Barack Obama says drug addiction should not be treated as criminal problem

'If we treat addiction like a crime, we aren't doing anything scientific and it's ineffective'

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The Independent US

President Barack Obama has unveiled his strategy to combat heroin addiction and prescription drug abuse.

The president outlined his plan at the National Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit in Atlanta to push his $1.1 billion funding initiative to fight the epidemic.

“We’re seeing a bipartisan interest in addressing this problem,” President Obama said during the summit. “If we treat addiction like a crime, we aren't doing anything scientific and it's ineffective.”

One person dies every 19 minutes from opioid overdose, according to the CDC, and medication-based treatment remains a key component for the administration's plan of action.

"Expanding access to medication-assisted treatment for opioid-use disorders has been a top priority for this administration,” Michael Botticelli, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, said in a call to reporters. “Research clearly shows that this approach, when combined with behavioral therapies, is more effective at sustaining recovery and preventing overdose."

The Administration plans to expand access to treatment by issuing $94 million to 271 community health centers across the country to increase substance use disorder treatment, according to a White House fact sheet released prior to the summit. The Department of Health and Human Services will also propose a rule to increase the number of patients doctors can treat with buprenorphine from 100 to 200 patients.

President Obama also plans to sign a memorandum to establish a mental health and substance-use task force.