Tag Archives: ONDCP

The Qualities Needed for Our New ONDCP Director

The New Director of White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) must deal with urgent problems. There’s a drug overdose epidemic from heroin, opioids and onslaught of synthetic drugs entering our country.  Furthermore, 25-34-year-olds are dying from drugs at a rate 5 times what it was in 1999.   (In 2000, NORML attacked ONDCP Director Barry McCaffrey’s campaign against drug use in the television ads.  McCaffrey, ONDCP Director from 1996-2001, is pictured above.)

For the next ONDCP Director, we need someone who acknowledges that marijuana causes psychosis, mental illness and addiction.   We need someone who recognizes that allowing states to legalize marijuana contributed to the growth of heroin addiction and deaths. This person must be familiar with addiction to all classes of drugs, as multi-substance abuse is the trend today.

Independents, Democrats and Republicans support Parents Opposed to Pot, as well as a large number of parents in Mexico and Canada.  What we do in the USA, helps other countries, or in the case of marijuana, harms them.  We’re bi-partisan, like the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988, which created the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Parents Opposed to Pot has more advocates in Colorado than any other state.  Colorado parents were blindsided with legalization and forced to address an aggressive marijuana industry.  The next ONDCP leader will need to speak out about how decriminalization is different from legalization.  Minorities are hurt by legalization more than others, because commercial marijuana preys on communities of color or impoverished places.

The next director will know that marijuana legalization did not replace cartels, but expanded the cartels’ US heroin sales. The heroin epidemic has many causes, but legalization of marijuana provided an opening and the cartels took advantage.   As one former prosecutor said, “Legalization doesn’t discourage the drug dealers and cartels; it emboldens them.”

The next ONDCP director will know that marijuana use is directly connected to heroin abuse.  (A video on the bottom of this article explains  this concept well.)  Currently, six percent of high school seniors are daily marijuana users.  These heavy, early pot users are conditioning their brains for other addictive substances, too.  Moreover, the studies of Yasmin Hurd find evidence that marijuana primes the brains of offspring for heroin addiction.  (Professor Hurd is Director of the Center for Addictive Disorders, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.)

BillBennett
William Bennett, author of the Book of Virtues, as ONDCP director in 1989-1990, was a forceful spokesperson against drug usage. He had served as Education Secretary and head of the National Endowment of the Humanities, and had a commitment to children.

The United States leads the world in drug use, with about 56% of the world’s drug users.  Demand reduction and prevention education should be a priority of the new ONDCP director.   Although there are useful aspects of “harm reduction,” it is far less effective in saving lives than “demand reduction.”  The evidence is in the US death rate from drugs.  We need renewed education efforts in elementary schools.

We’ve Screwed up Our Country, Now Let’s Get it Back

Since legalization means promotion, the ONDCP director will need to counter the fact that legalization equals commercialization.  The marijuana industry is looking for more and future users and the youth of America fits the bill.

Colorado has gained the most notoriety of the legalization states.  Much of the American public doesn’t understand the difference between decriminalization and legalization.  Diane Carlson, co-founder of Smart Colorado explained: “Many people thought they were voting to decriminalize marijuana.   Colorado already had decriminalized marijuana.  To the surprise of many, legalization led to full-blown marijuana commercialization practically overnight.

It’s not a “state’s rights” issue because commercial pot from legal states gets into the other states.  Interstate drug commerce is still illegal.  The problem is so widespread that other states have sued Colorado.

The next director will need to understand why marijuana does not replace pain medications. Promoting non-medical ways to address pain, such as MBSR and EMDR, should become a priority with Americans.  For those with addiction, substituting one addictive substance with another addictive substance only compounds their problems.  The ONDCP Director should be someone who can be outspoken on this issue.

Bringing Back Cabinet Level Status to the Drug Czar Will Save LivesONDCP Seal

Parents Opposed to Pot believes this position needs to be elevated to the cabinet level position it once was.  If it is reinstated as the “Drug Czar” position, it will have some moral standing working against  the scourge of drug deaths.

