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'

Justin Carissimo
New York
Tuesday 29 March 2016 15:10 BST
Obama speaks in Atlanta.
Obama speaks in Atlanta. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

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."

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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.

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