WASHINGTON – President Bush said Tuesday that ground has been lost in the war on drugs and that it is time to re-energize the fight.
So, the president unveiled the administration's national drug control strategy.
"We've got a problem in this country. Too many people use drugs. And this is an individual tragedy, and as a result it's a social crisis. There is no question that drug use wreaks havoc on the very fabric that provides stability for our society," Bush said Tuesday in remarks at the White House.
Bush said his goal is to cut illegal drug use by 10 percent over the next two years and 25 percent over the next five years.
His plan will propose a modest increase in funding for drug treatment and a big hike in spending on interdiction. But the primary focus of the plan is education and community involvement, to try and keep teenagers from starting to use drugs in the first place.
On Monday, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, led by Bush appointee John Walters, said that hallucinogenic Ecstasy is the only drug whose use has increased in the last year. Surveys indicate Ecstasy use was up 20 percent by the nation's teenagers over the previous year, and 71 percent over 1999. Ecstasy has been linked to heart, brain and kidney damage.
"More than 50 percent of our high school seniors have said that they've experimented with illegal drugs at least once prior to graduation. There's some new hip drugs, like Ecstasy and GHB, that are kind of fads, but they're dangerous and lethal and are taking too many lives," Bush said, referring to gammahydroxybutyrate, a metabolic steroid that induces users to pass out.
Overall, the president's 2003 budget contains almost $20 billion for drug control efforts, an increase of 2 percent.
The White House said it's boosting drug treatment spending by 6 percent to $38 billion, and law enforcement interdiction efforts by 10 percent to $2.3 billion.
Bush said the message to parents must be unequivocal: don't use drugs.
"A central focus of this strategy is to reduce demand, is to convince our children that the use of drugs is destructive in their lives. And that starts with good parenting. It is essential that our parents understand that they're the child's most important teacher," Bush said.
Opponents of the current policy on drug controls say the president's plan is on "auto-pilot."
"It's not anything any different than what we've seen," said William McCall of the Drug Policy Alliance, which favors decriminalization of drugs.
Part of the plan involves public service announcements that connect the fight against drugs to the war on terror. Broadcast networks are airing announcements that debuted during the Superbowl that explain some terrorist groups fund their operations through illegal drug sales.
As part of this initiative, the plan also includes some $730 million to help fight the war on drugs in Latin America.
"There is no question that drug use has a direct funding for terrorists. Casual drug users, non-casual drug users, serious drug abusers ... as a result of their purchase of drugs it ultimately does support terrorist organizations around the world," said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer Tuesday.
"He's barely gotten going and he's already blaming America's teenagers for terrorism," McCall said.
Fox News' James Rosen and Wendell Goler and the Associated Press contributed to this report.