Open Thread

Happy New Year! Just back from a trip visiting relatives over the holidays, and trying to figure out what retirement means in this, my first week of actually dealing with retirement. Thanks for bearing with me in the long holiday pause.

I would say one of the most potentially interesting news items over break was this one about the Surgeon General:

Surgeon General Announces Review of Federal Drug Policies

Areas of focus in the report may include the history of the prevention, treatment and recovery fields; components of the substance use continuum (i.e., prevention, treatment and recovery); epidemiology of substance use, misuse and substance use disorders; etiology of substance misuse and related disorders; neurobiological base of substance misuse and related disorders; risk and protective factors; application of scientific research in the field, including methods, challenges and current and future directions; social, economic and health consequences of substance misuse; co-occurrence of substance use disorders and other diseases and disorders; the state of health care access and coverage as it relates to substance use prevention, treatment and recovery; integration of substance use disorders, mental health and physical health care in clinical settings; national, state and local initiatives to assess and improve the quality of care for substance misuse and related disorders; organization and financing of prevention, treatment and recovery services within the health care system; ethical, legal and policy issues; and potential future directions.

It’s quite easy to find reasons to be both optimistic and pessimistic about this news. Certainly, there’s a lot of history in the federal government in claiming to want to find the scientific truth when they really are doing nothing more than distorting it to confirm political preferences. And yet, the surgeon general’s office has historically been less likely to be as politically driven, which could be good.

If we assume that the Surgeon General will actually follow the science and facts wherever they lead, recommendations could still get derailed (witness Jocelyn Elders). But if the administration is trying to pave the way for a real change in federal drug policy before the end of the term, this would be the way to do it — with the weight of the top medical doctor in the country behind the recommendations.

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