Barack Obama countered one of his predecessors, Bill Clinton, by doing one thing. Something political hopefuls are often warned against. He told the truth. Without really being questioned, or poked and prodded, Obama said to a group of reporters in 2006:
"When I was a kid, I inhaled." Obama went on to say that inhaling ‘was the point’. Most people would second and third that motion. After all, if one does not ‘inhale’ than is there a point to drug use? Most would say no. Obama even goes as far as to detail the drugs he used before entering politics in his book, “Dreams from My Father”, written in 1996.
During Obama’s teenage years, like most, kids he chose the party going on down the block over studying. That being said, Obama still remained a solid B student until late into his teens. In fact, until his senior year, Obama was a good student. At this point, he began drinking a little more beer, smoked marijuana and tried a few rows of cocaine. The only reason Obama steered clear of heroin was because it seemed to him that his supplier was a little too enthusiastic about the drug and that seemed suspect.
Obama outlines his experience with substance abuse best in this excerpt from “Dreams from My Father”:
Junkie. That's where I'd been headed: the final, fatal role of the young would-be black man. Except the highs hadn't been about me trying to prove what a down brother I was. Not by then, anyway. I got high for just the opposite effect, something that could push questions of who I was out of my mind, something that could flatten out the landscape of my heart, blur the edges of my memory. I had discovered that it didn't make any difference whether you smoked reefer in the white classmate's sparkling new van, or in the dorm room of some brother you'd met down at the gym, or on the beach with a couple of Hawaiian kids who had dropped out of school and now spent most of their time looking for an excuse to brawl. You might just be bored, or alone. Everybody was welcome into the club of disaffection. And if the high didn't solve whatever it was that was getting you down, it could at least help you laugh at the world's ongoing folly and see through all the hypocrisy and bullshit and cheap moralism.
Having visited Obama’s past experiences with drugs here, it is now fitting to speak about his take on the issues that are most pertinent to the campaign against drug use that has been in effect in the United States since the 1980’s. As opposed to most political incumbents, Obama is special in that he comes in with a point of view different from that of his opponents. Obama, having been in a situation at one point of his life, that mirrors that of the majority of the United States can view the issues and hopefully offer potential solutions that might solve long standing problems affecting the masses.
Methamphetamines – His Take
Since 1996, use of meth has increased approximately 156% nationwide. Obama has not only talked about this problem, but also cosponsored legislation that became law which specifically targets battling meth. Obama also fully supports programs geared at helping addicts heal post drug use.
Needle Exchange Programs: Fighting HIV infection- His Take
Obama acknowledges the link between drug use and an increase in HIV infection rates. He is thinking proactively when he suggests that increasing HIV prevention programs and materials can result in a decrease of costs associated with providing care for HIV positive individuals.
As he states: If we think about the enormous costs of homelessness, or the enormous cost of HIV/AIDS, over the long term, as people visit emergency rooms, etc. The more we are investing in that ounce of prevention the better off we're going to be.”
Help Prisoners with Drug Use and the Drug Courts- His Take
Obama has three goals in regards to this topic. First, use of drug court will be expanded so that first time offenders are given a chance to serve their sentence in a drug rehabilitation facility. The reason for this being, such treatment has shown to work more effectively than a prison term. Secondly, ex-offenders will be given a support system which consists of substance abuse counseling and mental health counseling, in conjunction with job training. The purpose of this being to help offenders reintegrate themselves into society and become contributing members of society. Finally, disparities between sentencing will be eliminated. Point in case: eliminating differences in sentencing for someone using crack as opposed to powder based cocaine will be eliminated.
Lowering of the Drinking Age- His Take
When questioned about this particular, Obama answered the following question with one word- No.
‘Would you as president remove the requirement that a state have a legal drinking age of 21 in order to receive federal highway funds, thereby returning the drinking age back to the states?
Like anything else, one will have to wait and see if Obama will truly follow through with his endeavors or not. It is refreshing however, to see a candidate, who, as stated prior has an insider's point of view. Only time will tell, however, it is possible that a fresh take like Obama’s is just what the United States needs- particularly in reference to the ongoing issue of substance abuse.
Rachel Hayon, MPH, RN
Seelye, K. Q. Barack Obama, asked about drug history, admits he inhaled
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 25, 2006. International Herald Tribune.
Mendell, David. From Promise to Power, 45-46, Aug 14, 2007
Campaign booklet, "Blueprint for Change", p. 32-33, 49 Feb 2, 2008
2008 Politico pre-Potomac Primary interview. Feb 11, 2008
The Improbable Quest, by John K. Wilson, p. 12-13, 146-47, Oct 30, 2007
[Xref Biden] 2007 Democratic primary debate at Dartmouth Sep 6, 2007