Kerlikowske: Addiction is a Disease, Not a Moral Failure

Addiction is a disease, not a moral failure, according to Gil Kerlikowske, Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. He is scheduled to speak about addiction and drug control policy Monday at the Betty Ford Center in California.

He will call for more alternatives to current drug policy, including early intervention through health care, better access to treatment, more support during recovery, and effective public education, The Desert Sun reports. “Recovery is this long-term, lifelong process, with its own set of challenges and its own needs — and yet we fail to highlight that process,” he told the newspaper in an interview.

In 2010, 23 million people aged 12 or older needed treatment for an illicit drug or alcohol use problem, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Of these, 2.6 million received treatment at a specialty facility.

Kerlikowske also will call for a review of laws that can add to the challenges of recovery, such as barriers that prevent many minor drug offenders from obtaining housing and federal student aid. His goal is to curb the growing number of prison inmates, many of whom are coping with drug abuse, while reducing the $50 billion cost of incarcerating them.

Kerlikowske will be joined by U.S. House Representative Mary Bono Mack of Palm Springs, who has been raising awareness about prescription drug abuse. Bono Mack, who co-chairs the  Congressional Caucus on Prescription Drug Abuse, has introduced legislation that would revise  Food and Drug Administration drug classifications to ensure that drugs containing controlled-release oxycodone hydrochloride would be prescribed only for severe pain.

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    June 20, 2012 at 12:48 PM

    Can’t it be both though? that’s like saying “Strep throat is a disease, not a bacteria” while true the statement is misleading. it doesn’t make drug abuse any less of a disease to say that the cause of said disease is moral failure.

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    Mike Mitchell

    June 15, 2012 at 1:24 PM

    I wonder at the “black and white thinking” motivating the defining of addiction between a “moral failure” or a “disease.” This distinction is not logical and is certainly not followed, for instance, in the world of pain controlled treatment. The use of opiods in this treatment modality is understood to provide both physical and psychological addiction to the patient. Until something better is discovered, this is an understood reality. What then is the motivating factor for the concrete thinking behind attempting to provide either a judgemental or medical definition to addiction as experienced by those using mind/mood-altering chemicals illictly? Typically, the rationale behind concrete thinking of this type is based in an emotional reaction. I believe this emotional reaction is based in the world of politics and used by providers and poliltians alike to promote a philisophical belief onto what is supposed to be a scientific approach. What has gone wrong?

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