This summer marks the 50th anniversary of the creation of the Drug Enforcement Administration. On August 22, 2023, the Richard Nixon Foundation convened A Nation of Narcotics: Combating the Country’s Addiction and Fentanyl Crisis. This conference examined the last five decades of drug enforcement, including national strategies and community-based action. 

The current administrator of the DEA, Anne Milgram, and two former administrators participated in this conference at the Nixon Library, attended by community leaders and advocates for drug abuse prevention and treatment. 

The first panel, Understanding the Nixon Administration’s Drug Control Policy, featured domestic policy experts from the Nixon administration. The panelists took attendees back in time to the first American opioid epidemic, outlining President Nixon’s policy approach: a combination of drug abuse prevention and treatment with law enforcement actions and international agreements. These efforts had bi-partisan support and made enduring changes to the nation’s drug control policies and illicit supplies. 

Dr. Robert DuPont emphasized the human focus of the Nixon administration’s drug control policies, stating, “We were on a mission together that was really in the interest of the country. It was a magical time that we had. I had no idea how rare and precious that presidential attention was. It was people who were doing things absolutely with the interest of the people and the public in mind.”


John Coleman, 33 year career officer with Federal Bureau of Narcotics, Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs and the Drug Enforcement Administration (1965-98)

Jeffrey Donfeld, Staff Assistant, White House Domestic Council (1969-71), Assistant Director, Special Action Office for Drug Abuse Prevention (1972-73)

Dr. Robert DuPont, Founding Administrator, Narcotics Treatment Administration (1970- 73), Director, White House Special Action Office for Drug Abuse Prevention (1973-75), First Director, National Institute on Drug Abuse (1973-78)

Geoff Shepard, Moderator, White House Fellow (1969-70), Associate Director, White House Domestic Council (1970-74)

Following the first panel the current DEA administrator, Anne Milgram, delivered a special message to mark the 50th anniversary of the DEA.

The second panel, A Nation of Narcotics: Combating the Country’s Addiction and Fentanyl Crisis, focused on the current drug epidemic that is plaguing America. Panelists with experience in substance abuse treatment and community assistance provided actionable solutions for those dealing with addiction. These included treatment methods and community resources.


Tara Nierenhausen, Executive Director of Community’s Child with almost 50 years’ experience providing educational and support services to women, children and families

Ed Storti, author and international intervention specialist and developer of The Storti Model of Intervention, a special method of addictive disease intervention

Bill Woodbury, Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor with 35 years of experience in the field of Substance Use Disorder

Maureen Nunn, Moderator, Emmy award-winning television host, author, educator and certified drug and alcohol counselor

Keynote remarks were delivered by Judge Robert Bonner, former Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration, the first Commissioner of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection and United States District Judge. Judge Bonner noted that while little has been written about President Nixon’s efforts to combat drug abuse, it was President Nixon who put into place the “first truly national drug control strategy.”

Judge Bonner reflected on President Nixon’s vision and determination to take bold action, combined with his personal dedication to understand and solve the problem. This led to a successful drug enforcement strategy that accomplished its goal of reducing the number of heroin addicts. He explained Nixon’s two-pronged approach of providing treatment to heroin addicts (the demand side) while using law enforcement and international diplomacy to dramatically reduce the availability of heroin in the United States (the supply side). To this approach, the Nixon administration added education and prevention creating a comprehensive strategy that accomplished results. Concluding his remarks, Judge Bonner stated, “…President Nixon gave us the roadmap for dealing with drug abuse and prevention and we need to get back to it.” 

Special thanks to Nixon Foundation Board Member Maureen Nunn for sponsoring the conference’s luncheon.