WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), co-chairs of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, today released a bipartisan report entitled Reducing the U.S. Demand for Illegal Drugs that outlines strategies for Congress and the Obama Administration to reduce the massive U.S. demand for illegal drugs.
Drug abuse in the United States poses a major public health challenge while also costing our country $193 billion a year in preventable health care, law enforcement and addiction expenses. In 2010, about 22.6 million Americans aged 12 and older were current illegal drug users. This is the largest proportion in the past decade of people aged 12 and older identified as current illegal drug users.
“Unfortunately, almost 9 percent of the U.S. population used illegal drugs in 2010, so it’s hard to argue that enough is being done to reduce demand,” said Senator Feinstein. “Only if we address the country’s appetite for illicit drug use can we prevent drug trafficking and the violence and loss of life it brings throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. Tragically, just across the U.S. border in Mexico, more than 50,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence over the past five years.”
“There are multiple causes behind the demand for illegal drugs, so there has to be a multifaceted solution to the problem,”said Senator Grassley. “We know there’s been success with an educational component. For example, we’ve heard from first-time users of synthetic drugs who would have stayed away, had they known the risks and consequences. The dramatic escalation of violence in drug supplying countries might also give some potential U.S. drug users pause if they were informed of the consequences their use has on other nations. Most importantly, we have to reduce the demand fueled by easy access to drugs, such as the dramatic increase in the abuse of prescription pain killers that are readily available in medicine cabinets across the country. Finally, we need to explore options for reducing access to prescription drugs by ensuring the proper checks are in place on health care providers who prescribe these dangerous prescriptions drugs without performing enough due diligence and medical oversight.”
The report recommends:
- Funding for innovative probation programs that are cost-effective and have significantly reduced recidivism, such as the Hawaii Opportunity Probation with Enforcement (HOPE), which emphasizes quick punishment when individuals violate conditions of their probation;
- Passage of the Online Pharmacy Safety Act (S. 2002) which would help stop criminals from exploiting the Internet to illegally sell prescription drugs;
- Reorientation of U.S. anti-drug media campaigns to demonstrate the correlation between violence in drug producing and transit countries and consumption in the United States;
- Blocking of any efforts to merge substance abuse and mental health prevention programs by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; and
- Improved collection of data on U.S. drug use and treatment.
The report is also endorsed by Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas), members of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control. The entire report can be found here.