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Prescription Painkiller Abuse Forcing Strategic Shift

Not that long ago, the so-called war on drugs was rightly focused on cocaine, heroin crack and other illicit substances. Now, federal drug crimes are increasingly focused on prescription painkillers and pill mills. The United States has long devoted significant time and energy into preventing illegal drugs from coming into the country. The explosion of prescription painkiller abuse has called into question the efficacy of that use of funds. Some experts now believe that the nation's policy should be shifted away from the traditional efforts of impounding drugs and arresting high profile individuals.

In Mexico, newly installed President Enrique Peña Nieto has indicated that his goal is to reduce violent crimes connected to the drug trade, while not necessarily targeting the drug trafficking itself. The policy of the United States toward Mexico has shifted focus to improving the training for prosecutors, judges and prison guards and to strengthening communities to make the drug trade a less attractive alternative. Many U.S. government officials believe that our policies here should be equally focused on reducing the demand for illegal drugs, rather than on imprisoning people involved in drug crimes.

While the government still spends massive amounts of money prosecuting people involved in the relatively small cocaine and heroin trades, there has been some increase in the efforts to stop prescription drug crimes. The Drug Enforcement Administration has created tactical diversion squads to investigate prescription drug crime. More of these squads will follow as law enforcement officials turn their attention to this issue.

Source: New York Times, "Rise in Pill Abuse Forces New Look at U.S. Drug Fight," by Damien Cave and Michael S. Schmidt, 16 July 2012

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