weekend, nighttime drivers (roughly 1 in 6) tested positive for illicit drugs or medications in 2007.[2] Data compiled by NHTSA on fatal traffic crashes also show that 1 in 3 drivers with known drug-test results who were killed in a motor vehicle crash in 2010 tested positive for drugs (illegal substances as well as over-the-counter and prescription medications).

    The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) is working with a number of groups, including Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the National Organizations for Youth Safety, and RADD, the Entertainment Industry's Voice for Road Safety. We encourage parents to talk to their teens about the dangers of drunk and distracted driving, as well as drugged driving.  It is important to point out that even drugs prescribed by a doctor can affect the mental and physical skills required for safe driving.

    “Above the Influence,” ONDCP’s anti-drug campaign for teens, has released a Drugged Driving Toolkit to assist parents and community leaders in preventing drugged driving. You can download the Drugged Driving Toolkit here. And if you know someone with a substance use disorder who is in need of treatment, click on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Facility Locator.

    National Impaired Driving Prevention Month is an opportunity to highlight the dangers posed by substance abuse on our Nation’s roadways every day. As spouses, parents, siblings, friends, and neighbors, we cannot afford to lose track of the effects that alcohol and drugs—even prescribed medications—can have on our faculties and the skills we need for safe driving. Let us make impaired driving awareness a priority this month and every month to help empower individuals, strengthen families, and save lives.

    R. Gil Kerlikowske is the Director of National Drug Control Policy. Congressman Ben Ray Lujan represents New Mexico's 3rd congressional district.

     

     



     

     

    [2] U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 2007 National Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drug Use by Drivers: Drug Results (2009). Available at http://www.nhtsa.gov/Driving+Safety/Research+&+Evaluation/2007+National+Roadside+Survey+of+Alcohol+and+Drug+Use+by+Drivers

     

  • Cross Post: Monitoring the Future Reveals Both Encouraging and Discouraging Trends

    Yesterday, the 2013 Monitoring the Future survey results were released, revealing that one-third of high school seniors in states with medical marijuana laws report getting marijuana from someone else's medical marijuana prescription. 

    A blog post from Dr. Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse is below:

    Every year, the NIDA-supported Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan asks 8th, 10th, and 12th graders across the country about their current and past drug use and their attitudes toward drug use, providing us with an invaluable barometer of youth drug trends from year to year. The results of the 2013 MTF survey , which were released today, included some good news—such as 5-year declines in the abuse of prescription opioids, alcohol, and cigarettes by teens. Use of synthetic marijuana (K2/spice), Vicodin, and salvia by 12th graders is also down from last year, as is use of inhalants by 8th graders. It is gratifying to see these statistics, as well as the continued low levels of abuse of cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine by students in the survey.
     
    But there were also reasons to be concerned. The survey showed a 4-year increase in the nonmedical use of Adderall by 12th-graders; students may abuse prescription stimulants in the mistaken belief that they will boost cognitive performance and help their grades, or simply to get high. And one of the most worrisome trends in the MTF concerns teens’ attitudes toward marijuana use. Less than 40 percent of high school seniors this year said they think regular marijuana users risk harming themselves (physically or in other ways), down almost five percentage points from last year; in fact, the perception by 12th-graders that regular marijuana may be dangerous is the lowest it has been since 1978.
     
    The plot below provides a striking teaching point: Over the 3 decades of MTF’s existence, the fluctuating perception of marijuana’s risks by teens has exactly mirrored how much they have used the drug. The public conversation about marijuana’s purported therapeutic benefits is likely contributing to the common impression that the drug is not harmful. Yet most of what we know from research in animals and humans points to significant cognitive impairment and negative impacts on brain development and various measures of life satisfaction, success, and achievement when marijuana is used heavily, especially during adolescence.
     
    12th graders, daily marijuana use versus perceived risk.  Trend of perceived risk continues downward, with daiily use flat over last year.
     
    There are at least two ways in which the problem of teen marijuana use could actually be worse than the MTF numbers indicate. First, the survey does not take into account the rising potency of marijuana from year to year. In 1990, marijuana in the United States averaged 3.35 percent THC (the main psychoactive ingredient in the marijuana plant); today’s average street potency is well over four times that, at almost 15 percent. Although it is possible that users today may moderate their THC intake by smoking less on a given occasion, it is likely the MTF use trends don’t fully reflect the magnitude of the impact marijuana may be having on the brains of today’s teenagers. For example, the participants in the large-scale New Zealand study published last year who had lost an average of 8 IQ points after using marijuana heavily as teenagers would have turned 18 in 1990 or 1991—when marijuana potency in New Zealand was comparable to what it was in the U.S. at the time (between 1 and 5 percent). Would they have lost more IQ points had marijuana been more potent? Only further research can answer that question.
     
