Ronald Reagan picture

Radio Address to the Nation on Federal Drug Policy

October 02, 1982

The President. My fellow Americans, those of you who tuned in a few weeks ago may remember that the topic of my broadcast was crime. Well, this week I'd like to narrow that subject down to drugs, an especially vicious virus of crime.

In the last few days, I've had two reports on drugs in America. First, Nancy returned from a trip to Alabama, Mississippi, and Arkansas-one of the many trips she's made, talking to young people and their parents about the drug epidemic. Well, I thought it might be fitting if she told you herself of what she's learned about the drug problem. So, Nancy.

Mrs. Reagan. Thank you.

To everyone at home, I have to tell you that few things in my life have frightened me as much as the drug epidemic among our children. I wish I could tell you all the accounts I've heard—stories of families where lying replaces trust, hate replaces love; stories of children stealing from their mothers' purses; stories of parents not knowing about drugs, and then not believing that the children were on them, and finally not understanding that help was available. I've heard time and again of children with excellent grades, athletic promise, outgoing personalities, but who, because of drugs, became shells of their former selves.

I won't burden you with all the terrifying statistics, but there's one that's especially troubling. While the health of most Americans has been improving, young people between 15 and 24 have a higher death rate than 20 years ago. And alcohol and drugs are one reason for this.

But there are also some very positive signs on the prevention and treatment fronts, especially with the parents movement. People finally are facing up to drug abuse. They're banding together, and they're making real progress. And I just want to say a heartfelt "thank you" to all those people out there who are working so hard to get drug abuse under control.

The President. Thank you, Nancy.

Now, regarding the other report I mentioned. In the next few days we'll announce the administration's new strategy for the prevention of drug abuse and drug trafficking. This is a bold, confident plan, and I'm elated. For too long the people in Washington took the attitude that the drug problem was so large nothing could be done about it. Well, we don't accept this sit-on-your-hands kind of thinking. We've decided to do more than pay lip service to the problem, and we started where narcotics crime was the worst: south Florida.

This garden spot had turned into a battlefield for competing drugpushers who were terrorizing Florida's citizens. I established a task force under Vice President Bush's leadership to help the citizens of south Florida fight back. As part of a coordinated plan, we beefed up the number of judges, prosecutors, and law enforcement people. We used military radar and intelligence to detect drug traffickers, which, until we changed the law, could not be done. We increased efforts overseas to cut drugs off before they left other countries' borders.

Well, the results of our task force have been dramatic. The Vice President tells me drug-related arrests are up over 40 percent, the amount of marijuana seized is up about 80 percent, and the amount of cocaine seized has more than doubled. The important thing is we're hurting the traffickers. It's true that when we close off one place they can move somewhere else. But one thing is different now: We're going to be waiting for them. To paraphrase Joe Louis, they can run but they can't hide.

The strategy I just received will help us duplicate the south Florida experience for the entire United States. We're undertaking a narcotics policy that might be termed "hot pursuit." We're not just going to let them go somewhere else; we're going to be on their tail.

Now, you probably wonder why I'm so optimistic. Well, for the first time, the actions of the different Government agencies and departments dealing with narcotics are being coordinated. There are 9 departments and 33 agencies of Government that have some responsibility in the drug area, but until now, the activities of these agencies were not being coordinated. Each was fighting its own separate battle against drugs. Now, for the very first time, the Federal Government is waging a planned, concerted campaign.

Previous administrations had drug strategies, but they didn't have the structure to carry them out. We now have that structure.

In addition to the enforcement element, our strategy will also focus on international cooperation, education, and prevention-which Nancy's very interested in—detoxification and treatment and research.

The mood toward drugs is changing in this country, and the momentum is with us. We're making no excuses for drugs—hard, soft, or otherwise. Drugs are bad, and we're going after them. As I've said before, we've taken down the surrender flag and run up the battle flag. And we're going to win the war on drugs.

Till next week, thanks for listening, and God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 12:06 p.m. from Camp David, Md.

Ronald Reagan, Radio Address to the Nation on Federal Drug Policy Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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