Published: May 11, 2010 12:32 PM EDT

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama on Tuesday announced a

revised approach to "confronting the complex challenge of drug use

and its consequences," putting more resources into drug prevention

and treatment.

The new drug control strategy boosts community-based anti-drug

programs, encourages health care providers to screen for drug

problems before addiction sets in and expands treatment beyond

specialty centers to mainstream health care facilities.

"By boosting community-based prevention, expanding treatment,

strengthening law enforcement and working collaboratively with our

global partners, we will reduce drug use and the great damage it

causes in our communities," Obama said. "I am confident that when

we take the steps outlined in this strategy, we will make our

country stronger and our people healthier and safer."

The plan - the first drug plan unveiled by the Obama White House

- calls for reducing the rate of youth drug use by 15 percent over

the next five years and for similar reductions in chronic drug use,

drug abuse deaths and drugged driving.

In an interview Monday, Gil Kerlikowske, the White House drug

czar, said, "It changes the whole discussion about ending the war

on drugs and recognizes that we have a responsibility to reduce our

own drug use in this country."

Kerlikowske criticized past drug strategies for measuring

success by counting the number of children and teens who have not

tried marijuana. At the same time, he said, the number of deaths

from illegal and prescription drug overdoses was rising.

"Us facing that issue and dealing with it head on is

important," Kerlikowske said.

The new drug plan encourages health care professionals to ask

patients questions about drug use even during routine treatment so

that early intervention is possible. It also helps more states set

up electronic databases to identify doctors who are overprescribing

addictive pain killers.

"Putting treatment into the primary health care discussion is

critical," Kerlikowske said.

The policy shift comes in the wake of several other drug policy

reforms since Obama took office. Obama signed a measure repealing a

two-decade old ban on the use of federal money for needle-exchange

programs to reduce the spread of HIV. His administration also said

it won't target medical marijuana patients or caregivers as long as

they comply with state laws and aren't fronts for drug traffickers.

Earlier this year, Obama called on Congress to eliminate the

disparity in sentencing that punishes crack crimes more heavily

than those involving powder cocaine.

Some drug reform advocates like the direction Obama is heading,

but question whether the administration's focus on treatment and

prevention programs is more rhetoric than reality at this point.

They point to the national drug control budget proposal released

earlier this year, for example, which continues to spend about

twice as much money on enforcement as it does on programs to reduce


"The improved rhetoric is not matched by any fundamental shift

in the budget or the broader thrust of the drug policy," said

Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance,

which favors drug policy reform.

Nadelmann praised some of Obama's changes, but said he is

disappointed with the continued focus on arresting, prosecuting and

incarcerating large numbers of people.

Kerlikowske rejected that as "inside the Beltway discussion,"

and said there are many programs that combine interdiction and


The drug control office's budget request does include a 13

percent increase in spending on alcohol and drug prevention

programs, along with a 3.7 percent increase for addiction