Attorney General Eric Holder made the bad decision to allow marijuana commercialization in Colorado and Washington in 2012.  Holder acted as if it was state’s rights issue, a big mistake. His Justice Department issued eight guidelines that states had to follow to avoid federal prosecution if they legalized pot.  Then the Justice Department did not follow its own guidelines.

President Obama’s first ONDCP Director, Gil Kerlikowske, had been the Police Chief of Seattle.  Marijuana activists thought he would be sympathetic to their cause, but he recognized the relationship between marijuana and crime.  Michael Botticelli followed Kerlikowske as ONCDP Director.  He recognized the dangers of marijuana and did not support it.

President Obama’s downgraded the role of ONDCP Director which is no longer a cabinet level position.  This re-assignment went along with a massive escalation of drug use and drug-induced deaths.   President Obama may have responded to pressure by the drug lobbyists.  Ironically, former Vice-President Joe Biden had coined the term “Drug Czar” in 1982.

Let’s put strength back into America’s resolve to end addiction and death by drugs!

Jon Daily, a rehabilitation therapist in California explains the connection between heroin and marijuana: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dcsp4dzLP1w&feature=youtu.be

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Dr. McKeganey Warned of the Marijuana – Mental Illness Link

PSA Warning Issued in 2005 was Ignored

Eleven years ago the ONDCP and SAMHSA held a press conference to inform of research that confirms what many families already knew–that marijuana use was a trigger for psychosis and mental illness.

The ONDCP is the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy; SAMHSA is the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.  Each agency has a crucial role in trying to ascertain usage and reduce demand for drugs.

Specifically, Dr. Neil McKehaney from the University of Glasgow came to the US and spoke at the national Press Club on May 5, 2005. The agencies went to great effort to share important information.  A video was recently found online.

Coverup of the Marijuana – Mental Illness  Risk

At this same Press Conference, a couple who had lost their 15-year-old son to suicide due to the mental health problems arising from marijuana use, spoke.  The Press covered the story, but did not use their considerable investigative skills to probe into what those parents and Dr. McKenagey were describing.  It is true that about one quarter of American high school students are depressed, which points to multiple problems of American culture, not just drugs. However, knowing how vulnerable teens are, and then not exposing the factors that could make their outcomes worse, is lamentable.

In addition to depression, anxiety and suicide, there are the risks of psychosis, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia that arise from marijuana use.  Pot proponents love to state that anyone who has a psychotic reaction to pot already had the problem before they used it.  They tend to blame family members for not  wanting to admit  mental health problems, and argue that pot is used as a scapegoat.

Several studies have shown a link between marijuana and schizophrenia.  Explains pharmacologist Christine Miller, Ph.D:  “No one is destined to develop schizophrenia. With identical twins, one can develop the disease and the other one will do so only 50% of the time, illustrating the importance of environmental factors in the expression of the disease.  Marijuana is one of those environmental factors and it is one we can do something about.”

A Missed Opportunity

One person who worked in the office of ONDCP Director John Walters told Parents Opposed to Pot, “They accused us of being pot-crazy during a time when there was a methamphetamine crisis going on.  Marijuana is almost always the first drug introduced to young people and the evidence for the mental health risks were very strong by 2005.  Although pot was getting stronger as it is today, the warning was falling on deaf ears.  Members of Congress wanted us to focus on the meth crisis, but marijuana was a growing issue and we had a myriad of issues.”

This Public Service Announcement reached audiences in the Press, and some newspapers and magazines reported about it.  Since the Internet and search engines were not as they are  today,  few parents, children,  schools and mental health professionals took notice.   (Did the marijuana lobbying groups bully and try squelch the information?)

