US – Sweden Meeting on Drug Control Policies

White House Drug Policy Director Kerlikowske Meets with Swedish Counterdrug Officials; Cites Sweden’s Drug Control Policies as Model for U.S.

Washington, DC  20503

For Immediate Release:                          
Monday, March 21st, 2011

White House Drug Policy Director Kerlikowske Meets with Swedish Counterdrug Officials; Cites Sweden’s Drug Control Policies as Model for U.S.

Vienna, Austria – Today, Gil Kerlikowske, Director of U.S. National Drug Control Policy, met with high-level counterdrug officials representing the Kingdom of Sweden to discuss areas of mutual interest. Both nations not only support the integrity of the United Nations’ existing framework for global drug control efforts, they further share a drug policy that stresses a comprehensive public health and safety approach. Director Kerlikowske also highlighted both nations’ common experiences with drug use, and showcased Sweden’s successful balanced public health approach and opposition to drug legalization as a model for the United States.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, compared to many of its European counterparts which have experienced sharp increases in drug use, Sweden is a notable exception.  The most recent data show prevalence rates for cocaine use in Sweden are barely one-fifth of European neighbors such as the United Kingdom and Spain (0.6 percent vs. 3.0 percent). Additionally, as the U.N. notes, drug use levels among students in Sweden are lower than in the early 1970s.  Life-time prevalence and regular marijuana and cocaine use among students and among the general population are considerably lower than many European neighbors. In addition, bucking the trend in many European nations, drug abuse has declined in Sweden over the last decade.  Kerlikowske visited Stockholm, Sweden in May of 2010.

“History has taught both of our nations that we must support robust and comprehensive drug policies which recognize we cannot arrest our way out of the drug problem and that drug addiction as a disease of the brain.  We are proud of our strong partnership with Sweden in supporting balanced drug strategies guided by science and research and opposing drug legalization, both within Europe and around the world,” said Director Kerlikowske.  “Sweden’s commitments to drug education, treatment for drug addicts, and enforcement efforts have led to significant decreases in drug use over the past three decades, and serve as a successful model for our efforts in the United States.  We look forward to continuing our partnership and sharing our common experiences with other nations now grappling with drug use and its consequences.”

Despite some increases in drug use over the past year, the overall demand for drugs in the United States has dropped dramatically over the past thirty years.  In response to comprehensive efforts to address drug use at the local, state, Federal, and international levels, the number of Americans using illicit drugs today is roughly half the rate it was in the late 70’s.  More recently, there has been a 46 percent drop in cocaine use among young adults over the past five years, and a 65 percent drop in the rate of people testing positive for cocaine in the workplace since 2006.  In Colombia – the source of the vast majority of U.S.-bound cocaine – the amount of the drug produced over the past decade has also plummeted by almost two-thirds, significantly adding stress to the domestic U.S. drug market.

Last year, the Obama Administration announced an unprecedented government-wide public health approach to reduce drug use and its consequences in the United States. This effort includes funding demand reduction programs by over $10 billion, placing a heavier emphasis on early intervention programs in health settings, aligning criminal justice policies and public health systems to divert non-violent drug offenders into treatment instead of jail, expanding access to substance abuse treatment, and supporting international allies working to disrupt the flow of drugs to the United States.


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The Office of National Drug Control Policy seeks to foster healthy individuals and safe communities by effectively leading the Nation’s effort to reduce drug use and its consequences.

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