U.S. Drug Czar wants to expand on drug prevention and treatment efforts - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

U.S. Drug Czar wants to expand on drug prevention and treatment efforts

CEDAR RAPIDS (KWWL) - Almost 40 years ago, President Richard Nixon declared a war on drugs, but President Barack Obama's new drug control policy would call for ending that phrase.

While in Iowa Monday, the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy Gil Kerlikowske said he wants to shift the nation's drug policy focus from incarceration to prevention and treatment.

We went to the Area Substance Abuse Council (ASAC) in Cedar Rapids. We spoke with a counselor and a client, who say programs that treat addictions will always be more effective than a simple jail sentence.

"I know I'd probably be at the bottom of a bottle if it wasn't for these folks," said Lisa, who came to ASAC at the end of September. She says the value of treatment centers like ASAC cannot be overstated.

She says ASAC's counselors helped her find what caused her to turn to alcohol in the first place, something she would not have learned from the criminal justice system.

"It is detrimental for an addict or an alcoholic to be incarcerated without tools to be able to save their life," Lisa told us.

Dino Irvin has been a substance abuse counselor for 22 years. His experience has taught him that many people with drug problems get caught in a cycle of "catch and release;" serving jail time, only to return to drugs and get into more trouble.

"It takes time and real effort to identify the issues related to an individual's substance usage," Irvin explained. He told us that it's not a simple matter of stopping the drug use. He uses an integrated approach that usually involves a client's family.

"It's so important that the government realizes that we're dealing with human lives, not only the addict, but also the family, and if we don't deal with the family, we're going to have some more addicts."

And when it comes to money, Irvin and ASAC's deputy director say prevention and treatment will always cost less than incarceration in the long run, both for the community at large, and for people like Lisa who are overcoming their addictions.

"I wouldn't be where I'm at today, and as healthy as I feel today, without the rehabilitation program."

Online Reporter - Brady Smith

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