Lori Robinson, whose son suffered the mental health consequences of marijuana said:  “I will always deeply regret Shane not hearing this PSA .  Shane was a smart, gregarious and fun-loving young man who naively began using pot never knowing he was playing Russian roulette with his brain in ’05-’06 at the age of 19.   Dr McKeganey so clearly stated that the public views marijuana as harmless, not realizing the potency of THC was rising while the “antipsychotic” property of CBD was being bred out.  Sadly, despite both parents never used an illegal drug in our lives, our son assumed that since a few of his friend had smoked in high school, it was just a “harmless herb.”   Shane’s story is on the Moms Strong website.

Robinson added, “This video is absolutely current TODAY.  Let’s keep this video circulating & it WILL save young brains & families the destruction that lies ahead when marijuana hijacks your kid’s brain.

The research has expanded since that time and scientific evidence on each of the following outcomes from marijuana use is voluminous: marijuana & psychosis, marijuana & violence and marijuana & psychiatric disorders.

Lessons to be Learned

Lives could have been saved, and so many cases of depression, psychotic breakdowns and crimes could have been prevented – if the public had become more aware back in 2005.   Congress, the Press and most of all, the American psychiatric community was wrong to ignore the warnings that were issued with this PSA.

Let’s not continue to ignore  the evidence. Today in the US, mental health is worse than it’s ever been, and the promotion of drug usage may be a huge factor in this problem.  Harm reduction in preference to primary prevention strategies is practiced in many jurisdictions.  Drug overdose deaths have overtaken gun violence deaths and traffic fatalities in the USA — by far — under this strategy.

Today Dr. McKeganey is the Director of the Center for Substance Use Research in Glasgow.

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SAM Joins Forces with NAADAC

Kevin Sabet,Smart Approaches to Marijuana Hold Key to Solving Addiction Crisis

Most of the young people who overdose from drugs began their illicit drug usage with marijuana, according to government statistics which have quoted it at 71%.  Parents Opposed to Pot receives anecdotal evidence suggesting this pattern over and over.  Some teens develop marijuana addiction, but marijuana is also a gateway drug for many other people who become addicted to cocaine, heroin, opiates and other drugs.

Facing our nation’s growth in drug addiction, NAADAC, the Association for Addiction Professionals, and SAM, Smart Approaches to Marijuana, announced a new strategic partnership on August 25.   SAM, an alliance of organizations and individuals Continue reading SAM Joins Forces with NAADAC

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Harm Reduction vs. Legalization – The Myths and Politics

by Robert Weiner, originally published in the Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Weekly last October:  Last week, the Harm Reduction Coalition held its conference in Baltimore. Marijuana legalization is not one of its issues, which are mainly access to clean needles and syringes, overdose prevention with naloxone, HIV and hepatitis C, and the rights of drug users. Keynote speaker Michael Botticelli, acting director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), supports naloxone and medication-assisted treatment. He is a clear harm reduction advocate, but not an advocate of marijuana legalization.

But harm reduction sometimes gets confused with marijuana legalization. I had the privilege of speaking to the “Politics” class at American University in nearby Washington, D.C. on October 20, a few days before the conference was to begin. I was invited to discuss the movement toward drug legalization. I also covered some “harm reduction” assertions as well.

Unfortunately, because the legalization movement is sweeping across America, my counterpoints were very well-received — I say “unfortunately” because we are being overcome by the tidal wave of the movement. Here is some of what I said to Assistant Professor Rick Semiatin’s “Washington Semester” class of juniors and seniors from 200 colleges and universities across the United States.

I’m a “liberal” on most things, but on the drug issue, I know the harm that is done by car crashes, DUIs, date rape and the impact of flooding already overcrowded emergency rooms — and that includes from marijuana, which most “legalizers” claim they want to separate from “harder” drugs. I was the one who wrote then-Congressman Ed Koch’s testimony on his bill in the 1970s to legalize marijuana, and sat with him at the table as he told Congress that drugs are personal and harmless, and that we should stop crowding our prisons. But both Ed and I learned and changed our positions, he as mayor of New York City and me as I learned more and more as spokesman for the House Narcotics Committee and then the White House ONDCP.

