Frank Guinta, Drug Warrior-Turned-Treatment Advocate, Could Be Our Next Drug Czar

By Victoria Kim 02/15/17

Guinta says his mayoral term changed the way he viewed addiction and led him to educate himself on the public health issue. 

Frank Guinta
Frank Guinta Photo via WikiCommons

Former U.S. Representative Frank Guinta of New Hampshire may become the next head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. The former congressman once touted a tough-on-crime approach to drug issues, but he's since had a change of heart about how he sees drug addiction.

According to STAT News, multiple sources have said that Guinta is up for the “Drug Czar” position formerly occupied by Michael Botticelli, who brought a unique perspective to the role as a person in recovery himself

Guinta, who began his political career in Manchester, once pushed a tough-on-crime rhetoric when it came to drug abuse, but has since acknowledged that addiction is a public health issue. According to STAT, he helped establish a task force to combat the heroin epidemic in Congress and advocated for legislation to address opioid abuse.

His current viewpoint is a departure from his past life as a drug warrior. The former mayor of Manchester once opposed a halfway house and transitional program for outgoing prison inmates and parolees. Instead, his focus was on ramping up the city’s police force and promoting the DARE program.

But faced with the city’s crime problem and unable to produce results, he said he began to educate himself on the science of addiction, speaking with doctors and visiting recovery centers. “Up to that point, I did not see addiction to heroin as an illness,” he told STAT.

He said his experience as mayor changed how he sees drug abuse. “After the research that I’ve done and the people that I’ve talked to, both people who are addicted and people in the field, as well as law enforcement, I believe that addiction is an illness and we need to treat it as such,” he said. “Once you have the facts, it’s very clear to you.”

On the other hand, like President Trump, Guinta is convinced that cracking down on the U.S.-Mexico border will stop heroin and other illicit drugs from entering the United States. Last year while campaigning for the presidency, Trump addressed the country’s opioid problem by citing New Hampshire specifically. 

He blamed rampant opioid abuse in the U.S. on the flow of drugs coming “from the southern border,” and vowed to “cut off the source” by building a massive wall between the two countries. 

According to a projection by New Hampshire's chief medical examiner, there were 476 drug-related deaths in the state by the end of last year, with heroin and opioids accounting for the vast majority of cases.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and Dr. Andrea Barthwell from the George W. Bush administration are also said to be under consideration for drug czar. So far nobody, including Guinta, has confirmed this.

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix

Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr