"The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction,
is the first and only legitimate object of good government." -- Thomas
Strategy: An Overview
he first duty of government is to protect its citizens. The Constitution
of the United States -- as interpreted over 208 years -- articulates the
obligation of the federal government to uphold the public good, providing
a bulwark against all threats, foreign and domestic. Illegal drugs constitute
one such threat. Toxic, addictive substances present a hazard to society
as a whole. Like a corrosive, insidious cancer, drug abuse diminishes the
potential of our citizens for full growth and development.
The traditions of American government and democracy affirm self-determination
and freedom. While government must minimize interference in the private
lives of citizens, it cannot deny security to individuals and the collective
culture the people uphold. Drug abuse and its consequences destroy personal
liberty and the well-being of communities. Crime, violence, anti-social
behavior, accidents, unintended pregnancies, drug-exposed infants, and
addiction are only part of the price illegal drug use imposes on society.
Every drug user risks his ability to think rationally and his potential
for a full, productive life. Drug abuse drains the physical and moral strength
of America. It spawns global criminal syndicates and bankrolls those who
sell drugs to children. Illegal drugs foster crime and violence in our
inner cities, suburbs, and rural areas.
Drug-induced deaths increased 47 percent between 1990 and 1994 and number
approximately 14,000 a year.1
Illegal drugs also burden our society with approximately $67 billion in
social, health, and criminal costs each year.2
Absent effective government action, the damage to our country would be
even greater. Historians have documented America's experience with addictive
drugs over the past two hundred years. The ebb and flow of drug use recurred
in roughly thirty-year cycles: an uninformed or forgetful public becomes
indifferent to the dangers of rising drug use only to recoil at its devastating
consequences. For the benefit of all Americans, the 1997 National Drug
Control Strategy sets a steady course to reduce drug abuse and its
Strategy considers the relationship between available resources and
goals. As an executable plan, it offers ways to achieve ends in an efficient
manner. Strategy sets the timetable for efforts undertaken and reassesses
relevance as conditions change. Strategy also embodies will. With a sense
of optimism, the American people dedicate themselves to the proposition
that our country can become safer and healthier, imbued with the vigor
of thriving communities and contributing citizens.
The National Drug Control Strategy is designed to provide guidance
for the long-term. It proposes a ten-year commitment supported by five-year
budgets so that continuity of effort can help ensure success. The strategy
addresses the two sides of the challenge: limiting availability of illegal
drugs and reducing demand. This document contains our collective wisdom
for confronting illegal drugs. It provides general guidance while identifying
specific initiatives. Particular programs will be reassessed annually to
maximize opportunities for success, but the overall approach must be sustained.
The challenge is to reinforce progress while not wasting resources on unproductive
efforts. Nevertheless, sufficient time must be allotted to a program lest
premature evaluation distort findings.
The National Drug Control Strategy is America's main guide in
the struggle to decrease illegal drug use. The strategy provides a compass
for the nation to reach this critical objective. Developed in consultation
with public and private organizations, it sets a course for the nation's
collective effort against drugs.
for a National Drug Control Strategy
The Controlled Substances Act, Title II of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse
Prevention and Control Act of 1970, is the legal foundation of the government's
fight against abuse of drugs and other substances. This law consolidates
numerous regulations pertaining to the manufacture and distribution of
narcotics, stimulants, depressants, hallucinogens, anabolic steroids, and
chemicals used in the illicit production of controlled substances.
The federal Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988 established as a policy goal
of the United States government the creation of a drug-free America. A
key provision of that act was the establishment of the Office of National
Drug Policy to set priorities and objectives for national drug control,
promulgate the National Drug Control Strategy on an annual basis,
and oversee the strategy's implementation. Congress requires that the strategy
be comprehensive and research-based; contain long-range goals and shorter-term,
measurable objectives; and seek to reduce drug abuse and its consequences.
Specifically, drug abuse is likely to be curbed by: reducing the number
of illegal drug users; preventing use of illegal drugs, alcohol, and tobacco
by underage youth; and reducing the availability of illegal drugs.
of the National Drug Control Strategy
Since passage of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act, seven formal versions of the
National Drug Control Strategy have been drafted. All defined the
reduction in demand for illegal drugs as a main focus of drug control efforts.
In addition, the documents soon recognized the prevention of drug, alcohol,
and tobacco use among youth as the most important goal. The various strategies
realized that no single approach could rescue the nation from the cycle
of drug abuse. A consensus was reached that drug prevention, education,
and treatment must be complemented by drug supply reduction abroad, on
our borders, and within the United States. Each strategy also shared the
commitment to maintain and enforce anti-drug laws. Finally, these strategies
tied policy to an increasingly scientific, research-based body of knowledge
about the nation's drug problems.
Over the years, the drug strategies codified desirable outcomes as "goals."
