Drug Abuse Prevention, Treatment and, Rehabilitation Act (1980)

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Drug Abuse Prevention, Treatment and, Rehabilitation Act (1980)

Steven Harmon Wilson

Excerpt of the Drug Abuse Prevention, Treatment, and Rehabilitation

Shifts in the usage of various drugs and in the Nation 's demographic composition require a Federal strategy to adjust the focus of drug abuse programs to meet new needs and priorities on a cost-effective basis.... The growing extent of drug abuse indicates an urgent need for prevention and intervention programs designed to reach the general population and members of high-risk populations such as youth, women, and the elderly.... Effective control of drug abuse requires high-level coordination of Federal interna tional and domestic activities relating to both supply of, and demand for, commonly abused drugs.... Local governments with high concentrations of drug abuse should be actively involved in the planning and coordination of efforts to combat drug abuse.

The Drug Abuse Prevention, Treatment, and Rehabilitation Act (P.L.96-181, 93 Stat. 1309) is an amendment to the Drug Abuse Office and Treatment Act. These statutes together provide federal funding to various programs for the prevention of drug abuse and for the treatment and rehabilitation of drug abusers. In adopting these acts Congress aimed to coordinate a national strategy and establish a framework of federal, state, and local partnerships to combat drug abuse. The various amendments have extended programs to account for demographic shifts in the country and to respond to changing patterns of drug abuse.


Federal legislation leading to the adoption of the federal Drug Abuse Prevention, Treatment, and Rehabilitation Act reflects a varied approach to addiction. Proponents of a medical response to addiction have often competed with proponents of a punitive, or punishment, model. During the 1920s, thousands of private doctors were arrested for treating addiction by prescribing regulated "maintenance" doses of narcotics. Yet congressional interest in rehabilitating addicts emerged even as federal penalties for narcotics trafficking were being increased. With the Porter Act (1929), Congress established two "narcotic farms" for the confinement and treatment of addicts serving time in the federal prison system. These were built at Lexington, Kentucky (1935), and Fort Worth, Texas (1938). They continued to operate until the early 1970s.

The view that addiction was a treatable illness gained renewed popularity with lawmakers in the 1960s. This led Congress to pass the Narcotic Addict Rehabilitation Act in 1966, which diverted some addicts charged with federal crimes into a civil process of treatment and rehabilitation. Two years later, in 1968, Congress passed the Alcoholic and Narcotic Addict Rehabilitation Amendments. Both laws authorized federal grants to assist the states and private organizations in the development of rehabilitation and treatment services. In order to clarify federal drug policy, Congress later combined various disparate enforcement laws into a single statute, the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act adopted in 1970. This legislation dealt with prevention and treatment of drug abuse as well as with the interdiction of drug traffic. The same year, Congress allocated $3.5 million to the Office of Education and $1 million to the National Institutes of Health for drug abuse research, education, and training.

The Congress, seeking to establish a diverse national network of drug abuse treatment programs, passed the Drug Abuse Office and Treatment Act (DAOTA) on March 21, 1972. The law created a Special Action Office for Drug Abuse Prevention and established the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) under the auspices of the National Institute of Mental Health. The federal role was to provide coordination, training, and seed money to assist state drug abuse prevention activities. Although in the years subsequent to the DAOTA the nation saw a marked reduction in the rate of increase of drug abuse, the apparent continuing spread of drug abuse indicated to Congress that the need for more effective and visible federal leadership was ongoing. This leadership has come through periodic amendments to the 1972 statute that extended prevention education and treatment programs.

The Drug Abuse Prevention, Treatment and Rehabilitation Act of 1979, which was actually enacted January 2, 1980, mandated that at least seven percent in 1980 and ten percent in 1981 of the community programs portion of NIDA's budget be spent on prevention. This act also recognized the emerging need for prevention and intervention programs designed to reach not only the general population but also members of such high -risk populations as youth, women, and the elderly. The Congress also sought to target federal support for planning and coordination efforts to communities with high concentrations of drug abuse.


During the 1980s the federal war on drugs gathered strength and brought a renewal in the punitive approach to drug abuse. Nevertheless, when Congress passed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, it enhanced the federal block grant program for substance abuse treatment and increased funds for research of AIDS, the spread of which seemed to be aggravated by drug use. In 1988 Congress passed the Omnibus Anti-Drug Abuse Act, which authorized funds for school-based drug prevention efforts and drug abuse treatment with special emphasis on injection drug abusers at high risk for AIDS. Although the 1986 and 1988 acts increased federal funding for treatment and rehabilitation, these statutes also reintroduced to federal law a system of mandatory minimum prison sentences. Disproportionate impact of these laws on racial minority defendants has been the source of much critical analysis and debate.

See also: Alcoholic and Narcotic Rehabilitation Act; Anti-Drug Abuse Act.


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Narcotics Anonymous

Narcotics Anonymous (NA) was found ed in the 1950s as a small nonprofit group inspired by Alcoholics Anony mous. The principles of NA included the following: "seeking help; engag ing in a thorough self-examination; confidential self-disclosure; making amends for harm done; and helping other drug addicts who want to recov er." The group stresses spiritual prin ciples and mutual support, and in weekly meetings, members share their experiences and encourage one another to abstain completely from all drugs, including alcohol. The organi zation has spread throughout the world: In 2002 there were approxi mately 20,000 registered groups holding more than 31,000 weekly meetings in more than 100 countries.

Narcotic Addict Rehabilitation Act of 1966

Adopted in 1966, the Narcotic Addict Rehabilitation Act provided the option of sending addicts to rehabili tation programs as an alternative to jail. Addicts who were interested in treatment could be granted a civil commitment to Public Health Service hospitals; if they had been convicted of crimes, they could be treated at a Bureau of Prisons facility. If the patient was unsuccessful in the reha bilitation program, the original pros ecution could be resumed.

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