Drug czar: spend on prevention, treatment first - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Drug czar: spend on prevention, treatment first

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LOUISVILLE, Ky.  (WDRB Fox 41 News) -- The nation's drug czar offered his solutions to curb Kentucky's drug problems during a visit to Louisville Tuesday.

Gil Kerlikowske, director of the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy, looked at two treatment programs and talked with police.

Jessica, 21, who asked that her last name not be revealed, told Kerlikowske what she had learned during a year's stay (so far) at The Healing Place on South 15th Street.

"I can't change years of behaviors in 30 days, and that was the struggle. So here I had a chance to get to know me without the drugs and alcohol," Jessica said.

The Healing Place marked her tenth attempt at treatment since her middle teenage years, Jessica said.

Kerlikowske says the federal government should spend more on treatment, despite current cries from Congress for budget cuts -- and despite a lack of attention to prescription drug abuse nationally.

"People don't recognize that prescription drugs can kill you. People don't recognize that prescription drugs are highly addictive. They often think they're safe, because after all, they're just a prescription," Kerlikowske said to reporters after a tour at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Louisville.

Recovering addict and Iraq War vet Dustin Gross would agree. He's almost six months into help through the V.A.

"All the pain medication I was on -- now it is amazing how well ibuprofen works when you don't have everything else blocking ibuprofen. That's all I take for pain now," said Gross, age 25 and a Marine veteran.

Kentucky lawmakers in Washington had urged Kerlikowske to visit Kentucky and surrounding states to see growing problems with prescription drug and methamphetamine abuse.

Rep. John Yarmuth, (D) Kentucky's 3rd district, accompanied Kerlikowske in Louisville. 

"They are looking at this as kind of the center of drug abuse problems nationally -- Ky., Tenn., W. Va., prescription drug abuse -- methamphetamines, you have the entire range of drugs problems here," Yarmuth said.

Yarmuth and Kerlikowske spoke with area police officers who worry other federal money for meth lab cleanup and enforcement might dry up soon.

Kerlikowske took his view of "prevention and treatment first" to them as well.  He said treatment is less expensive than incarceration.

"We are not going to arrest ourselves out of this situation," said Louisville Metro Police Chief Robert White at the meeting inside the Mazzoli Federal Building.

Kerlikowske also said the feds are not taking a stand on requiring prescriptions for certain cold medicines as a way to stop meth labs.

He said meth labs right now are not a nationwide problem.

Kerlikowske is "watching" the states of Mississippi and Oregon where purchase of medicines containing pseudoephedrine now requires a doctor's prescription.

Many police officers in Kentucky and surrounding states see a prescription requirement as one way to curb meth labs.  Competing interests support ongoing electronic purchase registries.


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