National Drug Control Policy Director R. Gil Kerlikowske told a group of 700 people at a conference that drug abuse is a brain disease and “we should continue to provide treatment to addicts.” Kerlikowske added the alarming fact that drug overdoses now kill more Americans than traffic crashes or gunshot wounds. “This is an unbelievably complex problem,” he said.
Kerlikowske, said that medical marijuana isn’t medicine and that it is difficult and takes a long time to prosecute doctors who run pill mills.
He added that there has been a 40% decrease in cocaine use since 2006 and, in some areas of our nation, declines in methamphetamine use. Also, prescription drug abuse is on the decline as the number of abusers dropped from 7 million in 2010 to 6.1 million in 2011.
Kerlikowske stated the cold statistics attributed to drug abuse. In 2010, 38,000 deaths were attributed to prescription drug overdoses. In the years 1981-2007, about 32,000 Americans died from gun violence, according to a University of Pennsylvania study. The U.S. Transportation Department reports figures that are similar for deaths caused by traffic accidents in 2011.
With prescription drugs becoming more difficult to obtain, heroin use is increasing. Kerlikowske said that many people don’t understand the risks and often begin by “smoking or snorting the drug but that can lead to addiction and eventual use of needles. We should be very concerned,” he said.
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