Melania Trump, Jim Carroll: Partnering to help America's children live their best, drug-free lives
Pandemic leads to rise in substance abuse
With limited access to treatment and no clear end in sight to the pandemic health experts fear worst is yet to come in fight against addiction.
This October, we commemorate National Substance Abuse Prevention Month.
As the first lady of the United States and the primary drug adviser to the president, we reinforce our commitment to ensuring the American people and our youth can live in strong, safe, and healthy communities that are drug-free.
The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and the first lady’s Be Best campaign have partnered to prevent youth substance use and raise awareness about the consequences of illicit drug use.
We stand firm in our belief that the most effective ways to protect our children and communities from drugs are by focusing on primary prevention—preventing drug use before it begins—educating individuals about their risks, and stopping drugs from entering our communities.
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After achieving the first annual decline in overdose deaths in nearly 30 years in 2018, provisional 2019 data show that overdose deaths are rising again.
The COVID-19 pandemic has not spared any region or demographic and has affected everyone in some way.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the “risk of drug use increases greatly during times of transition.”
This pandemic has imposed limitations on our physical proximity to others, increasing social isolation and loneliness. As a result, many have either turned to substances as an outlet or begun using them again.
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Preventing drug use starts in the community. To help parents, teachers, law enforcement, and other community leaders prevent young people from initiating drug use and, instead, encourage healthy, drug-free lives, the Trump administration is providing critical funding through ONDCP’s Drug-Free Communities (DFC) Support Program.
Each year, this funding supports around 700 community coalitions across the country focused on preventing drug use among people 18 and younger.
The DFC program has accounted for significant reductions in youth substance use: In communities with a DFC program, among many other benefits, alcohol use among middle school students declined by 25%, and prescription drug use by high school students declined by 26%.
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In September, President Trump announced $42.5 million in phase-one funding for the DFC program, and he’ll follow up with another funding announcement to close out Prevention Month.
The results of the DFC program underscore the importance of community-based efforts to prevent youth substance use. In fact, 73% of DFC-funded coalitions identify community involvement as a top protective factor with respect to substance use.
We need to renew our sense of community, regardless of whether it occurs in a safe in-person environment or virtually.
Throughout October, we have highlighted a number of the DFC coalitions and youth leaders across the country for their innovative work to prevent youth substance use and to help their peers #BeDrugFree. These youth leaders provide our nation with hope for a more drug-free future and we are honored to recognize them.
As we commemorate National Substance Abuse Prevention Month, we also honor the courageous women and men in law enforcement who combat the flow of illegal drugs into our communities.
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These brave individuals work tirelessly to intercept the narcotics being smuggled into our nation by land, air, and sea.
In fact, under the bold leadership of President Trump, we are taking the fight directly to criminal drug trafficking organizations.
For example, just this month, the DEA executed search warrants that resulted in the seizure of 2,224 pounds of methamphetamine, 893 pounds of cocaine, and 13 pounds of heroin from an affiliate of the Sinaloa Cartel. While, over the past year, Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations conducted complex criminal investigations into transnational criminal organizations that led to the seizure of over 1.4 million pounds of narcotics.
Additionally, the Coast Guard is relentlessly pursuing narcotraffickers at sea, and Customs and Border Protection is making record-breaking seizures at the border.
We’ve seen firsthand what our officers and agents are capable of, and we assure you that they stand ready to protect the safety and well-being of the American people.
As we have seen during the global pandemic, almost every facet of our lives has needed to adapt.
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The Office of National Drug Control Policy and the Be Best campaign remain committed to restoring and nurturing an environment that is conducive for all children to live their best, drug-free lives.
We love this country, and during National Substance Abuse Prevention Month, we reiterate our commitment to being relentless in our pursuit of ensuring all Americans, especially our children, live healthy and drug-free lives.
Jim Carroll is Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
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