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The war by the United States of America on drugs has drawn a lot of debate as to whether the result of the war is worth the effort. Many people are wondering whether America’s war on drugs is a failed initiative (Kenneth, 2002). The term “War on Drugs” was first used formally by the once president of the United States of America, Richard Nixon back in 1971 to define a new strategy to enforce the prohibition of drugs. This is an initiative that the United States has adopted with the help of other nations across the world to combat the illegitimate drug trading. In 1969, the then, president, Nixon reiterated that the abuse of drugs is the number one public enemy of the United States of America. Just a short while later, the passing of the Controlled Substances Act in 1970 by the United States’ Congress came to effect. This law forms the foundation of the contemporary War on Drugs by the United States of America. This research paper looks into the progress, made by the United States on the ‘War on Drugs’; programs of intervention; how other nations have done it and what could be the appropriate measures that the United States can employ to achieve success in this.
After the Controlled Substances Act in 1970 was adopted, all narcotics ended up being classified as illicit substances later on. The enforcement of this latest law was a new agency, known as the DEA. The War on Drugs has, however, made little progress. There have hardly been positive changes in the terms of use and trafficking. It is also very costly and has negatively impacted a lot of people. Despite the efforts by the United States of America, there are better strategies that could be applied in combating the growing drug problem in the society. If the nation of America makes the right choices and decisions, this War on Drugs can end up in a very peaceful manner. The United States of America is fighting a very serious drug epidemic.

A lot of money has been expended in combating this issue and that far; there have been hardly any positive outcomes. Caulkins et al. (2005) from the RAND Corporation explains just the way citizens of the United States are concerned. Alarming statistics show that illicit drugs are a $60-billion each year industry, utilized by at least 16 million Americans, seven percent of the United States population over 12 years of age. This level of usage evidently worries the entire population. From 1985 up to 2001, the illicit drugs were consistently one of the top ten answers, when the citizens of America were asked to state their opinion on the most significant problem that the American nation was facing.

Therefore, what exactly has been implemented as a measure of dealing with the issue of drugs? Policies have been put in place through lawmakers that prevent the possession and use of cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and marijuana among other illegal drugs. There are strategies that have been implemented to make these illegal substances very hard to acquire. Crops have been wiped out and smugglers together with the dealers have been imprisoned. To lower the country’s demand for drugs like narcotics, treatment of the abusers of drugs and programs of prevention has also been provided. The main disadvantage is the fact that drugs are still very much available and have continued to cause many problems in the American society (Kenneth, 2002). Therefore, America spends a lot of money resources on the War of Drugs.

Government Expenditure on Drug-War

The federal government of the United States expends almost $17 billion on annual basis on the War of Drugs. The National Drug Control budget was more than $ 18 billion in 2000. The individual states, at the same time, spent $20 billion extra. At the federal level, an amount exceeding $140 billion was expended from 1991 up to 2000 to control the use of drugs, while drugs have remained very cheap, easy to attain and with higher levels of purity, when compared to the times before the War on Drugs was declared (Doug, 2000). This is evidently money that is spent carelessly. According to Gray (2001), an increased zero tolerance policy can assist the United States to win the War on Drugs. Congressmen Gerald Solomon in 1996 presented a bill that would be used to punish any group that was found advocating for a change to the approach that the United States had acquired towards drug policy. This bill could have removed the tax-exempt status of any corporation that merely favors any attempt of making these drugs legal. The bill would have made a lot of sense since there should be a good legitimate reason for a legalization of this nature. This was a very useful plan, although it was never adopted.

Programs of Intervention

The “Drug-Free Century Act” was brought in 1999 to Congress. The objective of the bill was to make it easier for the agencies of the federal government to seize property from the drug criminals. The bill would have contributed a lot in cutting down the amount of cocaine important for particular sentences of prison. It would also have a compulsory driver’s license suspension for any conviction of drugs, voluntary arbitrary programs of drug testing and would have helped to prohibit the spending by the federal government on needle exchange programs. This bill may have been very successful in dealing with the drug epidemic. The education about drugs is another effective approach in fighting the War on Drugs.

