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Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.

John P. Walters
Director of Office of National Drug Control Policy
March 1, 2004

John Walters
Hello, I am John Walters, and I look forward to chatting about what is on your mind.

Jason, from Springfield, MO writes:
Sir: Can you report any significant progress at securing the northern and southern land borders against drug smuggling? Are large amounts of drugs still entering the country from Canada and Mexico, and if so, what can be done?

John P. Walters
We have had remarkable cooperation with Mexico during President Fox's administration. We are not only strengthening the security at our borders, but, more importantly, we are putting much greater enforcement pressure on the criminal organizations that use the border. We still have much to do, but the border is better today than it was several years ago and will continue to get better in the months ahead.

Unfortunately, Canada has become a major supplier of marijuana during this same period. Law enforcement cooperation has been very good, but pressure on the criminal organizations has more progress to make.

Michael, from Ogdensburg NY writes:
What is your plan for 28 day rehabilitation programs, and IOP (Intensive Out Patient) programs for teens and people who do not have the means of paying for the help. Thanks.

John P. Walters
Last year the President requested $200 million in additional treatment funds to address critical needs in the states. These funds would be in addition to the roughly $2 billion the federal government already provides each year. The first $100 million of the new money was approved by Congress and will be available shortly. Our goal is to provide all forms of treatment for all ages as they are needed by individual communities.

Edwin, from Washington, D.C. writes:
Do you think the film Traffic is an accurate depiction of what really happens?

John P. Walters
Traffic did a good job of capturing the complexities of the drug trade. It showed the ruthlessness of those that push drugs, the corrupting influence of drugs on institutions of law, the depravity that drugs often drive addicts to, and that people from all walks of life are susceptible to the disease of addiction. I was discouraged, however, at how little hope there was in the movie. We know how to make the drug problem smaller and how to heal those who have become addicted. Drug use has dropped markedly in the past two years because we have applied that knowledge. Our success will increase as more and more Americans lose their cynicism about reducing drug use and realize there is something that each of us can do about it.

Edwin, from Washington, D.C. writes:
What is the most challenging aspect of trying to eliminate drug-trafficking?

John P. Walters
In the last few years we have really made an effort to analyze drug production and trafficking through a business model. Anyone who runs a company, whether it is a huge corporation or a corner store, knows that there are market forces that can hurt the bottom line. We are trying to identify those forces that will put drug cartels and trafficking organizations into a recession. We are doing this by attacking drugs at the source, along supply lines, and arresting the key players that run these businesses. We are having better success than at any previous time because of the cooperation of governments in Colombia and Mexico that realize that these organizations are a cancer that hurt the institutions of law and democracy in nations that they operate in.

ruby, from pooint roberts, WA writes:
Do you agreethat tighter immigration and border control would help in the fight against drugs?

John P. Walters
As we tightened the borders post-9/11 looking for a small number of terrorists and the weapons they would use to harm us, we obviously caught a lot more drugs in the tighter net. Unfortunately, drug traffickers are always seeking ways to get around our latest techniques to detect them at our borders. It is important that our borders are secure, but if our borders are where we seek to stop this problem, then we will come up short. Because of this, we are working more extensively than ever with our partners in Mexico, Colombia, and other nations that house the majority of these trafficking organizations. We are making excellent progress at eradicating and seizing these harmful drugs long before they get to our borders.

Tenah, from Tennessee writes:
I am originally from Iowa, but have relocated. In Iowa Methemphedemines aka "Crank" was everywhere. It has just recently started showing up in Tennessee. Having had witnessed firsthand what it can do to a person. I was wondering what steps you are taking to bring this particular substance under some sort of control? From what I hear it is not a drug that is improted form other countries it is manufactured here in peoples homes even cars. How can we root it out. I hear it is very dangerous to make and the ingredients are common. Is that true? I just don't want my children to have to be around it, like I said I've seen what it can do to poeple and the people around those who use it.

John P. Walters
You are well informed on this topic. Methamphetamine is an addictive drug that is extremely dangerous to both take and produce. Meth “cooks” often operate in garages, cars, motel rooms, or what appears to be just a regular house in the neighborhood. “Cooking” meth involves a dangerous process that can kill those involved through either poisoning or explosion. Unfortunately, we often find children in the places where meth is produced. The byproducts of making meth are extremely toxic and are usually disposed of by pouring the chemicals down the drain or dumping them in the soil. We are working to restrict access to the precursor chemicals required to make meth. We have shut down some large operations in Canada that were supplying the precursors to drug cartels in the Central Valley of California. These “Super Labs” are estimated to produce up to 80% of the domestic supply of methamphetamine. We are also working with local officials to train them to identify and safely dismantle meth labs.

Carol, from Erie, PA writes:
I am a social worker in a drug and alcohol rehab. Recently the number of individals presenting for treatment who are addicted to the prescription drug Oxycontin has risen drastically. Is there currently a study under way to look at this issue, and the possibility of tighter regulations to control this particular drug?

