Office of National Drug Control Policy
I have always been told that if I wanted something that I should work hard to get it. I wanted to interview President Obama's Drug Czar, so I asked and they let me! How cool is that? Thanks Director Kerlikowske!
PMAKid: I know you were a police officer for a long time and made your way up to being the Police Chief in Seattle, Washington. Why did you want to be a police officer in the first place? What did you like about being a police officer that made you do it for so many years?
Director Kerlikowske: I spent nearly 40 years working law enforcement. I served as a beat cop, a narcotics officer and eventually the Chief of Police in Buffalo, New York and Seattle, Washington. When I entered this line of work I really enjoyed helping people and doing everything I could do to make communities safe. I continued in this line of work because I found it very rewarding not to mention it was exciting and fun.
PMAKid: In 2009, President Obama asked you to become the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Was this a hard or easy decision for you to make? You were going from running a police department to working in the White House and you had to move all the way across the country.
Director Kerlikowske: The decision to accept my current position was pretty easy. I looked forward to the opportunity to take the best of everything I learned from my colleagues over the years and develop policies that to help our country reduce drug abuse and its consequences in our Nation’s communities.
PMAKid: I don't know the exact numbers, but I know that a lot of people in prison are there because of drugs. I've heard that a lot of these people are in prison because they have a problem with doing drugs and then they do other crimes to pay for their drugs. Do you think that people like this should get more help so they can stay off of drugs and no longer steal things or commit other crimes to pay for their drugs?
Director Kerlikowske: The Obama Administration recognizes that substance abuse is a disease and our solution must balance law enforcement efforts with drug prevention, treatment and recovery support. Since drug addiction is a disease it is important to give all people, including non-violent drug offenders, the treatment they need so they can restore their lives. Law enforcement is important, but we can’t arrest our way out of the drug problem.
PMAKid: My school (like a lot of schools) celebrates Red Ribbon Week every year, but I only just learned the full story about the DEA agent (Kiki Camarena) who was murdered in the 1980s and that was the reason for Red Ribbon Week starting. I know that it was supposed to help get people to commit to be drug free and so if enough people did that then the big drug dealers would hopefully go out of business. I hear in the news that the Mexican drug gangs are causing a lot of problems in Mexico and a lot of people are getting murdered. What do you do to try to make sure that people make the commitment to not do drugs? What can we do to better remember the sacrifice of Kiki Camarena?
Director Kerlikowske: The most important element of ending violence associated with the drug trade is reducing America’s appetite for drugs in the first place. If we are able to get everyone the substance abuse treatment they need and if we all work to prevent young people from using drugs in the first place I am pretty confident our neighborhoods will be safer and stronger. I am sure this would make Kiki Camarena proud.
PMAKid: I had a friend who used to live across the street. His mom and dad got hooked on drugs and alcohol and it was really bad for the family. There were people coming to their house to buy drugs and all the kids were seeing it. It took a long time, but the police and other people finally helped get the parents away from the house. What can kids like me do to help their friends when there are people in their family who are doing drugs or drink too much alcohol?
Director Kerlikowske: Unfortunately way too many kids in our country are exposed to drug abuse and its consequences. I have seen the damage drug abuse can have of children and families first hand during my law enforcement career. The best thing you can do for anyone who you know who may be in a potentially dangerous situation is to tell an adult you trust about the situation. If you know someone who is in need of substance abuse treatment, refer them to 800-662-HELP (4357) or visit the online treatment locator at http://www.samhsa.gov/treatment.
PMAKid: People know not to do illegal drugs, but I hear that a growing problem is with people doing prescription drugs for fun. What can people do to look out for this kind of drug abuse and what can kids like me do if we think other people are doing these drugs?
Director Kerlikowske: Prescription drug abuse is the Nation's fastest-growing drug problem. Some individuals who misuse prescription drugs, particularly teens, believe these substances are safer than typical street drugs because they are prescribed doctors. One important step youth can make in preventing prescription drug abuse is encouraging your parents to go through your medicine cabinets and removing unneeded medications. More than 70 percent of people who abuse prescription drugs get them from friends or family – often from the home medicine cabinet. Visit the FDA.gov website to learn how to properly dispose of prescription drugs.
PMAKid: My first interview was with a musician named Toby Morse who has never done drugs or alcohol in his life and speaks to schools all over the country to tell kids about living a drug free lifestyle. One of my latest interviews was with another musician named Aram Arslanian, who decided to become drug and alcohol free after having a big problem with drinking. Why do you think that people look up to celebrities who do stupid stuff like drugs more than people like Toby or Aram or C.J. Wilson?
Director Kerlikowske: The media and celebrities have a strong influence on youth which is why it is more important than ever for parents protect their kids from these influences. They can do this by building strong bonds with their children, staying involved in their lives, and setting clear limits and providing consistent enforcement of discipline. It is also important for parents to talk to their kids about drugs. Research shows parents are the best messengers to deliver critical information on drug use. Parents need to make sure they know of the harms that can result from drug use and that you don't approve of them. Parents can find tips and parenting advice at www.TheAntiDrug.com.