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April 17th, 2012
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EXCLUSIVE: Drug czar unveils new national strategy for 2012, emphasizing treatment over incarceration

The so-called 'War on Drugs' began when Richard Nixon occupied the White House. Decades later, it's hard to say we're winning.

Illicit drug use has declined by 1/3 since the 1970s, with big drops in cocaine and methamphetamine use. But prescription drug abuse has tripled in the past 20 years, with fatal overdoses involving prescription medications up nearly 400% since the end of the last century.

Later this morning, the White House's director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy Gil Kerlikowske will unveil the administration's new drug policy strategy. In an exclusive interview with Zoraida Sambolin, Kerlikowske explains the new emphasis on treatment over prosecution in the war on drugs.

"For too many years, we looked at this as mostly just a criminal justice problem," Kerlikowske says. "I was a police chief for a long time. We can't arrest our way out of this problem."

Kerlikowske goes on to explain the changes in the new plan.

"What we've seen is that the work gets done at the local level, at the state and local level, and when we propose new policies and new programs that actually help people get in to recovery, we know they're not going to continue to be recycled back through the prison system which is not only incredibly costly but really doesn't do anything to make this country safer," he says.

He adds, "There's another group of experiments going on in different departments, police departments across the country, from Providence, Rhode Island, to Seattle, Washington, in which they are looking at and using ways alternatives to both arrest and alternatives to incarcerating people that again both keep people in the community safe but also recognize the addiction and the disease problem of drugs."

See more from the interview here.


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