January 27, 2020

Drug Policy and the Opioid Epidemic: A Conversation With Michael Botticelli

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Decades after the failed War on Drugs was declared, policies for significant, systemic change remain slow to materialize.

The War on Drugs, first launched in the 70s by the Nixon administration, focused on reducing illegal drug trade by targeting the drug supply and responding to possession and use with strict law enforcement. This approach has done little to help people impacted by substance use disorder and addiction, instead putting them in prisons and further hurting their chances for successful outcomes. Decades later, many consider the War on Drugs to be an astounding failure. Yet policies for significant, systemic change have been slow to materialize.

Addiction experts today agree that substance use disorder is an issue of health and biology, not of moral corruption, and approaches to rein in the reach and impact of the current drug crisis should be reformed to treat it as such.

Michael Botticelli, the executive director of the Grayken Center for Addiction and former Director of National Drug Control Policy for the Obama Administration, is an advocate for health equity, compassionate care, and health-based policies. In a recent conversation with the Public Health Post, he offered his views on the influence of politics on the opioid epidemic, the need for systemic, bipartisan solutions, and advice for health experts and law enforcement in responding to the current epidemic.

“Under President Obama, there was a pivot in drug spending and drug policy to really focus on a public health and health response to this epidemic… While we’ve seen some additional funding for states to respond to this epidemic from a health related response, there have also been attempts by the Trump administration and republicans in Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act. It’s an oxymoron to say that you support health responses and simultaneously to want to eviscerate the very mechanism by which people are getting addiction treatment and care in the United States.”

To hear more, check out the full PHPod episode from the Public Health Post featuring Botticelli.

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About the Author

Amanda Doyle

Amanda Doyle is the managing editor of HealthCity. Reach her at amanda.doyle@bmc.org.

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