The education programs and drug prevention have been used in the United States of America from the 1960s. Many of the school-based programs have depended on zero tolerance, scarce tactics, and just saying “No” to drugs. Even with the spending by the federal government of an amount exceeding $140 billion, the surveys by the same government indicate that almost a half of the teenagers experiment with drugs prior to high school graduation and that 73% of the same teenagers have tried alcohol (Gray, 2001). Most of the students in school do not take education on drugs with the seriousness with which it deserves. This makes everybody doubt the validity and credibility of the information. This group of students has learnt for themselves that the United States is scarcely “drug free”. Actually 80% of adults in the United States in each week used at least one medication and about 50% a prescription drug as reported in “The Journal of the American Medical Association”. These illegal drugs must be defined in broad terms to include both legal and illegal substances. Such programs must honor the ability of the teen to choose rightfully, differentiate abuse from use and, thereafter, stress the significance of context and moderation.

The curriculum must include the participation of students, be specific about age and offer an objective that is based on science as education materials. This could be such things as authentic examples of the substances to boost the creation of awareness. It is the duty and responsibility of teachers and parents to offer students with credible and important information so that they can make positive decisions and stay safe ultimately (Gray, 2001). Drug prevention should be combined with programs of treatment and the narcotic problem of the United States will immensely improve. All the same, the United States will still continue to expend colossal sums of money on the War on Drugs.

It costs almost $ 450,000 to arrest, convict and imprison a single dealer of drugs. A group of two hundred individuals can get drug treatment for a similar amount of $ 450,000 (Gray, 2001). For each dollar that has been used in incarceration, about fifteen dollars in relevant welfare costs is generated for an imprisoned individual. The comparison to education, rehab and education saves almost five dollar in correlated costs.

The rehabilitation for drug offenders is better than the convention system of prison. While incarcerating an individual is very expensive, rehabilitation is considered a much cheaper strategy in treating drug abuse and addiction. Of the 1.8 million inmates in the United States of America, half of the prison population has drug issues and only less than 10% of the population is enrolled in the programs of drug treatment. These statistics are, indeed, outrageous and programs of rehabilitation can consequently change the lives of these people. Courts of drugs are now being used as another kind of rehabilitation. Normally, the programs of drug court are provided to first-time offenders who are found to be non-violent. Rather than going to prison, these people are provided with the choice of going into a program of rehabilitation (Gabriel, 2002). Rehabilitation is both a cost effective strategy and actually a process of curing the abusers of drugs. Rehabilitation gains an upper hand than a mere imprisonment because sitting inside the prison does not do anything. Moreover, there are also other useful alternatives to rehabilitation in dealing with drugs.

Needle exchange programs can assist the United States of America in its move to combat drugs. These are quite simple. They allow an individual to exchange a dirty needle for a clean one. This takes place without charge and no probing in form of questions. At the same time, no drugs or substitutes to drugs are supplied, and there is no real treatment. If appealed, these programs offer information on the way of injecting the drugs in a way that is less dangerous and the way to seek for medical attention for cases of addiction. Moreover, there is the advantage of bringing the user of the drug closer to professionals of medicine that can assist them. The National Academy of Sciences in 1995 found out that the programs of needle exchange cut down the spread of the HIV and do not increase the use of illegal drugs (Gray, 2001).

Many other similar research studies were carried out, recording more or less the same results. All the same, the United States federal government has distanced itself from funding needle exchange programs. The Secretary of the United States to the Health and Human services did not agree to the predisposition that these needle exchange programs slow the spread of HIV until the year 1997. The programs of needle exchange are all aimed at assisting individuals with their issues and they have been proven as effective. Many of these programs must be formed to assist the United States to effectively deal with the War on Drugs.

Quite a number of the abusers of drugs can really benefit from the substitution programs of drugs. These programs do justice, according to the saying in the name: substituting a drug of another one. From the early 1960s, these programs have normally included methadone, which is usually replaced with heroin. During this present age in the United States, methadone happens to be the only narcotic utilized by programs of substitution. For addicts of heroin, this drug can remove the enormous cravings. Gray (2001) describes the effectiveness of methadone and the much it can do for drug abusers, saying that it has produced positive results.

Studies have shown that about seventy percent of the heroin users no longer used it within a one year period of using the treatment (Kenneth, 2002). After a period of three years, the heroin use had gone down by about a majority eighty-five percent. Such programs have indicated a high rate of success for the motivated individuals who are ready to stay with them for at least a period of three months. Of the American users of heroin about 23 percent only take part in the drug substitution programs (Barry and Mitchell, 2006). Instead of putting these people in prison because of using heroin, treating them would be very useful. It saves a good amount of time, effort and money for every person.

