Bush wants to reduce drug use

Wednesday, February 13, 2002

WASHINGTON -- President Bush set a goal Tuesday of cutting drug abuse by 25 percent in five years through greater efforts toward prevention, treatment of addicts and improved law enforcement.

Bush announced his administration's drug-fighting strategy, which also seeks a 10 percent drop in illegal drug use in two years.

"We've got a problem in this country: Too many people use drugs," he said. "This is an individual tragedy, and as a result it is a social crisis."

The administration says Bush's budget proposal for next year, announced last week, would spend 6 percent more for treatment and 10 percent more for drug interdiction.

Overall, $19.2 billion would be spent on fighting drugs, which would be a 2 percent increase over the current budget.

Bush said some of the most important anti-drug work will have to come not from the federal government, but from communities, religious groups and families.

'Armies of compassion'

He called for "armies of compassion," directed through religious institutions, to send the message that "We love you. We love you so much we're going to convince you not to use drugs in the future."

"There is a moral reason for this fight," Bush said to lawmakers, ambassadors and anti-drug officials in the East Room of the White House. "Drugs rob men and women and children of their dignity and their character. Illegal drugs are the enemies of ambition and hope."

While the anti-drug strategy includes some new programs, including a $5 million Parents Drug Corps, much of it emphasizes a need to make existing programs more effective.

Among the priorities are identifying people who need treatment but are unlikely to seek it, such as the homeless; helping recovering addicts stay clean; and doing more to disrupt drug traffickers' financial and distribution networks.

White House drug policy director John Walters said it also is important to change public attitudes.

"We have to undermine the cynicism that people are always going to use drugs at roughly the same amount that they're using now. That's not true. And my goal is to demonstrate that's not true," he said in an interview.

The report comes two months after Walters was confirmed for the Cabinet-level post over the objections of some top Democrats. A protégé of former drug policy director William Bennett, Walters was seen as being more focused on punishing traffickers and fighting drugs abroad than in helping drug users through treatment programs.

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