The War On Drugs
The War On Drugs
The war on drugs has been going on for over 40 years, yet it appears to be a complete failure, it’s a waste of time and resources, and somehow we still continue to fight an unachievable objective. It is stated that 246 million people between the ages 15 and 64 had used an illicit drug in 2013, which is an increase of three million people from the year before. Three million may not seem like a lot with a number as high as 246 million, but three million people represents about a third of the people living in the Bay Area and with the information that’s available, it appears to be quite a lot of people. Out of those 246 million people, 27 million of them had a problem with drug use. While in that same year 187,000 people were estimated to have died from drug-related deaths, and this number has remained relatively the same. From the statistics it is easy to tell that drug use has been becoming more of a problem in recent years (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime).
Out of the 27 million people who have a problem with drugs, about half of them were the types that are injected. With the half of the 27 million people who injected the drugs, an estimated 1.6 million people is suspected to have had the HIV virus in 2013. There has been some progress made of reducing HIV transmissions, but only by 10 percent. The goal was to lower HIV and AIDS transmissions by 50 percent among the people who injected these drugs by 2015, this goal was not expected to be made. It is easy to tell the correlation between drug use and disease transmission, with these statistics, which you can also find at the same government website.
Surprisingly, cocaine use seems to have dropped while pharmaceutical opioids, along with cannabis, continue to increase (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime). With the inadequate amount of data on the use of opiates it appears to remain steady at a global level. As for the trends in amphetamine-type stimulants use has varied over the years compared to other drugs globally. With drug use on the rise, has the war on drugs really been beneficial?
The number of incarcerations for in 2014 in federal, state, local prisons, and jails, was about 2,224,400 people, this is the largest incarceration rate in the world (We are the Drug Policy Alliance). The number of arrest in the U.S. is expected to be around 1.5 million for drug law violations, with 1.2 million being for possession only. This is an unhealthy amount of incarcerations, for just one country, and most of these incarcerations being non-violent crimes. So why are these people being put in prisons instead of getting help? We could be using this space for genuine criminals that commit real violent crimes, such as sexual assault and other violent crimes, instead we are committing people who need help to prison and wasting money, time, and resources instead.
One of the reasons people are not getting help for their drug problem is because they do not have access to proper treatments. Only one out of six people have access to treatment, for the reason being many countries have a lack in the Provision of Services. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s) National Survey on Drug Use and Health, “23.5 million persons aged 12 or older needed treatment for an illicit drug or alcohol abuse problem in 2009 (9.3 percent of persons aged 12 or older). Of these, only 2.6 million—11.2 percent of those who needed treatment—received it at a specialty facility.”
The most popular drug prevention program is the Drug Abuse Resistance Education, more commonly known as the D.A.R.E. program. D.A.R.E.’s main goal was to teach adolescents proper refusal skills. This program is in 75% of school districts and 52 countries (D.A.R.E.). This program must be effective, right? Well, according to studies published in the 1990s, they determined that the program was ineffective, and that it may actually increase the drug use (ProCon.org). From these studies in 1998, D.A.R.E failed to meet the federal requirements, because there program was not research based and effective, due to this, they stopped receiving federal grant money.
Marijuana has been getting a lot of headline news lately, both positive and negative, from both researchers and the media. Recently there was a study by University of Colorado, Montana State University, and San Diego State University about the correlations between suicide rates falling and marijuana use. Based on the study, suicide among men between the ages of 20-39, dropped about 9% and 11%, after the medical use of marijuana was legalized in certain states compared to other states that they were not legalized in. For some reason the DEA lies about the medical use, saying “The scientific community has not approved marijuana as medicine”. This is not true (Drug-War.Us).
