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Upcoming Biden Opioid Plan Will Target Treatment, Trafficking

March 15, 2022, 7:29 PM

The White House is planning to roll out its drug control strategy in the next several months with a focus targeting opioid addiction treatment and the trafficking of illegal substances, the Biden administration’s top drug policy official said in a Tuesday interview.

Drug prevention programs based on research as well as policies that reduce the harmful consequences of drug use will be front and center in the Biden administration’s upcoming National Drug Control Strategy, said Rahul Gupta, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

“If it remains easier to get illicit drugs in America than treatment, we’ll never be able to bend the curve in overdoses,” Gupta said.

Arriving “certainly before June,” Gupta said, the strategy fits with previous rollouts from President Joe Biden’s Health and Human Services Department and the ONDCP. The goal is to focus on helping individuals overcome substance use disorder rather than putting them in jail.

Eighteen federal agencies will take part in the effort, with the Departments of Justice, Treasury, Homeland Security, and Education among those on the roster.

Drug Money

The agency will also target illicit finances like those garnered by drug trafficking organizations, Gupta said. The “focus is to attack them where it hurts the most—and that’s their wallets.” The plan will also bolster services to support those struggling with addiction through recovery.

The ONDCP has already taken a series of steps to curb America’s addiction crisis.

In September, the agency’s then-acting director Regina LaBelle sent a letter urging lawmakers to permanently classify illicit fentanyl-related drugs like heroin and ecstasy. A bipartisan group of House members sponsor legislation to deem fentanyl-related substances—copies of the powerful opioid often found in other illicit drugs—as Schedule 1, the most controlled substance category.

The ONDCP has also released legislative road maps for states to help handle the opioid crisis, including one to remove legal barriers to an opioid reversal drug and another for directing users toward public health services.

Previously a West Virginia health official, Gupta came to the ONDCP as the first physician to lead the office.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ian Lopez in Washington at ilopez@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Alexis Kramer at akramer@bloomberglaw.com