According to Reuters, the United States sees drug abuse as a public health problem as much as a crime issue and is seeking to learn from countries in Europe and elsewhere about how to treat addiction as a disease, Barack Obama told drugs policy chief on Tuesday.
Gil Kerlikowske, the US drug czar, claims the US is taking a more balanced approach to substance abusers, hoping to provide treatment rather than punishment from the "war on drugs." Medical advances show that addiction is a chronic disease of the brain, and it can also be prevented and treated. Gil suggests that the international community should work together to treat drug abusers, helping addicts to recover. He warns against the revolving door that is created with drug use and punitive consequences.
"It is very clear we can't arrest our way out of this problem. The availability of quality treatment and the engagement of the public health sector and primary care physicians in drug issues is very critical," Gil said. Some statistics suggest that nearly 20 million Americans could benefit treatment and recovery, but only about 4 million get the help they need.
Prescription drug abuse has become a serious problem that demands attention. Gil Kerlikowske has been traveling in Europe, eager to talk with these other nations about how they are dealing with drug problems. He noted a "somewhat successful" approach in Portugal, where authorities have dispensed arrests, trials, and prison for people carrying a personal amount of drugs.
Much of the addiction and recovery research is conducted in the US, and Gil hopes to share these findings with other countries. The evidence of much of this research points toward the benefits of drug courts. Gil said, "The scientists, have all recognized addiction as a disease, and it doesn't take a huge amount of reading of research papers to understand and accept scientific evidence. The problem is that the disease is chronic. Unfortunately, it doesn't lend itself to a quick fix."
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