Addiction in the Political Sector: How is the U.S. Doing?

As President Obama and his administration ties up loose ends and rushes to ensure that a legacy from the 44th presidency remains in-tact throughout the history of the United States, we felt at New Method Wellness substance abuse treatment center that it was the perfect time to take a look at the Obama administration’s efforts to address the disease of addiction from a legislative and executive perspective.

Addiction has been and still remains a disease with a heavy stigma. As an addiction treatment center, we observe the public’s opinions on addiction passively while developing content and outreach efforts that work to reduce the negative stigma.

With the heroin epidemic in full force, and addiction and alcoholism rates steadily increasing, substance abuse has become a national issue both directly and indirectly affecting millions of families in the United States.

We have outlined the major legislative and executive actions related to addiction and alcoholism from the Obama Administration so that we, together, can make a judgment as to whether the current President has addressed substance abuse efficiently and what the 45th President of the United States and his or her administration should do to acknowledge and promote the treatment of addiction and alcoholism during their term.

Affordability Act

The Affordability Act is a series of health insurance reforms implemented by President Obama, signed on March 23rd, 2010.

As part of the Affordability Act, the Institute of Medicine redefined the law’s ‘essential health benefits’ to include substance abuse disorder services, which includes: behavioral health treatment, prescription drugs, rehabilitative and facilitative services and devices, and preventive and wellness services.

The Affordability Act also works to forbid insurers from denying coverage to individuals due to pre-existing conditions, which now includes substance abuse.

Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 (Public Law 111-220)

The Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 addresses the criminal penalties for the possession of crack cocaine and powder cocaine.

Signed on August 3rd, 2010, the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 reduces the disparity between the amount of crack cocaine and powder cocaine needed to trigger certain criminal penalties from a 100:1 weight ratio to an 18:1 weight ratio and eliminated the five-year mandatory minimum sentence for possession of crack cocaine.

This public law directed the United Sates Sentencing Commission to take four actions:

  1. Review and amend its sentencing guidelines to increase sentences for those convicted of committing violent acts in the course of a drug trafficking offense;
  2. Incorporate aggravating and mitigating factors in its guidelines for drug trafficking offenses;
  3. Announce all guidelines, policy statements, and amendments required by the act no later than 90 days after its enactment; and
  4. Study and report to Congress on the impact of changes in sentencing law under this act

On October 15th, 2010, the United States Sentencing Commission changed increased the amount of crack cocaine that would trigger a five-year mandatory minimum sentence from 5 grams to 28 grams and the amount that would trigger a ten-year mandatory minimum sentence from 50 grams to 280 grams.

As of November 1st, 2011 the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 applies retroactively to reduce the sentences of certain offenders already sentenced for federal crack cocaine offenses before the passage of the bill.

The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016 (Public Law 114-198)

The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016 creates mandatory preventative measures for addiction in the United States.

Enacted on July 22nd 2016, the Comprehensive Addiction and recovery Act of 2016 expands prevention and educational efforts – particularly aimed at teens, parents and other caretakers, and aging populations – to prevent the abuse of methamphetamines, opioids and heroin, and to promote treatment and recovery.

The Act expands the availability of naloxone, a medication known to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, to law enforcement agencies and other first responders and expands the resources to identify and treat incarcerated individuals suffering from addiction disorders by collaborating with criminal justice stakeholders and by providing evidence-based treatment. The Director of the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment is now authorized to award grants to State substance abuse agencies, units of local government, Indian tribes or tribal organizations, or nonprofit organizations in geographic areas that have a high rate of – or have had rapid increases in – heroin or other opioids to expand activities in the relevant areas.

The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016 also expands the disposal sites for unwanted prescription medications, launched an evidence-based opioid and heroin treatment and intervention program, launched a medication assisted treatment and intervention demonstration program, and strengthened prescription drug monitoring programs to help states monitor and track prescription drug diversions and to help at-risk individuals access services.

Clemency for 673 Drug Offenders with Nonviolent Crimes

President Barack Obama used clemency to pardon 673 drug offenders with nonviolent crimes, with lawyers working through an enormous backlog of drug cases to be considered before President Obama leave office in 2017.

It is important to note that this has been the most releases a president has granted, more than the past 10 presidents combined.

Neil Eggleston, the White House Counsel, said that President Obama gives each request a special, individualized review, keeping in mind their crimes, their record in prison and whether they merit a second chance.

What Do You Think?

We want to hear what you, the public, thinks about the progress or lack of progress the Obama Administration has made in regards to addressing addiction and alcoholism as a disease.

Do you think the Obama Administration has made notable progress in addiction treatment and recovery? Do you think the Obama Administration has made little or no progress in addiction treatment and recovery? Or, do you think that an administration, regardless of the severity of the disease, should not interfere with the free market and leave treatment and recovery up to the private sector to address?

Also, what should the 45th President of the United States do to address addiction and alcoholism treatment and recovery?