The White House

Office of the National Drug Control Policy

Remarks by Deputy Director Mineta to the United Nations General Assembly on Drugs and Crime as a Threat to Development

Statement of the Government of the United States of America
Thematic Debate of the 66th Session of the United States General Assembly on Drugs and Crime as a Threat to Development

Delivered by David Mineta
Deputy Director for Demand Reduction, White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, United States
June 26, 2012

Thank you Mr. Chairman. It is my great pleasure to be with you here today to represent the United States.  The threat posed to development from the illegal drugs and transnational crime is a very serious one.  Long-standing efforts to build diversified economies, strong justice systems, responsive democratic government, and healthy populations are severely impaired by crime and drugs.

This is an important milestone year for drug control.  It is the centennial of the 1912 Opium Convention.  Since that time, we have worked together to set up an international drug control framework in the form of the three UN drug control conventions.  These treaties -- coupled with the UN Conventions Against Organized Crime and Against Corruption -- form a robust international framework to address the closely interrelated threats of drug trafficking and use and the crime groups that support and feed off them. 

The Conventions provide a strong foundation for our work, but there is much that still has to be accomplished to fulfill their potential.  Too many of our citizens are still suffering from the terrible impact of drugs and crime on their daily lives.

As we seek to further development, we recognize that substance abuse stands as an impediment to a healthy and productive population. 

Drug use and its consequences affect the health, public safety, and livelihoods of people worldwide.  As the 2012 World Drug Report notes, millions of citizens – five percent of the global population according to the 2012 World Drug Report – use drugs each year.  Drug use puts individuals at greater risk for disease or premature death.  And their drug use can threaten not just their own health, but the safety of their family and friends, whether through accidents, domestic violence, or drugged driving.

Today, science tells us that drug addiction is a chronic disease of the brain.  It is a disease that can be prevented and treated, and individuals can recover from it.  To promote strong, dynamic societies, and to advance development, we need to support programs that treat substance use problems, particularly at the early stages of abuse, before the condition becomes chronic and more difficult and expensive to treat.  These programs are more successful and much less costly than incarceration.

We must invest in public health services, such as prevention, early intervention, drug treatment, and recovery.  There is overwhelming scientific evidence that drug prevention and treatment reduce drug use and its adverse consequences.  Many of these programs have been proven to achieve meaningful results with significant long-term cost savings.  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.  I’m pleased to share that in the United States we are seeing results in the form of declines in drug use.  Over the past 3 decades, the rate of drug use in the U.S. has plummeted by about 30 percent.  And since 2006, cocaine use has dropped by 40 percent and meth use has dropped by half.

In the area of prevention, I am proud to report that the community coalition movement has found success around the globe, thanks to the leadership of CADCA (Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America).  CADCA has 20 years of experience in bringing together leaders from local schools, faith communities, sporting groups, parents, and government officials to assess and then address the specific drug problems that threaten specific communities.

In the health care system, Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (or SBIRT) can enable health care professionals to intervene early and start a conversation about the negative effects of illicit drug use on health.   Along the same vein, we must work to ensure that substance use disorder treatment services are integrated into broader health care systems.  We must increase efforts to train public health and safety personnel to recognize overdoses and administer life-saving techniques and overdose reversal medications such as naloxone. 

We must also pay special attention to the sometimes overlooked area of recovery, bringing together all sectors of the community to support the millions of individuals in recovery from the disease of addiction. 

The Obama Administration has committed itself to enhancing recovery support in the United States, establishing a dedicated branch within the Office of National Drug Control Policy to oversee our efforts to

  • foster the development of systems and services that effectively support recovery;
  • increase public awareness and understanding of addiction and recovery; and
  • eliminate legal and regulatory barriers to recovery. 

 This last point is key: I encourage my fellow delegations to take a new look at relevant laws, rules, and policies that might continue to punish individuals in recovery, long after they have served time for a crime.  Truly, it is a tragedy if an individual has fully recovered from a substance abuse disorder, regained his or her ability to work and contribute to society, but is barred from fully contributing because of outdated and unfair laws.

Let me also say a word about the importance of treatment within the criminal justice system.  Of course, those who commit crimes must be held responsible for their actions, but once they are under the supervision of the justice system, we must promptly identify those with substance use disorders and ensure they have access to treatment services.  Many offenders with substance use disorders can be directed into programs that are alternatives to long-term incarceration.  These programs should include drug treatment and counseling services, re-entry assistance, and intensified monitoring via drug testing and other means to ensure abstinence from illegal drug use. 

At the CND in March, the United States was very pleased to partner with Mexico to develop a resolution highlighting the importance of alternatives to imprisonment.  Although we recognize that there are often legal obstacles to alternatives such as drug courts, it is important that we examine and overcome these obstacles.  We know that drug courts are increasingly used around the world.  Earlier this month the Organization of American States (OAS), in a collaborative effort with the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP), brought together 80 professionals from Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Mexico, and Panama to receive practical training on setting up and managing drug treatment courts.

This comprehensive demand reduction approach, including prevention, treatment, recovery, and alternatives to incarceration, is not only a staple of U.S. domestic programs but a reflection of assistance provided by the United States internationally.   The United States provides training on a global basis to disseminate the latest science-based information on effective methods to prevent and reduce drug use and related violence, as well as to address the addiction issues affecting women and children.  The United States also continues to support drug demand reduction efforts of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and other regional organizations.   In particular, UNODC deserves special mention for its leadership role in addressing the child addiction crisis in Afghanistan by expanding access to much-needed treatment services and working to prevent illicit drug use with at-risk children.  

In conclusion, the U.S. looks forward to continuing to partner closely with the United Nations and partner countries to promote all aspects of development and to address the negative consequences of drugs and crime on security, public safety, and public health. Thank you Mr. Chairman.