Friday, May 22, 2009

The Real "War on Drugs": Treatment Vs. Your Brain?

Is "war on drugs" an outdated slogan? Gil Kerlikowske, White House drug czar, thinks so. He wants us to see addiction as a public health threat more than a criminal one. Courtland Milloy writes in the Washington Post that we could accomplish the same thing if we keep the slogan, but redefine what the "war on drugs" is.

It’s an interesting idea: Instead of casting the nation as the battleground, why not the brain of the individual drug user? Instead of the combatants as law enforcement vs. the criminal drug suppliers, why not the medication vs. the drug? Milloy’s analogy continues: Medication as a “rescue mission” inside an “occupied brain.” Drugs inside the body as a molecular “distribution network.” And drugs’ effects on the brain as “corrupt[ing] a ‘family of genes.’”

Gaining public support is important if we want to see more money spent on treatment and less on keeping drugs out of the country. For instance, researchers are developing the first medication for cocaine addiction which blocks the desire to use and the rewarding effects. Many would argue, we can’t stop drugs from coming here, and incarceration is of limited use, so why not shift these dollars toward promising research like this? But will the public support it? The old “war on drugs” lingo makes sense to people. Maybe they could come to understand treatment as a war, too.

What do you think?

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