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New Physician Group Seeks Alternatives to National Drug Policy


August 1997

Physician Leadership on National Drug Policy, a new 38-member physician group, is calling for "a medically-based search for major new policy alternatives" to the nation's anti-drug effort, with a focus on prevention and treatment. The group aims to identify and recommend approaches to drug policy that are "cost-effective, in both human and economic terms" (Richard A. Knox, "Doctors group says drug policy flawed," Boston Globe, July 10, 1997, p. A4; Press Release, "New Physician Leaders Group Seeks New Consensus on National Drug Policy," Physician Leadership on National Drug Policy, July 9, 1997; "Consensus Statement: Physician Leadership on National Drug Policy," Physician Leadership on National Drug Policy, July 9, 1997).

The group includes former U.S. Surgeon General, Antonia Novello, M.D.; former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, Louis Sullivan, M.D.; Harvard Medical School's new dean, Joseph B. Martin, M.D.; and Dr. June E. Osborn, president of the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation and chair of the group. The group states that "the current emphasis on use of the criminal justice system and interdiction ... is not adequate to address" the problems of illegal drugs. Dr. Lonnie Bristow, past president of the American Medical Association, and member of the group, said, "Despite the best intentions the current criminal justice-driven approach is not reducing, let alone controlling, drug abuse in America."

The group expects to deal with such drug-related issues as methadone maintenance programs, needle exchange, and medical marijuana, as well as with other harm-reduction models and techniques. "We are talking about a fundamental shift in the way we approach the problem," said Dr. David C. Lewis, director of Brown University's Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies and Project Director of the physician group.

Physician Leadership on National Drug Policy: (401) 444-1818.