John P. Walters
Just today we released the National Drug Control Strategy which, among other things, focuses on reducing the diversion of legitimate pharmaceuticals to those that are using them for non-medical reasons. These drugs are critical for people dealing with painful illnesses, but too often they are being abused by children and adults that have no medical need to take them. Often times they are being purchased through illegitimate internet pharmacies and other fly-by-night operations that seek to circumvent the normal medical procedures we have put in place to protect people from abusing these drugs.

Steven, from Normal, Illinois writes:
How is the progress of trimming down drug use amoung teenagers in the United States?

John P. Walters
I’m glad you asked. Two months ago we announced the release of the 2003 "Monitoring the Future" study that showed an 11 percent decline in teen drug use. This exceeded the President’s two-year goal of a 10 percent reduction. This success is due in large part to the renewed seriousness that drugs have in the American consciousness. We have seen evidence that part of this is due to the success of our National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign. It has helped to change the way that teens think about drugs, especially marijuana, a drug that is often mistakenly thought of as being harmless. Teens now know that it is the leading cause of addiction among illegal drugs among both youth and adults. We are not resting on this success, however. The President has set a five-year goal of a 25 percent reduction in teen drug use, and we have three years of hard work ahead of us to achieve it. If the last two years have been a lesson, we know it is very achievable.

Kyle, from NY writes:
Hi, Drugs are a growing concern in many schools-including mine and I live in a suburban town. How are you dealing with this issue?

John P. Walters
One of the most promising tools that we want schools to know about is student drug testing. President Bush announced $25 million in grants in his proposed 2005 budget to support school-based drug testing programs. This is an issue that individual communities need to examine for themselves and decide if it is right for them. Drug testing has shown itself to be very successful in both deterring drug use and identifying those that need intervention to help overcome a budding or full-blown drug problem. Drug testing is not used to punish students, and it must be done confidentially. The Supreme Court of the United States has said that drug testing is permissible for public school students in voluntary extracurricular activities. We encourage schools, parents, and community members to examine this effective tool.

Chris, from Missouri writes:
Dear Mr.Walters i was just wondering, if you could tell me more about your job, and how you feel about the drug war we face today.

John P. Walters
I get great satisfaction from my job. People often are very cynical about efforts to reduce drug use. This is largely because they hear the drum beat of self-interested pessimism from those that seek to legalize drugs. Having been to drug treatment centers all over the nation, I’ve seen the optimism and hope that those who overcome this disease convey. We’re seeing success at every facet of this broad effort. Prevention efforts have driven drug use down among teens, and thanks to Access to Recovery, more people are going to be able to get access to drug treatment. In addition to that, we are seeing historic declines in drug cultivation in Colombia thanks to our eradication efforts.

kristen, from arshall writes:
How do you think you can stop the druguses if some people go to the other side of the world to bring them over here and sell it, and then make a profit from it? You cant stop a crackhead from buying drugs. Some people mail it over here to the U.S.A. and it is an affect to our nation. What will you do about that? You cant check people mail because it is against the law.

John P. Walters
We seek to reduce drug use in two, balanced, ways. First, we try to prevent young people from starting and our recent survey results show this has been working with the 11 percent decline in teen use between 2001 and 2003. We also want to make sure that more of those who need treatment get it and move to recovery. The additional funds the President has sought will help more join the millions of Americans who are in recovery from addiction.

Finally, we are working to better attack the business of the drug trade. We have been making historic progress there in cooperation with Colombia and Mexico and in using new tools for domestic trafficking. The goal is not to rely on a single point of activity, but to better understand and attack the critical areas of those who sell poison to our children and profit from the addiction of our citizens.

Rex, from Chicago, IL writes:
Statistics indicate that kids are minimal consumers of illegal drugs. Most education programs seem to be focussed on them. Drug pushers know that the real money is from adults (kids from 10 or more years ago). Can more serious criminal penalties be imposed on drug users rather than just drug dealers. The dealers will go away if there are no users.

John P. Walters
Drug use starts by teens and pre-teens first trying illegal drugs. Our three decades of research and experience reveals that if use does not start during this period, it is unlikely to start later.

Today, of the roughly 7million Americans we need to treat because of their dependence or abuse of illegal drugs, 23 percent are teenagers.

These are the critical reasons we focus on our young people.

Patricia, from Budd Lake, NJ writes:
Mr. Walters, AS head of National Drug Control Policy-can you please let me know how my son received steroids via Fed-Ex and our own US Mail when these injectable drugs are illegal in our country? I know they are legal on the sending end but not on our end. What is being done to stop this? My son paid the ultimate price for this as he died in his sleep on April 27, 2003 as a direct result of years of steroid use. My son was only 27 years old.

John P. Walters
I am very sorry to learn of your son's death. Please accept my sympathies. You remind us that drug abuse and the death and destruction can touch us all.

Earlier today, I joined the the DEA administrator, and FDA administrator, and the surgeon general in announcing a new series of steps to reduce the diversion of controlled substances. Among the steps are building public-private partnerships with businesses--including shipping firms, Internet access providers, and credit and other electronic payment providers--to counter the type of diversion that took you child's life.

John Walters
I want to thank everyone who sent me an email and for those I was not able to answer, I hope to join you for another session soon. This has been a great opportunity to expand the conversion to more Americans. Thank you for what many of you are doing in your community to reduce the problem of illegal drugs in America.

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