On Monday, the Senate approved Michael Botticelli to serve as head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), otherwise known as the United States drug “czar,” the Associated Press reports. Botticelli vowed to continue a “science-based drug policy,” focusing on treatment rather than arrest.
“There’s a large acknowledgement that we can’t arrest and incarcerate our way out of the problem,” said Botticelli to the AP last year.
What makes Botticelli unique is the fact that he is the first in his position to openly admit to being an active member of recovery. This puts him in a position of empathy towards the disease, allowing him to create sounder policies with regard to providing treatment for an illness which touches the lives of millions of Americans.
“Mr. Botticelli’s personal life experiences have provided him a unique perspective on the epidemic facing our nation,” said Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass. Botticelli often reminds officials that “there is a family, a loved one, a friend or a child behind each statistic” on drug abuse.
Botticelli served as acting drug czar since March, before being granted full acceptance with a 92-0 vote from the Senate, according to the article. On top of being in recovery, he has a background in policy making from serving as the head of the Massachusetts Bureau of Substance Abuse Services.
“There are millions of Americans – including myself – who are in successful long-term recovery,” Botticelli said in a statement. “Our stories can fundamentally change the way our nation views people with a substance use disorder, which is a disease needing medical treatment like any other disease.”
He said the confirmation “is an honor I never dreamed of 26 years ago, when my substance use disorder had become so acute that I was handcuffed to a hospital bed. I accept this challenge with the humility and tenacity of someone in long-term recovery.”