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Drug czar McCaffrey cites both progress and setbacks in report to Congress

March 24, 2000
Web posted at: 2:40 p.m. EST (1940 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- White House drug czar Barry McCaffrey told Congress on Thursday that the U.S. has made "substantial progress" in the war against drugs, but that the battle continues along three fronts: continuing to lower drug use among America's youth; stemming international production of drugs; and providing adequate substance abuse treatment for the nation's estimated five million addicts.

"The nation working together has made substantial progress in confronting illegal drug abuse and drug trafficking," said McCaffrey, the White House Drug Policy Director, as he testified before a House Appropriations subcommittee on findings from the office's first annual report to Congress.

The annual report was mandated by the╩Republican-led Congress last year when it reauthorized funding for the office. Previously, the office had only been required to submit its strategy. Both McCaffrey and members of Congress agreed that annual reports were needed to better gauge the effectiveness of U.S. drug policies.

"In the report, we show that youth drug use dropped 13 percent last year, overall cocaine use is down ... and drug crime and drug-related murders are dropping," McCaffrey said.

But in other areas, there is still more drug use among young people than in 1996, when President Clinton appointed McCaffrey to the drug czar post.

"Serious challenges remain. Heroin abuse is climbing back, and many kids think heroin is safe because it can now be sorted or smoked," said McCaffrey, who also cited figures that reveal a sharp increase in seizures caused by methamphetamine drugs.

On the second front -- stopping the flow of illegal drugs into the United States -- McCaffrey cited "huge increases in drug seizures by the customs service and the Coast Guard."

It's unclear if such figures indicate an actual decrease of illegal drug flow into the╩country. Street prices for heroin and cocaine have╩never been lower -- and the purity of those drugs never higher.

McCaffrey did note that coca production in Peru and Bolivia, formerly the top two suppliers of U.S. cocaine, has dropped 66 percent and 55 percent respectively since 1995.

"Moreover, while we have╩succeeded in reducing overall coca cultivation in the Andes, we must confront skyrocketing drug production in Colombia -- 90 percent of the cocaine in the United States and most╩of the heroin on the Eastern Seaboard originate in or transit through the troubled nation," McCaffrey added.

McCaffrey also said that more work needs to be done on treating drug addicts.

Although the Clinton Adminstration has increased funding for drug treatment programs by more than 30 percent over the past five years, the report revealed that only about two million of the estimated five million addicts in the United States actually receive treatment.

The sharp increase in the addiction rate may have also driven drug-related deaths to an all-time high -- nearly 16,000 in 1997, an increase of 40 percent over seven years.

McCaffrey called on parents, teachers, and business and religious leaders to play a more active role in helping the federal government keep drugs out of U.S. communities.

"I've regularly pointed out that we must approach our anti-drug efforts not like a war, but like a cancer, with the entire American family taking part ... For those who say this is a war, we are winning."

CNN's Major Garrett contributed to this report.

 
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