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Statement About the Drug Abuse office and Treatment Act of 1972

March 21, 1972

TODAY I am pleased to sign into law the Drug Abuse office and Treatment Act of 1972, a bipartisan bill designed to mount a frontal assault on our number one public enemy.

The support which this legislation received in the Congress it passed unanimously in both Houses--not only reflects the wisdom of this measure but also attests to the determination of all our people to wipe out drug abuse in America.

The critical feature of this legislation is the statutory authority which it gives to the Special Action office for Drug Abuse Prevention. This office is charged with the responsibility for coordinating all Federal activities concerned with drug abuse prevention, education, treatment, rehabilitation, training, and research. Thus it will be at the cutting edge of our attack.

Among the other features of the bill are these:

--A National Drug Abuse Training Center will be established to develop, conduct, and support a full range of training programs relating to drug abuse prevention functions.

--On December 31, 1974, a National Institute on Drug Abuse will be created within the National Institute of Mental Health. The new institute will administer drug abuse programs assigned to the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare.

--A new formula grant program is authorized to assist States in coping with drug abuse.

--Authorization is also provided for $350 million in grants and contracts to be administered by the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare between fiscal years 1972 and 1975.

--Four advisory bodies are established to provide counsel and recommendations to the President, the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, and the Director of the Special Action office on means of curbing drug abuse. They are the Drug Abuse Strategy Council, the National Advisory Council on Drug Abuse, a Federal Drug Council, and the National Advisory Council on Drug Abuse Prevention.

It was in June of 1971 that I first proposed the creation of a Special Action office for Drug Abuse Prevention. Because time was so critical in the fight against drug abuse, I determined that immediate steps had to be taken pending passage of the proposed legislation. As a temporary measure, I therefore established the Special Action office for Drug Abuse Prevention by Executive order [11599] and charged it with the responsibility for overseeing all Federal programs-- excluding law enforcement, international diplomacy, and intelligence gathering--related to the control of drug abuse. I appointed Dr. Jerome Jaffe to direct its activities.


Since the creation of the Special Action office, substantial progress has been made toward controlling and reducing drug abuse in America.

--The Special Action office is working to ensure that treatment and rehabilitation facilities will be available to all who need them, that lives will not be lost because a person who sought treatment found it unavailable. The number of federally funded drug treatment programs has increased from 78 last June, when operations began, to 166 today. I said last June that we would make available as much money as could be used effectively to fight the drug menace in America. In 1969, when I took office, Federal obligations for drug law enforcement and antidrug abuse programs were at the $80 million level. By fiscal year 1972, they were $474 million, and I have asked for another increase of $120 million for this effort in fiscal year 1973, bringing the total to $594 million.

--The Special Action office, working with the office of Management and Budget, has examined the budgets and evaluated the policies of all civilian Federal agencies involved in drug abuse prevention. It has established specific goals for each of these agencies and has recommended adjustments in their budgets to match their responsibilities. A control system to oversee these efforts is presently under development.

--The Special Action office has worked to eliminate the severe shortage of personnel trained for work in drug treatment, rehabilitation, and education programs. A National Training Center has been planned to train individuals who have responsibility for creating and operating community drug control programs. These people will be taught, in turn, to train others in their communities, and the pyramid effect of this approach will result, by the end of 1972, in an annum drug abuse training capacity of more than 16,000 men and women in federally funded programs.

--The Special Action office is developing a program of technical assistance to help State and local governments develop their own capacities to deal with drug problems. This project involves, in part, an expanded information effort within the National Clearinghouse for Drug Abuse Information, including a computerized retrieval system providing easy access to information about on-going drug abuse activities.

--In a direct application of drug control procedures at the Federal level, the Special Action office, working with the Department of Defense, established a massive screening, treatment, and rehabilitation program to assist armed services personnel in Vietnam and elsewhere. Rapid and appropriate action in this area has gone a long way toward arresting a problem that one year ago threatened to assume massive dimensions. This program now includes all military personnel in the United States who are being discharged, sent abroad, or are returning to the United States from abroad. The programs of the Veterans Administration will have the capacity to offer treatment and rehabilitation services to some 20,000 addicts in 1972.

--Methadone is proving to be a helpful tool in the treatment and rehabilitation of drug users, but this tool is itself subject to abuse by addicts. The need for daily doses of methadone can create problems in the rehabilitation and control process. The Special Action office, in conjunction with the Department of Defense and the National Institute for Mental Health, has initiated testing of a form of long-lasting methadone which would reduce the number of times weekly that the drug must be dispensed to the addict. If this new drug is effective, the present problems connected with methadone maintenance could be reduced considerably.

--In conjunction with the National Bureau of Standards, the Special Action office has created a system of unique identification for use in methadone maintenance programs. This system can help to prevent diversion of methadone into illegal channels by eliminating duplication of treatment.


Those who are directly victimized by drug abuse often victimize others. They help to create enormous social problems through criminal activities, through an antisocial life style, and through the destruction of the fabric of the family, which is at the heart of a strong society. They deprive our country of their talents, their skills, and their energy. And, perhaps worst of all, the victims of drug abuse often help to create new victims. They bring others under the domination of narcotics.

This is why I feel so strongly that no effective approach can be made to the problem of drug abuse if it is not a balanced approach. Strong law enforcement measures are essential. But they must be coupled with a strong effort to treat those who have become dependent and to protect those who are not afflicted from falling prey to this enemy.

With the signing of the Drug Abuse office and Treatment Act, we have written into law part of the balanced attack we need. Meanwhile, other elements of the attack are also moving forward.

On January 28, 1972, I established by Executive order [11641] the office for Drug Abuse Law Enforcement in the Department of Justice. That office, under the direction of Myles J. Ambrose, is giving the same coordinated and comprehensive attention to the street-level heroin pusher that the Special Action office for Drug Abuse Prevention is giving to the pusher's victims.

Working through nine regional offices, the first of which has been established in New York City, the new enforcement program will use special grand juries to gather information on drug trafficking which can then be pooled for use by enforcement agencies at the Federal, State, and local level. The office will draw on the Departments of Justice and the Treasury to assist State and local agencies in detecting, arresting, and prosecuting heroin traffickers.

Heroin is an import. We do not produce it in America, and yet we have the world's largest population of heroin addicts. Clearly, the heroin problem is one that requires international cooperation. As part of our continuing effort to foster such cooperation, I established last September the Cabinet Committee on International Narcotics Control, chaired by Secretary of State Rogers. As a part of this effort, Narcotics Control Coordinators in 57 American embassies are now actively engaged with their respective host governments in the effort to stem the export of illegal drugs to America.

The bill I have signed into law today puts the full authority of the Federal Government behind a comprehensive program aimed at our most vicious and debilitating social problem. But while the Federal Government can help provide leadership in this crucial area, this is a problem which affects every one of our citizens and each of us must play a part in meeting.

The fight against drug abuse is complex and difficult, but there are signs that we are making progress. More victims are under treatment than ever before. More and better ways of treatment are becoming increasingly available. More illegal drugs are being seized--both within this country and without. More nations around the world are joining with us in a vigorous effort to stop drug trafficking. More Americans are becoming involved in the fight in their communities, their churches, their schools, and their homes.

Now we must continue to build on this progress until success is assured.

Note: On the same day, the White House released a fact sheet on the provisions of the act.

Richard Nixon, Statement About the Drug Abuse office and Treatment Act of 1972 Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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