In 1996, the strategy established five major goals as the basis for a coherent,
rational, long-term national effort. Subsequently, the Office of National
Drug Control Policy solicited and received nationwide comments on last
year's edition; this feedback informed the 1997 strategy. The resulting
document is offered as a distillation of the national experience and a
conceptual framework for reducing illegal drug use and its consequences
over the next decade.
of the 1997 National Drug Control Strategy
- Democratic. Our nation's domestic challenge is to reduce drug
use and its consequences while protecting individual liberties. Our international
challenge is to develop effective programs that reduce the cultivation,
production, and trafficking of illegal drugs while supporting democratic
governance and human rights.
- Outcome-oriented. A decrease in drug use and its negative consequences
is the desired outcome of this Strategy. All initiatives in the
strategy must serve that end. Over the course of ten years, many programs
will adapt or evolve as we assess the progress that has been made.
- Balanced. Reducing the drug problem in America requires a multi-faceted,
balanced program. We cannot hope to decrease drug abuse by relying exclusively
on one approach. William Bennett laid out in the 1989 National Drug
Control Strategy a lesson that still applies today: "... no single
tactic -- pursued alone or to the detriment of other possible and valuable
initiatives -- can work to contain or reduce drug use." We can expect
no panacea, no "silver bullet." We can neither arrest nor educate
our way out of this problem. The 1997 Strategy presents a range
of approaches that promise, when taken together, to decrease illegal drug
use in America.
- Long-term. There can be no short-term solutions to a problem
that requires education of each generation and resolute opposition to criminal
traffickers. Our approach must be long-term and continuous. We will marshal
the resources to resist drug traffickers, manage the social trauma of drug
abuse, and create the engaged, supportive, community environment needed
to educate American youth. The 1997 Strategy outlines a range of
approaches that promise, when taken together, to decrease drug abuse in
America for generations.
- Wide-ranging. One consequence of modern communication and transportation
is a "shrinking" of the world and the nation. Drug abuse is not
limited to one region of the country or one country in the world. The Strategy
uses initiatives like prevention, education, treatment, research, law enforcement,
interdiction, and illicit drug crop reduction to deal with illegal drug
use across the spectrum of human organization. We cannot stop drug use
and abuse in America while allowing traffickers to subvert other governments,
establish safe-havens in some countries, or overwhelm the capabilities
of local law enforcement. The initiatives in the 1997 Strategy establish
a partnership among federal, state, and local governments, and with community-based
organizations and the private sector, to solve common problems.
- Realistic. Some people believe that drug use is so deeply embedded
in society that we can never hope to decrease it. Others feel that the
problem can be solved in short order if draconian measures are adopted.
Avoiding extremes, the Strategy rejects both of these views. We
can reduce drug use without compromising American ideals if we maintain
- Introspective. If the strategy is to be dynamic and successful,
it must incorporate a self-assessment process. We must measure objectively
the progress or failure of a project and modify tactics accordingly.
Drug abuse has plagued America for more than a century. To turn that
negative experience around will require perseverance and vigilance. Our
nation can contain and decrease the damage wrought by drug abuse and its
consequences. But we will have to apply ourselves with a resolve marked
by continuing education for our citizens, the determination to resist criminals
who traffic in illegal drugs, and the patience and compassion to treat
individuals caught in the grip of illegal drugs.
The metaphor of a "war on drugs" is misleading. Wars are expected
to end. Addressing drug abuse is a continuous challenge; the moment we
believe ourselves to be victorious and free to relax our resolve, drug
abuse will rise again. Furthermore, the United States does not wage war
on its citizens, many of whom are the victims of drug abuse. These individuals
must be helped, not defeated. It is the suppliers of illegal drugs, both
foreign and domestic, who must be thwarted.
A more appropriate analogy for the drug problem is cancer. Dealing with
cancer is a long-term proposition. It requires the mobilization of support
mechanisms -- human, medical, educational, and societal, among others --
to check its spread, deal with its consequences, and improve the prognosis.
Resistance to its spread is necessary, but so is patience, compassion,
and the will to carry on against its inroads. Pain must be managed while
the root cause is attacked. The road to recovery is long and complex.
Decreasing illegal drug use in America is a difficult task. The 1997
Strategy provides a long-term vision that can be implemented, measured,
and adapted to secure our goal. The duty of the federal government is to
help communities resist drug abuse and overcome its consequences. Ultimately,
each American must make his or her own decision about whether to begin
or stop using illegal drugs and how to enable communities to overcome the
impact of drug abuse. The National Drug Control Strategy focuses
government resources to help Americans make the right decisions -- for
their individual well-being and for society -- and to reduce the cancer
of drugs in America.
1. National Center for Health
Statistics, Advance Report of Final Mortality Statistics, 1994,
Vol. 45. No. 3, Supplement (Hyattsville, Md.: U.S. Department of Health
and Human Services, September 30, 1996).
2. Dorothy P. Rice, unpublished
data (San Francisco, Calif: Institute for Health and Aging, University