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Drug Czar: Fight Drugs With Treatment

Actors Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Sam Neill and Maria Doyle Kennedy pose together at the premiere screening of Showtime's "The Tudors" at the Egyptian Theatre on March 26, 2007, in Los Angeles. All three have roles in the show.
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Gen. Barry McCaffrey, the White House Director of National Drug Policy, delivered his final annual report Thursday as he prepares to leave the post he's held for five years. He spoke to CBS News Early Show Anchor Bryant Gumbel about what he considers to be the highlights of America's anti-drug efforts during his tenure.

"Probably the best news, we're concentrating on young people...drug use among that population, 12-17, went down by 21 Percent in the last two years. We think youth attitudes are starting to shift," said McCaffrey. He added that overall drug use has gone down 50 percent and drug-related crimes and murders also have plummeted.

What has the Clinton administration done right to achieve that improvement?

"I think there's an awful lot of cooperation now. At the end of the day, this is a cancer affecting America's communities. So it's the mayors, county executives, police administrators, local health authorities, that's where the success is being put together."

Looking back at the last five years, of what accomplishment is he most proud?

"We tried to...put together a drug strategy that focused on prevention, education and treatment. We tried to reduce the stigma of treatment," said McCaffrey. "We've got five million chronically addicted Americans. If we don't have them in effective drug treatment programs, we won't ever break the cycle that comes from drug abuse."

The cost for imprisonment of each drug user is roughly $25,000 a year.

Treatment programs, McCaffrey said, "can reduce the consequences of addiction." Providing access to them for chronic drug abusers is "compassionate public policy and a sound investment."

He stresses long-term rehabilitation, saying the fight against drugs should be compared to the fight against cancer. "Prevention coupled with treatment accompanied by research," he said.

How concerned is he about giving way to an administration that is perhaps more likely to put emphasis on punishment and incarceration?

"I think the word coming out is they are aware...of the importance of treatment," said McCaffrey.

In contrast, what is McCaffrey's biggest disappoint of the last five years?

"There has to be equal access for substance abuse treatment as well as mental health care in the health/insurance industry," said McCaffrey. "We need to change the laws at state level to grant access for people with Blue Cross/Blue Shield cards to a no-wrong door philosophy. If you got an alcohol or drug problem, mental health problems, you have to have access to treatment."

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