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White House releases national drug control strategy

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“The Strategy delivers on the call to action in President Biden’s Unity Agenda through a whole-of-government approach to beat the overdose epidemic,” the administration said in a release, noting it focuses specifically on untreated addiction and drug trafficking.

“It instructs federal agencies to prioritize actions that will save lives, get people the care they need, go after drug traffickers’ profits and make better use of data to guide all these efforts,” it said. 

Dr. Rahul Gupta, left, the director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, walks with Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., at the White House, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, in Washington. 

Dr. Rahul Gupta, left, the director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, walks with Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., at the White House, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, in Washington. 
(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

The strategy calls for the expansion of high-impact harm reduction interventions including naloxone, ensuring that those at highest risk of overdose can access “evidence-based treatment” and improving data systems and research that guide drug policy development. 

“All too often, these drugs wind up in communities where naloxone isn’t readily available,” White House drug czar Dr. Rahul Gupta, who will oversee the strategy, said Wednesday, referring to the medication that can revive users who have overdosed, “where harm reduction services are restricted or underfunded, where there are unacceptable barriers to treatment.”

The American Medical Association (AMA) has advocated for naloxone to be made available over the counter. Test strips that prevent overdoses by checking drugs for fentanyl and clean syringe programs are other examples of harm reduction.

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Gupta, who is the first physician to lead the Office of National Drug Control Policy, noted that harm reduction prevents overdoses, reduces the transmission of infectious diseases and “as declared in a recent congressional commission report, it has bipartisan support.”

In addition, the strategy builds on President Biden’s fiscal year 2023 budget request for a $300 million increase to support the work of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and for a $300 million increase for the Drug Enforcement Administration. 

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“The Strategy includes specific actions to improve access to medication for opioid use disorder (MOUD) programs for jails and prisons; identify ways to advance racial equity in the investigation, arrest and sentencing for drug-related offenses without negatively impacting public safety; divert non-violent individuals from the criminal justice system and juvenile justice systems to treatment when appropriate and remove barriers and expand supportive services to help reintegrate people into society after incarceration,” the administration concluded.

Drug overdoses have killed 106,854 people in the most recent 12-month period.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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