Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Political Science


In 1972 the Congress of the United States enacted the Drug Abuse Office and Treatment Act (D.A.O.T.A). The passage of this bill marked the first time in the 20th Century that the federal government had produced major legislation that would deal with drug abuse as a disease instead of a crime. Likewise, the enactment and signing of D.A.O.T.A. meant that Richard Nixon would be the first American President to have an executive office which would be charged with the mission of supervising our national effort against drug abuse. (These changes appeared on the surface to be momentous. However, one major question remained to be answered. Did the D.A.O.T.A. really have any substance?

The question of whether or not the D.A.O.T.A could provide a meaningful answer to our nation’s drug abuse problems became the starting point for this study. Considering the powerful office and aggressive program that President Nixon had requested in his special message to Congress on drug abuse, the nature of the drug abuse problem in the U.S., and the bill which Congress finally enacted, there appeared to be quite a number of differences between what the President had asked for and what the House and the Senate enacted. Why the Congress did not respond affirmatively to President Nixon's request and why the Congress chose to assert its own conscience, raised a number of questions. President Nixon's aggressive initiative and the casual acceptance of the conference substitute put together by the House and Senate raised still other question marks.

This analysis is structured with the objective of examining each segment of the enactment of the D.A.O.T.A; from the announcement of the Nixon proposal to the conference that was finally held. At each juncture, an attempt is made to portray the intentions of President Nixon, the reaction of the House and Senate, the issues that were at stake and the compromises that were made. The evidence, which is evaluated consists of primarily, U.S. Government documents. Secondary accounts of day to day happenings in the White House and Congress were obtained from the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. Where doubts existed as to the motives of individual participants, an attempt was made to obtain additional information through correspondence.

The information, that unfolded, gave credence to the hypothesis that the D.A.O.T.A. was doomed to failure because the Congress did not provide it with a clear mandate to turn the drug abuse problem around. The case of the D.A.O.T.A. produced the scenario of a low level conflict between the President and Congress over drug abuse. In this instance, the Congress stated that it considered the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare the proper place for the long term coordination of drug abuse prevention and not the Executive Office of the President. The enactment of the D.A.O.T.A. laid down the guidelines for federal drug abuse prevention activities in the 1970's. The case of the D.A.O.T.A. established a precedent upon which to gage future presidential-congressional-actions in the area of drug abuse prevention and suggested how Congress might react to any future attempts by a President to increase the power of his executive office and the Presidency.