Drug Control Policy, United States Office of National

Drug Control Policy, United States Office of National


The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, or ONDCP, is an independent office of the executive branch of the United States government, and reports directly to the president. Established by the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988, ONDCP is the principal architect of national drug control strategy. It directs anti-drug efforts, and establishes a gameplan for achieving goals, along with a budget and guidelines for cooperation between federal, state, local, and private entities.

Enabling legislation. The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988, which set a policy goal of creating a "drug-free America," included as one of its key provisions the establishment of ONDCP. It is charged with setting priorities for anti-drug policy, implementing a national strategy for fighting drugs, and certifying federal drug-control budgets. The drug-fighting strategy, as specified by the statute, must be comprehensive and founded in research; must contain measurable objectives and long-range goals; and must seek reductions in drug abuse, trafficking, and the consequences thereof. Specific aims include the discouragement of drug abuse among young people, a reduction in the number of drug users, and decrease in the availability of drugs.

A series of executive orders in 1993 (E.O. 12880) and 1996 (12992 and 13023) collectively placed ONDCP in the lead role for drug policymaking entities within the executive branch of the federal government. In 1994, the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act added to ONDCP's responsibilities the assessment of budgets and resources related to the overall national drug control strategy.

The 1997 Drug-Free Communities Act empowered ONDCP to undertake a national initiative whereby federal grants would go to community coalitions with a demonstrated record of reducing substance abuse among local populations, encouraging cooperation between the private and public sectors, and involving citizens in anti-drug efforts. In 1998, the ONDCP Reauthorization Act expanded ONDCP's role and established additional requirements for the office, including the development of a long-term national strategy for combating illegal drug use and distribution.

Anti-drug advertising. Also in 1998, the Media Campaign Act charged ONDCP with leading a national media campaign directed toward young people. This placed the office in collaboration with the Partnership for a Drug-Free America (PDFA), a private organization to which advertisers donate resources as a means of discouraging drug use among America's youth. ONDCP in 1998 initiated the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, which mobilized both the private and public sectors to fight drug use among young people.

Four years later, a private survey commissioned by ONDCP found that advertising had done little to discourage drug use among adolescents. However, PDFA chairman Jim Burke asserted in a Washington Post editorial that this assessment was too pessimistic: not only had drug use among teens not increased, but the advertising had helped to raise awareness among parents.

An ONDCP-sponsored campaign that established a connection between drugs and terrorism drew fire from some critics when it debuted at the 2002 Superbowl. While the connection between the heroin trade and terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda has been established, critics maintained the link between terrorism and drugs is less obvious for marijuana, some of which is grown in the United States. Furthermore, in the view of some detractors, the introduction of the terrorism theme complicated what should have been a simple message discouraging drug use for health and social reasons. Nevertheless, the campaign sparked debate and awareness for personal responsibility issues regarding the global implications for illegal drug purchase and use.



Ojeda, Auriana. Drug Trafficking. San Diego, CA: Green-haven Press, 2002.

Thompson, Stephen P. The War on Drugs: Opposing Viewpoints. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press, 1998.


Burke, Jim. "Kids, Drugs, and Bureaucrats." Washington Post. (May 21, 2002): A17.

Grimm, Matthew. "A Dubious Pitch." American Demographics 24, no. 5 (May 2002): 44–46.

"ONDCP Says Anti-Drug Ads Are Ineffective." Crime Control Digest 36, no. 20 (May 17, 2002): 4.


White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. < http://www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov/ > (February 22, 2003).


DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration)
NDIC (Department of Justice National Drug Intelligence Center)

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