Top Drug Official: The Old War On Drugs Is All Wrong

Despite 44 years of aggressive policing and incarceration at the cost of a trillion dollars, 21 million Americans are still addicted to drugs or alcohol. The drug epidemic in America is at its worst ever, because the war on drugs, says Michael Botticelli, was all wrong.

Botticelli, the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, has embarked on a new strategy he thinks is starting to make a difference. And the more compassionate approach that he espouses comes from his own experience: Botticelli is the first “drug czar” to be a recovering addict himself. Scott Pelley’s interview with this reformer will be broadcast on Sunday Dec. 13 at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

Botticelli hates the term “drug czar.” “Because I think it connotes this old “war on drugs” focus to the work that we do. It portrays that we are clinging to the kind of failed policies and failed practices in the past,” says Botticelli.

Was the war on drugs all wrong? asks Pelley. “It has been all wrong,” he says. “We can’t arrest and incarcerate addiction out of people. Not only do I think it’s really inhumane, but it’s ineffective and it cost us billions upon billions of dollars to keep doing this.”