Scholar explains why the DEA, not the FDA, has the power to classify potentially addictive substances.
The US government has declared a response to the opioid crisis that prioritizes rehabilitation and treatment. Specific priorities include improve access to prevention services, strengthen public health data and support research on drug addiction and pain. Despite this statement, the federal agency for primary control over potentially addictive substances is not focused on public health, but on the law. enforcement.
This regulatory power should change, argues Tale El-Sabawi, teacher at Elon University Law School. Instead of the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) having the power to regulate potentially addictive substances, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) should have this power. The approach the FDA would take would be better address the current opioid crisis in the country.
In response to the opioid epidemic, the US Congress passed the Comprehensive Drug Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016. This law States that the opioid crisis should be approached with an emphasis on prevention, treatment and recovery.
Despite the government’s intention to treat drug addiction as a national health problem, the DEA continues to hold on âkeyâ decision-making power over the classification of potentially addictive substances. DEA possesses the power of timetable a substance, by imposing certain restrictions on its use and imposing criminal penalties on those who do not comply with the restrictions.
Although the DEA should refer to the FDA recommendations on drug scheduling, the app split between the two agencies leans more towards the law enforcement approach of the DEA, El-Sabawi affirms. For example, the FDA will often be report to the DEA’s programming preferences on a substance that has not yet been classified.
Why does the DEA have such power? The common reason, Explain El-Sabawi, depends on the alleged failures of the Drug Abuse Control Office (BDAC), a short-lived office within the FDA that was once responsible for the fight against drugs. According to El-Sabawi, some scholars attribute the fall of the BDAC due to poor performance and its regulatory approach to enforcement. She explains that because of such assertive failures, these researchers thought The FDA was not equipped to manage regulatory control of potentially addictive substances.
But El-Sabawi argues that the disappearance of the BDAC was not due to âpoor performanceâ. Instead, the dissolution of this office was largely due to the influence and infiltration of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, an entity specific to narcotics which served as a precursor of the DEA. Once the BDAC dissolved, the FDA lost its status as the primary law enforcement agency regulating potentially addictive substances.
Using the accounts of former FDA officials, El-Sabawi details the clash between the FDA and Federal Bureau of Narcotics employees. At first, the Bureau of Narcotics defined its function as a police entity. In the mid-1960s, former officials of the Bureau of Narcotics joined BDAC to assist the FDA in its investigative role. However, El-Sabawi discover that these former employees of the Bureau of Narcotics were transferred to the BDAC because they were under investigation for corruption. It Remarks that at BDAC, former Narcotics Bureau agents used a punitive approach and were known to take “ethically dubious shortcuts”.
Frustrated by the new tone of the Bureau of Narcotics, FDA employees transferred of the BDAC, and the entity quickly dissolved. Shortly thereafter, President Richard M. Nixon created the DEA and “endorsed and institutionalized the Bureau of Narcotics’ criminal justice approach over the regulatory and health-oriented approach of the FDA,” El- Sabawi written.
This is because the DEA and the FDA have separate ways of regulating potentially addictive substances. El-Sabawi argues that the differences between the agencies are important.
DEA plinths many of its programming decisions are based on the characteristics of a drug’s active ingredients, rather than the risks and benefits to the user. In contrast, the FDA has a more nuanced approach because it considered dosage and formulation of the product, factors which lead to potential dependence. Such programming decisions affect the manufacture, distribution and availability of substances.
In addition, agencies differ in their purpose and line of action. The DEA, a subset of the United States Department of Justice, is center on punitive measures. FDA, which is in the US Department of Health and Human Services, is concentrated on public health and drug safety. El-Sabawi argues that the function of the DEA – to prosecute drug traffickers and addicts – may prompt the agency to label substances at a higher classification.
A regulatory transfer to the FDA to bring medical considerations and scientific accuracy at the forefront of decision-making. More precise drug classifications, coupled with the FDA’s health-centric approach, advantage people with opioid dependence and potential drug users.
For these reasons, El-Sabawi concludes that putting the FDA in charge would be more effective in dealing with the current opioid crisis in the country.