Some 22 million Americans abuse drugs or alcohol. Just 10 percent of them get treated – and an alarming number relapse, says the Philadelphia Inquirer. At treatment centers, half the counselors quit each year. The newest research-based therapies often do not reach clinics. In the dysfunction, A. Thomas McLellan, a University of Pennsylvania professor now the nation’s No. 2 drug-policy official, sees opportunity.
Science, he says, can make treatment inviting, catch abuse before it turns into addiction, and save communities millions of dollars – in short, remake a system that has been shaped by the politics of avoidance. A test of his influence is due in the coming days, when President Obama releases his National Drug Control Strategy. The document, written by McLellan and his boss, drug czar Gil Kerlikowske, will guide the actions of 11 federal agencies that deal with drugs, from education to homeland security.