The United States has been fighting a "war on drugs" since the Nixon era. Yesterday, Republican U.S. Sen. Rob Portman said the fight probably will never end in Ohio and now is the time to start calling it something else. Last week the state released data showing that Ohio suffered a record 1,765 drug-overdose deaths in 2011, the most recent data available. An Ohioan died every five hours from a drug overdose that year.
The United States has been fighting a “war on drugs” since the Nixon era.
Yesterday, Republican U.S. Sen. Rob Portman said the fight probably will never end in Ohio and now is the time to start calling it something else.
“A lot of people talk about the reference to end drug abuse as an armed conflict because it’s a war on drugs,” Portman said during his keynote speech at the 2013 Ohio Opiate Conference. “I think it’s the wrong way to think of it. I think that in part because millions of our co-workers, our families and others suffer from addiction disorder, and it’s not really a war, it’s more a public- safety, public-health issue.”
Last week the state released data showing that Ohio suffered a record 1,765 drug-overdose deaths in 2011, the most recent data available. An Ohioan died every five hours from a drug overdose that year.
While applauding continued law-enforcement efforts to stem drug use — Portman was speaking specifically about prescription drug abuse — he said it’s “very difficult to deal with this issue unless you are doing it in a holistic way.”
“But if you can deal with it at the top end of the problem, before people get addicted, boy, the cost savings are incredible,” Portman said.
Portman’s speech seemed to align with recent rhetoric from others around the globe — particularly in Latin America — about moving away from war when discussing drug abuse.
“War implies winners and losers on all sides. Anti-drugs policy should ban this term,” said Oscar Adolfo Naranjo Trujillo, Mexican director of the Instituto Latinoamericano de Ciudadania, during a World Economic Forum summit last week in Peru.
“When we add the concept of war, what happens is that the criminal knows his only option is death, and so the logic is, he has to kill or he will be killed.” Naranjo Trujillo said.
Portman told the conference yesterday that one measure he co-sponsored in Congress to address the “ demand” side of the drug problem was the ID MEDS Act, a bipartisan bill signed by President Barack Obama establishing national standards for states to share information from prescription-drug monitoring programs.
Portman also praised efforts in Ohio by Gov. John Kasich, Attorney General Mike DeWine and others to shut down “pill mills” and pursue expanded treatment for addiction.
“This issue cannot be solved, in my view,” Portman said. “I don’t mean to be pessimistic, but to say the reality is, it’s kind of like with the ocean — the tide is going to keep coming in, and you have to keep fighting.”