I told the students that the election is being overwhelmed by the issue because my own party, the Democrats, don’t want to touch it. They are afraid their candidates will lose a big chunk of the youth and liberal base who support legalization/decriminalization in the legislatures and state referenda. Like laetrile in the 1970s (which was legalized in more than 20 states and was supposed to cure cancer but turned out to be useless apricot pits that simply deferred real and needed treatment), “medical” marijuana is backed up only anecdotally and never is compared to an “n” of other treatment modalities that would be prescribed by doctors. There is truth to former drug czar Barry McCaffrey’s joke that a shot of gin also takes away your pain. Having said that, no one wants to deny a truly sick or dying patient who wants to get high the opportunity to feel better, even if it’s a placebo effect. It’s not the truly “medical” cases anyone wants to stop; it’s what law enforcement tells us are the 90+ % (and as many as 99 %) non-sick people who also come in to the clinics feigning illness with a makeshift letter just to get drugs.addiction equality

Harms of marijuana

The evidence on harm in the legalizing states is rolling in. You have to scrounge for the reports, but they say, “youth marijuana use increased by nearly 11 % since medical marijuana became legal in 2009,” “traffic fatalities involving drivers testing positive for marijuana have increased by 100 percent between 2007 and 2012” and “toxicology reports with positive marijuana results for driving under the influence have increased 16 % from 2011 to 2013.” In addition, Colorado Public Radio reported, “Denver Emergency Room Doctor Seeing More Patients for Marijuana Edibles.” The United Nations reported, “Marijuana-related Health Problems on Rise in US,” with a 12 % rise last year in marijuana usage by teens.

But for the most part, the legalization referenda are speeding ahead. The most-cited ones, in Oregon and D.C., show legalization 11 and 20 points up, respectively, with just days before the election, and the legalization advocates say they are counting on “young voter turnout.” Since Democrats count on that demographic as well, you can understand the silence.

Even though Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley told me personally two weeks ago that “I’m concerned about legalization” because of car crashes, emergency room upticks, the horrible message to kids (how legalization disarms parents from the moral high ground on the message), and the like, politicians in the state are silent on the issue.

Of course, the legalizers say the drug war is a “failure.” But the students I addressed did open their eyes when I said that because of the efforts of parents, teachers, coaches and religious and business leaders, and a strong foreign policy (Plan Colombia) and domestic enforcement efforts, drug use has declined almost 50 % in the last three decades, and cocaine use — the disproportionate driver of crime — is down 70 %. If any other social problem, such as literacy, hunger or poverty, or health problem, such as cancer, diabetes and heart attacks, improved 50–70 %, would we call it a failure?DOJMarijuana

Drug Courts Work

To these quite smart college juniors and seniors, I pointed out that medically assisted treatment — including methadone, buprenorphine and Vivitrol — is in fact harm reduction. It’s valid because people can function, work and pay taxes. But if we’re talking about heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine to addicts, that’s pure nonsense that destroys their lives. If we are talking about marijuana, I still oppose it because it jams hospital emergency rooms with car crashes and treatment centers with patients. Legalization or decriminalization would simply increase availability and use. When I debate the Ethan Nadelmanns of the world on radio or Bill Maher or Crossfire, they invariably say, “That’s true but…” I cut in and say, “You can’t say ‘but’ to more availability and use — that’s the point. Aside from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?”

I do concede we need to stop prison overcrowding but point out that’s why Attorney General Janet Reno and ONDCP Director McCaffrey supported creating drug courts, for treatment instead of prison for nonviolent drug offenders. There were eight drug courts when we started in 1996. Drug courts rose to 1,000 under Clinton-Reno-McCaffrey, and now are near 3,000.

Science, not politics, should guide U.S. drug policy.  Bob Weiner is former spokesman for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, the House Narcotics Committee and the House Government Operations Committee. He now heads up a public affairs and issues strategies group in Washington, D.C., Robert Weiner Associates, and is founder and president of Solutions for Change, a foundation supporting young journalists to write op-eds informing the public on issues in major newspapers. He can be contacted at weinerpublic@comcast.net

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