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White House Drug Policy Shifts Strategy
Date:4/17/2012

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, April 17 (HealthDay News) -- The Obama Administration has chosen the middle ground with its new drug control policy, advocating treatment over tough sentencing.

The approach, unveiled Tuesday, rejects both the harsh "war on drugs" approach, characterized by maximum sentences for drug offenses, and the push to legalize illegal drugs.

Gil Kerlikowske, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, said during a news conference Tuesday that both approaches were "not humane or realistic, and not grounded in scientific evidence."

Instead, he said, the new blueprint calls for more community programs along with changes to the probation-and-parole system that would send non-violent offenders to substance abuse treatment.

"This is nothing short of a revolution in how we approach drug abuse," Kerlikowske said.

Although overall drug use is down in the United States, more Americans than ever are dying from drug-induced death, even more than from gunshot wounds, said Kerlikowske.

At the same time, more than 7 million people are under the supervision of the criminal justice system, either incarcerated or on probation or parole. Many have drug offenses, he noted.

"This underscores the need for different approaches for drug control, one that treats drug addiction as a disease, in which drug-related crime is addressed in a fair and equitable manner," Kerlikowske said. "We can't arrest our way out of the drug problem."

With that in mind, the new policy embraces three concepts, according to Kerlikowske's office: addiction is a disease that can be treated; people with substance use disorders can recover; and criminal justice reforms can stop the revolving door of drug use, crime, incarceration and re-arrest.

The new strategy builds on previous Obama Administration innovations, such as the 2010 Fair Sentencing Act, which rolled
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