Almost 50% of all Americans advocate for the stopping of imports as the most successful approach of fighting the illegal use of drugs. However, a number of the Americans are of the opinion that the United States should give much more money to other nations to fight the trafficking of drugs as shown in Figure 1 below.

War on Drugs in other Nations

Drug treatment can be achieved through programs of drug maintenance. These programs of drug maintenance offer addicts with drugs, depending on their choice through the prescription of the doctor and under strict supervision. This program is founded on the fact that if persons are going to get narcotics, it would be better to make the drugs available for them under well supervised programs of treatment that will sustain the user’s health to the maximum to the point, where they can seek treatment. A Swiss experiment, conducted on the maintenance of drugs, recorded positive results. The experiment indicated that in a very short period of time, there was general improvement in a person and the social health significantly. In the experiment, about fifty percent of the 350 addicts, who left the program, had begun a treatment in a different therapy and of these: eighty-three stopped using heroin and adopted the therapy of abstinence (Gary, 2001). The rates of employment among the addicted group increased by 18%, while the unemployment rate dropped by 24%. Another 33% of the same group, who relied on the care of institution, was able to survive without help. The rates of crime decreased largely together with the money that was used on the social and medical care.

If Switzerland has realized success through the drug maintenance program, then, the United States can also succeed through it in its War on Drugs. This could be very helpful in the American society. All the same, this is not the only option for the epidemic of drugs in the United States of America. In addition to treatment, there are still other ways through which the War on Drug can be dealt with. One of these other methods is the legalization of drugs through an effort of eliminating the “black market” of the trade in drugs. This effort can be very useful in saving the United States of America a lot of money.

Other nations like Mexico are also in this battle with drugs. It appears like the Mexican federal government is winning the War on Drugs. The United States of America published figures in 2007 that showed that the War on Drugs was affecting the drug trade significantly (Kennedy, 2007). Data collected from 37 cities in the United States indicated that the price of cocaine was on the rise by almost 50%, while the purity of the drug dropped by a significant 11%. These statistics implied that the supply of cocaine was dropping due to the anti-drug efforts, applied by Mexican federal government. From the time Calderon took over power and governance in Mexico, arrests and seizures increased dramatically. New rules of inspection for private airplanes have led to the confiscation of more than 270 airlines in a couple of years in the parts, and the Mexican Navy seized a submarine in 2008 that was carrying almost six tons of cocaine.

In the past three and a half years, Calderon has beefed up the process by increasing the campaign against drugs. There are now almost 50,000 soldiers and 20,000 federal and state police involved in the process. Again, the number of deaths, related to the War on Drugs, has been on the rise in each year. In 2010, the number of individuals who were killed in the Mexican War on Drugs had reached 28,000. It is estimated that about ninety percent of the drug victims were members of organized-crime gangs, 7% of them being police and military and that blameless by-standers comprised the remaining 3% of the total number of victims. The director of the national security agency of Mexico, Guillermo Valdes said that it was unavoidable that the country should accept that violence was on the growing trend.

Even though it is evident that the Mexican federal government has excelled in preventing the cartels of drugs, this development has come at a very high price to the nation a whole. While the number of homicides, related to drugs, continues to be on the rise, the security all through the nation continues to fall to pieces. The cartel activity has led to an insidious upsurge of violence and new kinds of intimidation and fear are being put into use. Hit lists having the names of the police officers that have been realized in many border cities of Mexico and most of these officers have been killed. Apparently, this is the cost that some people had to pay to attain the victory over drugs. It is a very expensive initiative, but it has to be that way anyway.

Big banners are occasionally displayed along Mexican highways all through the country, issuing threats to the rival cartels or accusing the officials of government of supporting certain criminal gangs. The Los Zetas Cartel has, for instance, gone so far to put public enticements to the military and police personnel, providing them with better pay compensation and good equipment for defecting to Los Zetas. These cartels are now choosing terrorist-like tactics to spread intimidation. They have used social media sites like YouTube to broadcast executions publicly, throwing parts of the body into crowded nightclubs and also throwing hand grenades into public meetings. Apparently, Mexico is being faced with almost similar challenges to the United States in fighting the War on Drugs.

