Not enough

BY WILLIAM MOYERS Published: June 18, 2012
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(Full disclosure: I am a registered Democrat who tends to vote that way, though I occasionally jump across the divide and choose a candidate from the other side.)

With fanfare and headlines to match, Gil Kerlikowske made a speech the other day in which he declared that addiction is exactly what many of us have known for a long, long time.

"Drug addiction is not a moral failing on the part of the individual but a chronic disease of the brain that can be treated."

And he should know; Kerlikowske is America's drug czar, the head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

"This is not my opinion or a political statement open to debate. It is a clear and unequivocal fact borne out by decades of study and research, and it is a fact that neither government nor the public can ignore."

He also touted what he called a "paradigm" shift in the Obama administration's approach to dealing with addiction, moving away from the never-successful punishment angle to an emphasis on prevention, treatment and recovery.

Amen, Mr. Kerlikowske. You do get it. Treatment does work. And when people like me stop using, they stop demanding the illegal substances that flow into and around this country unabated no matter what law enforcement and international interdiction try to do to stop it. Treatment also reduces the tragic, costly toll of the legal drug alcohol.

Unfortunately, though, I doubt the drug czar has the full support of the guy in the Oval Office. For one thing, Kerlikowske, unlike his predecessor in the Bush administration, doesn't report to the big chief. President Barack Obama downgraded the head of the ONDCP from a Cabinet-level position when he took office in 2009. Too many wars to fight, I guess.

But more glaring is the Obama administration's utter failure to recognize, much less utilize, one of the most important "weapons" in this so-called war on drugs.

(I hate the war term but like the analogy to "weapons," so I'm using it even as this "war" always has been against sick people, not against the substances they use.)

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