    Second, it is important to remember that the MTF only surveys adolescents who are in school. Although the nationwide graduation rate is climbing, fully a quarter of the class of 2010 did not finish high school, and heavy marijuana use is linked to school dropout. The 6.5 percent of 12th graders who reported in the MTF that they use marijuana daily is thus likely to be less than the percentage of all American 17- and 18-year-olds using marijuana on a daily or near-daily basis.
     
    The annual MTF results give us crucial information about where to concentrate our efforts at prevention. While America’s teens do seem to be hearing some of our messages—for instance, that synthetic marijuana could easily land them in an emergency room—we clearly need to do more to impress upon them that the harms of marijuana, although less immediate and less obvious than those of some other drugs, are no less serious: Among others, it can negatively affect a person’s ability to learn and, in turn, their academic performance. This is an important reason for teens to steer clear of marijuana while their brains are still maturing. 
     

  • Spotlight: Drug-Free Communities Support Program & Community Coalitions

    Last week, one of our office’s most important and evidence-based programs convened leaders in substance use prevention from across the Nation. The Drug-Free Communities Support program (DFC) hosted its annual New Grantee meeting in Washington, D.C., giving us an opportunity to discuss a fundamental part of our work at ONDCP: prevention. 

    Director Kerlikowske Meets with Drug Free Communities Support Program New Grantees

    ONDCP Director Kerlikowske meets with new grantees of the Drug-Free Communities Support program (DFC) at their annual meeting in Washington, D.C. on December 13, 2013. December 13, 2013.

    This year, we awarded $79.2 million in DFC grants to more than 600 coalitions across the country. These grants provide community coalitions with support to prevent and reduce youth substance use. We are proud to work with our partner in substance use prevention, Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA), to give these coalitions the training and infrastructure they need to successfully reduce youth substance use.

    Substance use is a huge public health problem in our country, costing us in 2007 more than $193 billion in costs related to criminal justice, health, and lost productivity.

    Preventing drug use before it begins is a cost-effective, common-sense approach to promoting safe and healthy communities. Research shows an association between drug use and traffic crash deaths, lost productivity and poor academic performance. Illicit drug use also contributes to HIV-transmission rates and puts children at risk for abuse and neglect. Preventing substance use and dependence before they begin can save lives and cut costs related to healthcare and criminal justice. DFCs help establish networks of trained, dedicated local leaders who make a difference by building healthy communities and reducing youth substance use.  

    What is the Drug-Free Communities Support Program (DFC)?

    A Federal grant program that provides funding to community-based coalitions that organize to prevent youth substance use.  Since the passage of the DFC Act in 1997, the DFC program has funded nearly 2,000 coalitions and currently mobilizes nearly 9,000 community volunteers across the country. The philosophy behind the DFC program is that local drug problems require local solutions.  With a small Federal investment, the DFC program doubles the amount of funding through the DFC program’s match requirement, to address youth substance use.  Recent evaluation data indicate that where DFC dollars are invested, youth substance use is lower.  Over the life of the DFC program, youth living in DFC communities have experienced reductions in alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana use. 

    In the past eight years that DFC has been evaluated, DFC-funded communities have achieved significant reductions in youth alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana use.  For middle school youth living in DFC-funded communities, data from the DFC National Evaluation indicate a 16% reduction in alcohol use, 27% reduction in tobacco use, and 23% reduction in marijuana use.  High school-aged youth have reduced their use of alcohol by 9%, tobacco by 16%, and marijuana by 7% in DFC-funded communities.  DFC-funded coalitions are actively engaged in facilitating prescription drug take-back programs in conjunction with local law enforcement, as well as local policy change to effectively address the accessibility and availability of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs.  See the 2012 National Evaluation Report.

    In an increasingly challenging media environment, now, more than ever, the DFC program is needed in communities across the country to help prevent drug use and reduce its consequences.  Drug problems manifest in local communities and show up in our schools, churches, health centers, and in our homes.  The DFC program helps local leaders organize to identify the youth drug issues unique to their communities and develop the infrastructures necessary to effectively prevent and respond to the disease of addiction. 

    What does the Drug-Free Communities Support program do?

    The primary purpose of the DFC program is to: strengthen collaboration among community entities; and reduce substance use among youth. DFC grantees are required to work toward these two goals as the primary focus of their Federally-funded effort.  Grants awarded through the DFC program are intended to support established community-based coalitions capable of effecting community-level change. For the purposes of the DFC program, a coalition is defined as a community-based formal arrangement for cooperation and collaboration among groups or sectors of a community in which each group retains its identity, but all agree to work together toward a common goal of building a safe, healthy, and drug-free community. Coalitions receiving DFC funds are expected to work with leaders within their communities to identify and address local youth substance use problems and create sustainable community-level change through environmental strategies.

