As a debate wages over the best way to rid the country of drugs, a government report said research shows drug treatment has proven effective against repeated use and drug-related crime.
The Department of Health and Human Services report to Congress comes as former Florida Gov. Bob Martinez prepares for Senate confirmation hearings as the next director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.Critics of the nation's current drug policy have argued that former director William Bennett placed too much emphasis on jailing drug users, rather than treating them.
At a Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee hearing Tuesday, Chairman Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., called Bennett's style too "prosecutorial" and promised to thoroughly explore Martinez's intended emphasis at confirmation hearings.
The government's triennial report to Congress, "Drug Abuse and Drug Abuse Research," released Wednesday, called drug abuse a "chronic disorder," in which recurrences are common and repeated periods of treatment are frequently required. It said research shows promising developments in the drug treatment arena.
"By virtually every criterion used, there is good evidence that drug abuse significantly decreases following treatment," the report said. "Other destructive personal and social effects of drug abuse, such as drug-related crime, suicidal behavior, psychiatric problems, incarceration and unemployment, are also reduced."
The report did not spark any optimism from Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Select Committee on Narcotics Abuse and Control.
"The real war on drugs is not being fought, regardless of what anybody or any study says," Rangel said.
The Health and Human Services report cited two new drugs showing promise in treating drug users:
- Buprenorphine, a pain killer combining methadone-like effects with the ability to block the effects of additional opioids (manufactured drugs, such as demerol and darvon, resembling opiates).
- Clonidine, a drug used for controlling blood pressure, that has the potential for detoxifying opioid addicts and rendering another drug, naltrexone, more therapeutically effective.