Speech

Target America: Opening Eyes to the Damage Drugs Cause
Acting Administrator Leonhartís Video Introduction
California Science Center October 2008

Hello, I’m Michele Leonhart, the Acting Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration. Welcome to this one-of-a-kind exhibit that will open your eyes to the damage that drugs cause.

Imagine a world without drugs…where teens are not fooled into taking death pills disguised as harmless fun…where children can play in their neighborhoods without fear of drug violence…where we don’t have to spend millions of dollars a year—and put our agents’ and officers’ lives on the line arresting drug traffickers …and one where we don’t have to experience the agony of loved ones suffering from a tragic addiction.

Our mission at the DEA is to do everything possible to make that world a reality. We do it with strong enforcement—cutting off the drug supply at its source—working with our local law enforcement partners here in Southern California—and with exhibits like this that teach citizens just how sinister the drug culture has become and how drugs terrorize neighborhoods and destroy lives. How a youthful “experimentation” too often becomes a deadly addiction.

This exhibit, right here in Southern California, dramatically demonstrates how drugs damage not just individuals, but entire families and communities--hurting our nation and other countries around the world.

In too many of our own communities, drugs terrorize citizens, depriving them of their freedom and ability to live safely.

Tragically, children pay the highest price for drug trafficking and abuse. Dealers often recruit children as drug couriers. When parents make home-made methamphetamine, innocent children become second-hand drug victims—forced to breathe toxic air, to live in filth, and be raised by parents whose only concern is their next fix.

You don’t have to live in a meth lab or be a drug user for this to hurt you. Meth lab operators routinely make the drug in public locations and dump toxic waste into our streams, fields, and sewage systems—exposing all of us to unacceptable levels of poison.

Drug abuse spills out on to our highways. A recent study reveals that nearly half of the reckless drivers who were not impaired by alcohol, tested positive for marijuana.

We can put a price tag on the drug-induced medical care costs, the lost productivity, jailed offenders, and cleaning the drug waste pollution. The cost in human lives is immeasurable.

We can...and are breaking this horrendous cycle of drug abuse and addiction. We’re doing it by educating children and parents….treating addicts and enforcing our laws. We know more than ever about how to treat and heal addiction. Scientists at USC, UCLA, and other universities and colleges are finding new medications and programs that help end the toughest abuse problems.

So, please keep these challenges in mind as you tour “Target America.” Open your eyes to the science behind illegal drug abuse and addiction and explore the many costs and consequences to individuals, American society, and the world.

I hope you will take home a deeper understanding that by living a drug-free life, you can play an important part in ending the cycle of drug abuse and drug violence in our society.