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U.S. can win drug war, czar says

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The notion of the past decade that the United States has fought and lost a war on drugs is wrong, the nation's top drug policy official said Monday.

Barry McCaffrey, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, said there is no such thing as a "national drug problem." There are communities and individuals fighting drugs and their consequences. If you want to fight a war on drugs, McCaffrey suggests sitting down at the kitchen table to talk with your child.If there is a war, McCaffrey says it's a war on ignorance. But it is a war that the former U.S. Army four-star general believes America can win.

The "cancer" of drug abuse kills 16,000 Americans a year, costing the country $70 billion, he said. But the number of drug users has dropped steadily over the past decade. In 1979, 26 million Americans used illicit drugs. Today, that number has dropped to 13 million.

McCaffrey told the National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors gathered in Salt Lake City that they are "agents of change" in reducing drug abuse.

McCaffrey believes the 6 percent of Americans who use drugs will drop to 3 percent by the year 2007. The National Drug Control Strategy, a 10-year plan to reduce the use and availability of drugs, was developed to realize that goal.

But as the nation implements that plan, new ways of measuring outcomes need to be developed.

"We are going to get more money out of Congress over the next three years, and we have to show what we're going to do with it," McCaffrey said.

New money will be used for resource counselors in junior high schools and to continue the expansion of the nation's 250 drug courts, up from seven three years ago.

A new National Anti-Drug Youth Media Campaign has begun, which uses television, radio and the Internet to send a message about the dangers of drug abuse to young people.

Teachers, parents, health professionals, religious leaders and other adult mentors need to be the backbone of change, he said.

"It's a war we can win," McCaffrey said.