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Drug use to be treated as public health issue, White House says


By the Associated Press
Posted: May 11, 2010 - 5:45 pm ET
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The White House announced a shift in national drug policy that would treat illegal drug use more as a public health issue and plunge more resources into prevention and treatment.

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The new drug control strategy boosts community-based anti-drug programs, encourages healthcare providers to screen for drug problems before addiction sets in and expands treatment beyond specialty centers to mainstream healthcare facilities. President Barack Obama called the plan a “balanced approach to confronting the complex challenge of drug use and its consequences.”

His drug czar, Gil Kerlikowske, was more blunt. “Calling it a war really limits your resources,” Kerlikowske told reporters. “Looking at this as both a public safety problem and a public health problem seems to make a lot more sense.”

The plan — the first drug strategy unveiled by the Obama White House — calls for reducing the rate of youth drug use by 15% over the next five years and for similar reductions in chronic drug use, drug abuse deaths and drugged driving. The new drug plan encourages healthcare professionals to ask patients questions about drug use even during routine treatment so that early intervention is possible. It also helps more states set up electronic databases to identify doctors who are over-prescribing addictive pain killers. “Putting treatment into the primary healthcare discussion is critical,” Kerlikowske said in an interview.

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