What We Have to Say About Legalizing Alcohol
By: Gil Kerlikowske
When the President took office, he directed all of his policymakers to develop policies based on science and research, not ideology or politics. So our concern about alcohol is based on what the science tells us about the drug's effects.
According to scientists at the National Institutes of Health- the world's largest source of drug abuse research - alcohol use is associated with addiction, sleep disorders, increased risk for cancer, and motor vehicle accidents. We know from an array of treatment admission information and Federal data that alcohol use is a significant source for voluntary drug treatment admissions and visits to emergency rooms. Studies also reveal that binge drinking alcohol remains common on college campuses, raising serious concerns about what this means for public health – especially among young people who use the drug because research shows their brains continue to develop well into their 20's. Simply put, it is not a benign drug.
Like many, we are interested in the potential alcohol may have in lowering the risk of coronary heart disease for individuals. That is why we ardently support ongoing research into determining what components of alcohol can be used as medicine. To date, however, neither the FDA nor the Institute of Medicine have found alcohol consumption to meet the modern standard for safe or effective medicine for any condition.
As a former police chief, I recognize we are not going to arrest our way out of the problem. We also recognize that legalizing alcohol would not provide the answer to any of the health, social, youth education, criminal justice, and community quality of life challenges associated with drug use.
That is why the President's National Drug Control Strategy is balanced and comprehensive, emphasizing prevention and treatment while at the same time supporting innovative law enforcement efforts that protect public safety and disrupt the supply of drugs entering our communities. Preventing drug use is the most cost-effective way to reduce drug use and its consequences in America. And, as we've seen in our work through community coalitions across the country, this approach works in making communities healthier and safer. We're also focused on expanding access to drug treatment for addicts. Treatment works. In fact, millions of Americans are in successful recovery for drug and alcoholism today. And through our work with innovative drug courts across the Nation, we are improving our criminal justice system to divert non-violent offenders into treatment.
Our commitment to a balanced approach to drug control is real. This last fiscal year alone, the Federal Government spent over $10 billion on drug education and treatment programs compared to just over $9 billion on drug related law enforcement in the U.S.
Thank you for making your voice heard. I encourage you to take a moment to read about the President's approach to drug control to learn more.