Asa Hutchinson
Speaking Out in the Fight Against Drugs:
Excerpts from Recent Speeches

photo of Administrator HutchinsonOn Strategy: “This is a crusade with three fronts. When it comes to resources, we don’t need a competitive fight, we need a cooperative strategy – one that uses enforcement, prevention, and treatment in a coordinated approach….Prevention and treatment cannot get the job done without enforcement. Enforcement sends the right signals to people who are tempted to buy drugs. Young people should know their government believes drug use is a serious problem for them and for the society around them – that it’s not just an alternative lifestyle. The law is our great moral teacher, and if we fail to enforce the law, we fail to teach and we succeed only in diminishing the character of this nation.”

On Legalization: “The essence of our democracy is that freedom is maintained through individual participation, individual sacrifice, and the sharing of common values. The drug culture erodes and ultimately destroys everything that is necessary for democracy to work. When one of us is overtaken with the consuming and controlling desire for drugs, there is nothing else – no thought of responsibility to family, nothing for the betterment of community, and our common values are shelved for the immediacy of drugs...Legalization of drugs is advocated today in the name of freedom, but freedom cannot be maintained by a society devoted to drugs. There is an inconsistency there. We give up freedom and we become slaves to an addiction….Our common freedoms and our cherished democracy cannot survive in that culture. This battle is important, it is worthy, and it is essential to our nation.”

On Methamphetamine: “Perhaps more than any other drug this country has experienced, methamphetamine affects everybody in the community. The first challenge of the meth trade is that we can’t blame it on our South American neighbors….It is locally produced in clandestine laboratories. The second challenge meth presents is that international traffickers are aggressively targeting rural areas…Traffickers think they can escape law enforcement in rural areas. But we have to make sure that’s not true. The third challenge of methamphetamine lies in the very nature of this drug. It is intense, it is highly addictive, and it is overwhelmingly dangerous…The drug has a phenomenal rate of addiction, with some experts saying users often get hooked after just one use. Recent studies have demonstrated that methamphetamine causes more damage to the brain than heroin, alcohol, or cocaine. Methamphetamine takes over the whole person. One former user described its effect on her life by saying, ‘I went against every moral and every belief I ever had when I was on meth.’”

On Club Drugs and Raves: “Most parents don’t have law enforcement connections. So they don’t know what’s going on at these functions. The rave (that my son was invited to, but didn’t attend) was being promoted as a drug-free atmosphere, and yet the promoter was allegedly getting ready to sell illegal drugs to children...If my son had come to me and said he was going to spend the evening in a crack house, the answer would have been obvious. But the world of club drugs is a brand new world, particularly for parents who don’t keep up on the latest fads in music and lifestyles. And that includes most of us.”

On OxyContin: “We don’t want to cause patients who have legitimate needs for these medications to be discouraged or afraid to use them….But we want doctors to understand they need to use good judgment…And we are not going to slack off in our enforcement efforts.”

On Drug Courts: “I fully support drug courts. I have had the opportunity to visit some, and I saw how effective they are in helping those people who need help the most. The long, intensive counseling period is monitored by the courts. Relapses in drug use are punishable by imprisonment, which provides a powerful incentive for staying on the straight and narrow. These drug courts have an incredible success rate, and many lives are made whole again. It’s important to remember that law enforcement triggers the whole drug court process and is the key to the balanced approach.”

On Narco-Terrorism: “It is clear that at times there have been connections between the drug trade and terrorist activities. The first connection is geographical. Terrorists and drug traffickers both search for bases in countries where the rule of law is weak…The second connection is money. There is a huge amount of money in international drug trafficking. Terrorists need a steady source of money to finance their operations, and they have often found it in drug trafficking….The third connection is violence. Both drug traffickers and terrorists use many of the same methods to achieve their evil ends.”

On Prospects for the Fight Against Drugs: “Our efforts are making a difference. During the last 15 years, drug use is down by half and cocaine use is down by 75 percent. It is true that in a recent Pew Research Center poll, 54 percent of the people said we were ‘losing ground’ on drugs. But roughly the same number (53 percent) said we were losing ground on education and health care. What’s more, twelve years ago, in 1989, 69 percent of the people thought we were losing ground on drugs, compared to 54 percent today. Some social problems take a long time to solve. Our anti-drug effort should not be viewed differently.”

On Why He Accepted the Appointment as Administrator: “I learned as a U.S. Attorney that drug abuse destroys individuals, shatters families, and weakens the fabric of a community and a nation. I also learned that the anti-drug efforts of this nation can be effective in saving lives and rebuilding families and communities. Surely, this is a noble purpose worthy of a great crusade…I will bring my heart to this crusade. My heart will reflect a passion for the law, a compassion for those families struggling with this nightmare, and a devotion to helping young people act upon the strength and not the weaknesses of their character.”

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