As the second White House “Drug Czar” and the first Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), Dr. DuPont was in the midst of a concerted effort by President Nixon and Congress to address the rising heroin and marijuana epidemics of the 1960s and 70s. He was recently asked by the Nixon Foundation to discuss his unique perspective on the 50th anniversary of the July 14th, 1969 Special Message to the Congress on Control of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, in which Nixon insisted that “A national awareness of the gravity of the situation is needed; a new urgency and concerted national policy are needed at the Federal level to begin to cope with this growing menace to the general welfare of the United States.”
Looking back, Dr. DuPont sees Nixon’s Message as a “remarkable document” that anticipated and drove the development of many aspects and institutions of research, law enforcement, treatment, and international cooperation that still form the core of US drug policy to this day. In particular, Dr. DuPont observes that Nixon’s Message broke new ground in two areas that were key in Dr. DuPont’s own career: the recognition that law enforcement and treatment are synergistic rather than competing components of effective drug policy, and the promotion of medically-assisted treatment (MAT), which Dr. DuPont helped pioneer in 1969 with the first large-scale MAT program in Washington, DC.
The interview concludes with Dr. DuPont offering his perspective on today’s drug policy landscape, including the marked shift from “cultivated” drugs to “synthetic” drugs, the drug legalization movement, and the new threat of what he calls “commercialized recreational pharmacology”, with businesses now a key driver of developing and marketing stronger, more addictive drugs and new delivery systems such as vaping and edibles. As he succinctly observed in a 2018 interview with Opiod Watch, “drug users are able to buy more drugs, at higher potency, and lower prices, with more convenient delivery, than ever before.”