A big mistake that the chemical diversion control strategy completely neglects is trying to cut down the supply of drugs, without lowering the demand first. What it seems is that they do not realize is that drugs are not price sensitive. Drug addicts will pay anything to continue their addiction, so regardless drug dealers and the drug cartel is getting their money. What cartels and dealers are doing is making more drugs to increase availability for their customers. The whole point of the war on drugs is to stop production. For example, when the chemical control diversion strategy took place, to deny drug traffickers certain chemicals to make drugs, this strategy did not work. When the chemicals to make methamphetamine were difficult to obtain in the United States the Mexican Cartel took the chance to smuggle meth across the borders to get profit off the opportunity. With the Mexican Cartel being able to produce good quality meth and having a bunch of experience smuggling, they made it were the U.S. meth supply never drop. So basically the strategy to restrict chemicals for methamphetamine was a failure. This is a war you just simply cannot win when trying to cut down the supply side of it. Even though drugs are still widely available, and demand not even lowered, the war on drugs has done nothing but bring devastating unintentional consequences. Even with a budget of 30 billion dollars, the United States Drug Enforcement Agency has an efficiency rate of less than one percent.
Drugs have been used throughout history and may even play a part in our evolutionary role in mental development. We even have evidence of Neanderthals with psychoactive properties in burials. That’s how far back drugs have been used. There was a late Mayan Archaeologist, who was named Dr. Stephen F. De Borhegyi, who even believed that hallucinogenic mushroom rituals were a central aspect of Mayan religion. His theory was based on an identification of a mushroom stone cult that was founded in the Guatemalan Highlands and the Pacific coastal area around 1000 B.C. Mind altering substances have been a part of human culture for a very long time, so it may not be very realistic for humans to control the use of these kinds if substances. It seems so embedded in human cultures and with the array of drugs today, it appears to be exceptionally difficult to stop drug use and production.
Just like the war on drugs, alcohol prohibition during the 1920-33 had so many unintended consequences. Though it was put in place as an experiment to reduce crime and corruption as well as improve health and hygiene in America it was horrible failure which ended in mass incarceration, causes of violence, loss of many jobs due to alcohol being banned, even state revenues dropped because of liquor taxes. Banning alcohol only made things worse in the long run, including for those people who did not drink the fermented substance. The overall lesson of The Prohibition Era still remains today in the debate with the war with drugs that the government has placed in effect in America. The outcome of the Prohibition was way worse than it was in the beginning, as alcohol consumption increased and crime increased to the point it became ‘organized crime’. It appears the same has happened with the war on drugs.
Why is it so important for our governments to ban drugs? The point made here is that if you read our history of the societies throughout our human existence you will see that drugs have always played a part of human culture. As early as the Sumerians, one of the earliest written societies, has proof of them writing about using Marijuana as far back 8,000 B.C. Sumerians, Egyptians, and Indians were users of opium some 5,500 year ago. Mayans were known for using entheogenic /hallucinogenic drugs such as the cocoa leaf and the Bolivian torch cactus which leads us to the Native Americans and their ritual use of peyote. Mind altering drugs have always been in human cultures and we have many examples of them.
So is there any way to stop drug use or reduce it? Maybe there is, it is called harm reduction. In the 1980’s Switzerland experienced a spike in heroin use and also HIV cases went up, along with other crimes becoming a problem. This is where the new strategy, harm reduction comes in play. What Switzerland does is open Heroin Maintenance Centers, where the drug users can be treated. In the centers, they would be given heroin, clean needles, and health professionals, the results were amazing. There was a drop in crime, about two thirds of the drug users got jobs, since they could focus on getting healthier, instead of funding their addiction. Now, more than 70% of the injecting drug users in Switzerland received help and were able to get their life back on track. HIV dropped and heroin overdoses dropped 50%. So this technique is way cheaper and more effective. If you look at all the facts it seems way better of an option, instead of wasting money on an objective, which is unachievable and unrealistic. Billions of dollars in the U.S. are wasted on fueling the drug cartels, increasing crime rates, and the excessive incarcerations of non-violent offenders. When are we going to call quits on the war on drugs and move on to this better option?
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