    What does the Drug-Free Communities Support program fund?

    The DFC program funds one thing: community coalitions that have formed to address youth substance use.  Communities often understand that local stakeholders and citizens hold the key to solving local problems.  In realizing this, community-based coalitions are created every day in this country.  A typical DFC budget submission includes the salary and benefits of an individual that ensures effective day-to-day operations of the coalition, training and technical assistance for the coalition, travel, and prevention efforts that place emphasis on environmental strategies .  DFC funding can be considered the financial support required to further leverage funding to support the various strategies a community needs in order to solves its youth substance use problems.

  • ONDCP Hosts First-Ever Drug Policy Reform Conference

    On Monday, Director Kerlikowske and  Deputy Director Botticelli kicked off an unprecedented discussion at the White House on the future of drug policy.  Braving a snowy D.C. morning, approximately 140 people attended to engage in a conversation on drug policy reform and hundreds more watched online. Limited video on demand is available here

    Director Kerlikowske opens ONDCP's Drug Policy Reform Conference

    Director Kerlikowske opens the Drug Policy Reform conference, Monday, December 9, 2013. December 9, 2013.

    Among those speaking at the conference were the Deputy Attorney General (James Cole) and Tonya Robinson, Special Assistant to the President and member of the Domestic Policy Council.  They were joined by former Congressman Patrick Kennedy, who is himself in recovery from a substance use disorder and who moderated the panel on stigma and addiction. 

    The Drug Policy Reform Conference featured three panels and focused on public health approaches to drug policy, criminal justice reform, and the importance of lifting the stigma of addiction. 

    Attendees and the online audience heard from addiction recovery specialist Jacki Hillios about her work combining substance use disorder treatment with active, healthy lifestyles at Phoenix Multisport.  Founded in 2009, Phoenix Multisport is a hub for sports and addiction recovery in Denver, Colorado.  Its founder, Scott Strode, was recognized as a CNN Hero in 2012 for his innovative approach to substance use disorder treatment.

    Conference attendees also heard from Alby Zweig, who, with the help of the Denver Drug Court, went from being a defendant to serving as the court’s magistrate.  Just before the third and final panel began, Pat Taylor (of Faces and Voices of Recovery) showed a video trailer for film director Greg Williams’ feature “The Anonymous People”.

    You can review live-tweets of the conference on Twitter on the @ONDCP profile page

  • Director Kerlikowske Participates in Small Business Saturday

    Today, Director Kerlikowske joined local officials in supporting small businesses as part of Small Business Saturday.  An initiative of the U.S. Small Business Administration, Small Business Saturday is a day dedicated to supporting small businesses on one of the busiest shopping weekends of the year.

    America’s small businesses are engines of job creation across our country, and President Obama is committed to creating an environment where small businesses can thrive. By cutting taxes for small businesses and increasing their access to capital, the President has encouraged small businesses to expand and create the jobs we need now—and for decades to come.  

    Director Kerlikowske visited “Holy Cow,” a restaurant in Alexandria, Virginia, for a hamburger lunch.  Holy Cow gives back to its community by donating a quarter from every burger sold to local non-profits, including several organizations offering treatment services for substance use and mental health disorders and support to women who are transitioning from incarceration back into the community. In its first year of business, Holy Cow donated more than 72,000 quarters to over 120 different local Alexandria-based charitable organizations.          

    To learn more about Small Business Saturday, visit sba.gov/saturday

  • Addressing a Public Health Crisis in Ohio

    Due to a dramatic increase in the number of heroin overdose deaths in Northeast Ohio, the Cleveland Clinic, the U.S. Attorneys Office for the Northern District of Ohio, and a host of other education, prevention, and law enforcement entities are hosting a heroin summit on November 21, 2013 at the Cleveland Clinic.

    Heroin abuse is a public health crisis in Northeast Ohio.  In 2007, 40 people died from a heroin overdose in Cuyahoga County (Ohio's largest county).  This year, that figure is expected to exceed 200.  For comparison, in Greater Cleveland, twice as many people will die from a heroin overdose than be the victims of a homicide.

    “Greater Cleveland’s leading institutions are coming together to find solutions to this public health crisis,” said Steven Dettelbach, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District. “The fight against heroin is not just about arrests. It is also about prevention and treatment.”

    The daylong event will feature speakers at the forefront of dealing with the heroin epidemic, as well as panel discussions and breakout sessions.

    "We have to speak out loudly and frequently about this emerging public health crisis," Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald said. "We are in the middle of something that is very alarming."

    By outlining the scope of the problem and discussing the relevant issues, the heroin summit hopes to create a community action plan that will begin to turn the tide in the region's battle with heroin abuse.

