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Why the War on Drugs Failed

This year actually marks the 40th anniversary of the War on Drugs and a lot has happened since it began. Let’s do a quick 1, 2, and 3 run down of the War on Drugs since it started.

  1. Since the beginning of the War on Drugs America has spent at least 1 trillion dollars on the drug war. It cost us, the U.S. taxpayers at least 51 billion dollars in 2009 alone at the state level and federal level. If that is too big of a number for you to get your head around let me put it this way: that is 169 dollars for every man, woman and child in America. And that isn’t counting opportunity costs or costs at the local level.
  2. Since the beginning of the War on Drugs we have also incarcerated millions of people for low-level drug law violations, which has resulted in racial disparities in the prison system, yet drug overdose, addict and misuse of substance is still more prevalent than ever.
  3. And last but not least since the inception of the War on Drugs, hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost to overdose and drug-related disease because cost-effective and lifesaving interventions are not sufficiently available. (On that note; see the first fact I mentioned above)

The War on Drugs and why it failed: My Opinion

The War on Drugs is a war with ourselves. We created the enemy, the need and the idea behind the War on Drugs. The War on Drugs may be one of the biggest mistakes, I believe this country made and continues to make even today. Imprisoning people for nonviolent drug offenses has bankrupted us as a country financially and morally. The War on Drugs has turned people with the disease of addiction into criminals and in many cases when these people serve time in jail or prison they come out worse not better because they weren’t criminals to begin with they were addicts.

The War on Drugs not only created their own enemy but to this day still continues while trying to beat the enemy, more enemies. This is why it is a war that can never be won. It is like Hercules fighting the Hydra. Take one head off; two more grow back in its place. This is why the war on drugs has failed. Example: throw a nonviolent drug offender with the disease of addiction in jail and they might just come out a gang member. Who knows? What I know is that what we need is more understanding, harm prevention and knowledge. And especially treatment for those who are using drugs.

Not only that but the harder we fight the War on Drugs the further underground the drug trafficking goes. Drug enforcement officials often cite drug-related violence as a reason that drugs must be eliminated from our society, but it is actually the system of drug prohibition that causes much of the violence.

Prohibition should have taught us something about trying to totally prohibit a substance. As soon as the United States put prohibition into effect you saw the rise of the American Mafia, corrupt police officers, and state officials; and everyone still continued to drink you just had the added violence that came with a kind of anarchy that ruled the sale of alcohol. Supply and demand people! When there is a demand there will always be someone who is willing to supply it. This is why the War on Drug will never be over. With large profit margins and people will demanding drugs. There will always be a customer base and someone who is always willing to step up and give it to them. Unfortunately, the War on Drugs made the decision that it would have to be the cartel, and the gangs, and the mafia or whoever else wanted to supply the drugs to all the people and not the FDA or government.

The War on Drugs did the exact opposite of what it was supposed to do. The War on Drugs was supposed to keep people out of danger and to slow the criminal activity. Instead the War on Drugs has created an underground violent and bloody drug trade and has also made your average Joes with the disease of addiction into hardened criminals.

The War on Drugs has thrown billions of dollars into turning addicts into criminals and pushing the drug trader farther down into the dark underbelly of our society. This is unfortunate because there are many addicts who could of used not even a fraction of that money and gotten the help they needed but instead they became a part of statistic number three I mentioned at the beginning of this post. It is frustrating to watch the United States throw money into fire of making things worse instead of looking for real solutions. Real solutions that include harm prevention, education (truth not scare tactics), treatment, and drug reform.

Luckily it seems that most of the country is starting to recognize what a disaster the War on Drugs has been for this country. Just like Hercules had to realize cutting the heads off Hydra didn’t work and come up with a new strategy; so do we. One that doesn’t have the unrealistic goal of wiping anything out forever (because you can’t) but come up with a strategy that is realistic and the most helpful or at least not harmful like it is now.

If you or your loved one is in need of drug treatment, please give us a call at 800-951-6135.

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