  • Expansion of Innovative Law Enforcement Collaboration

    Today, Director Kerlikowske announced the expansion of an innovative law enforcement program that fosters collaboration between Federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement officers. The High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTAs) program has recently added 12 new counties in nine states, enabling those counties to receive Federal resources to facilitate cooperation, information sharing and coordination across organizational lines. See a list of the newly designated counties here.

    The HIDTA program was created by Congress with the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988 to support coordinated law enforcement efforts to reduce the supply of illegal drugs—in areas designated “high traffic” and across the Nation. In 2012 alone, HIDTAs collectively disrupted/dismantled 3,033 drug trafficking organizations, removed over $17.8 billion worth of drugs, and seized over $1.9 billion in cash and assets.

    In addition to designating 12 new counties, Director Kerlikowske also announced nearly $3 million in discretionary funding to 21 HIDTAs to enhance targeted enforcement and drug prevention efforts nationwide. The discretionary funds will support strategic priorities based on the unique threats in each HIDTA, including prescription drug abuse and synthetic drugs.  

    Leveraging the latest technology and counter-terrorism expertise—and defined by the spirit of collaboration—HIDTAs are a national model for effective cross-agency partnerships. Learn more about HIDTA accomplishments here

  • Remembering our colleague, Ed Jurith

    Ed Jurith

    It is with great sadness that today we announce the passing of our beloved colleague, Ed Jurith.  During his distinguished career at the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), Mr. Jurith was appointed twice to serve as Acting Director—first by President Clinton in 2001, then by President Obama in 2009.  Since 1994, he also served as ONDCP’s General Counsel, Senior Counsel and Director of Legislative Affairs.

    With his characteristic intelligence, deep insight and good humor, Mr. Jurith embodied the best of public service.  He was one of the brightest minds in drug policy, with more than 30 years of Federal policy-making experience.  He came to ONDCP from the U.S. House of Representatives, Select Committee on Narcotics Abuse and Control, where Mr. Jurith was Staff Director from 1987 to 1993 and Counsel for five years prior to that.  While on staff at the Select Committee, he was instrumental in the development of the Anti-Drug Abuse Acts of 1986 and 1988—which set the framework for U.S. drug policy, and established this very office 25 years ago.

    Mr. Jurith’s reputation as a leader in drug policy crossed international borders.  In 1997, he served as an Atlantic Fellow in Public Policy at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom, where he researched and lectured on drug policy issues.  As part of the Atlantic Fellowship, Mr. Jurith assisted the UK Anti-Drugs Coordinator in the development of the Blair government’s strategy for reducing substance use.  He lectured widely on drug policy at U.S. and British universities and authored numerous publications in the arena of substance abuse and drug policy.  In addition, Mr. Jurith represented the United States on the board of the World Anti-Doping Agency for many years.

    Back home, in 2010 he became an adjunct professor at the American University Washington College of Law, where he taught a seminar on the intersection of law and drug policy.  His class was extremely popular—enrollment in Mr. Jurith’s course increased from seven students in its first year to capacity (plus a wait list) in the second year.  In the words of the College of Law’s Associate Dean for Student Affairs, students found him both engaging in the classroom and interested in their professional development outside the classroom. 

    Prior to his federal government service, Mr. Jurith was an attorney in private practice in his native New York City.  He graduated, cum laude, from American University in 1973 and received a Juris Doctor from Brooklyn Law School in 1976.  As a member of the New York, District of Columbia and U.S. Supreme Court Bars, Mr. Jurith served on the Advisory Committee of the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Substance Abuse, as well as the District of Columbia Bar Lawyer Assistance Program, a program providing assistance to law students, lawyers and judges with substance use and/or mental health disorders.

    Mr. Jurith is survived by his wife, Kathleen Healy, and his sons Theodore and William. We keep his family in our thoughts and prayers, and honor Ed’s memory by renewing our commitment to the crucial work to which he dedicated his career.  

  • A Veterans Day Message

    This Veterans Day, we join President Obama, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and the entire country in honoring our Nation’s veterans. Since the dawn of our country, these brave men and women have fought for and protected the freedoms that make America great. We owe them our deepest gratitude all year round, but today, in particular, we pause to thank them for their selflessness and their service.

    There are many ways to honor and thank all who served in the United States Armed Forces this Veterans Day. Join a ceremony near you, and lend your voice online to a simple message of thanks on social media. The VA offers a variety of web-based and phone services online, particularly for veterans in need of mental health services. Visit this page for more information.

    Here at the Office of National Drug Control Policy, we are proud to work alongside veterans who lend their talent and energy to the important task of reducing drug use and its consequences across the country. Before he led ONDCP or the Seattle and Buffalo police departments,  Director Gil Kerlikowske served in the United State Army, where he was awarded the Presidential Service Badge.  

    This weekend, we honor our ONDCP leadership and staff who have served proudly, as well as the millions of veterans across the Nation.