The United States has the largest population rate in prisons in the entire universe and the population has increased by more than 500% from the early 1970s. This is far much greater than the rise in the national population, which is only 28%. It is to say that the United States is, indeed, in a precarious situation. All the same, if other countries like Mexico and Switzerland are making some progress, it is possible for the United States of America. Harsher laws, drug trafficking and the increased use of drugs is the main reason why the American population in the prisons has increased and led to an overcrowding scenario. The War on Drugs is, indeed, a multifaceted process and has affected many areas and sectors in the United States of America (Gabriel, 2002). The annual cost, involved in measures, taken on the War on Drugs, amounts to 50 billion dollars. Therefore, drugs have caused a lot of expenditure and further created other problems, where many more resources have been utilized. The increased population in the prisons has seen the need for more resources in the prison centers for purposes of dealing with the criminals and may be engaging them in a rehabilitation process. In 2004, the prison population was almost 2 million individuals and another 20 billion dollars has been used to keep the drug users and sellers in the system of the prison.

Presently, many citizens and the legislature as well are convinced that there is a need to make reforms in the drug policies. There is a belief in Georgia that the decriminalization of marijuana would be a good starting point. The reason behind this is for the fact that marijuana is taken as a criminal act even with less than an ounce and additionally, due to the fact that the drug is less harmful compared to other drugs like alcohol and nicotine. The use of marijuana does not actually come to a stop because there are a number of factors that rocket the crime like the use of communication equipment like telephone or radio (NORML, 2004).

The United States of America offers a substantial amount of money in form of aid to nations like Peru and Colombia on an annual basis to help in the process of fighting the trafficking of drugs. Americans have shown different views on whether the United States is providing more assistance of finance or whether the amount provided is sufficient. About 36% have an opinion that the amount is sufficient, 42% think that the financial assistance to other countries is less, where 11% of them think that it is a lot. Another 11% percent of the American population does not actually know any implication of the funding.

Legalization of Drugs

The legalization of drugs is thought to be a way, through which the United States of America can handle the issue of drugs. Many scholars and researchers believe that the legalization of drugs would put many drug dealers out of business (Vallance, 1993). As a result, the drug dealers who prey on the teenagers and young adults through the push of drugs in the streets of America and in the institutions of learning, and the number of the emerging addicts due to the lucrative will most likely disappear. Many of the crimes that are linked to drugs come from the drug addicts who are in need of money to just get their fix, not from the drug effects. Indeed, the legalization of drugs will make the addict pay less to produce product and consequently, they would not have to engage in crime in search of money. There is an anticipated lessening of the crimes that take place, involving the trading of drugs (Ronald and Oppenheimer, 1993). The much fighting that is experienced in street corners or in certain territories would also be lessened because the drug dealers will be greatly reduced. The current dealers in drugs would have an easy time, because they can easily get their drugs at a price that is reasonable and would possibly use more, although they will no longer be killing, stealing and robbing to get their fix (Vallance, 1993). This is an approach that could be helpful if we would come to think of it.

It is no doubt that crimes that are associated with drugs are, basically, because of the prohibition that the government has declared on those drugs (Gabriel, 2002). A very good example could be seen, when we look at what transpired following the prohibition of alcohol and after the prohibition was repealed, the crimes dropped dramatically. There are, indeed, a reduced number of bootleggers in the present age. Not much moonshine is being busted in the modern society. All these have been occasioned by the repeal. This is because alcohol prohibition repeal put the bootleggers from business. However, it appears like we hear about the busting of a meth lab and the apprehension of individuals for being in possession of a small quantity of illegal substance daily.

Most of the murders, related to drugs, are mainly as a result of the prohibition that has been made on drugs. Many people would want to know the reason behind this. The issue is due to supply and demand. As far as there are addicts, suppliers will always be there. With the suppliers and addicts, there will be growers and manufacturers. The United States of America spends a lot of money resources annually on education and programs that are geared towards the addiction to drugs. The War on Drugs, as earlier mentioned, has cost the federal government huge sums of money. The issue that is highly questionable is the fact that, there is no tax levied on the drug dealers. The legalization of drugs would be a positive direction towards the fight on drugs because the government will plough back the revenue from drug dealers (Vallance, 1993). This will be, basically, in promoting education on an impressive scale and utilize the money for such programs to assist programs of support like DARE.

The moment the government legalizes drugs, the addicts would be individuals with sickness and not regarded as criminals the same way as alcoholics. These individuals could pursue treatments from such programs that the federal government would sponsor and pay for the services through the taxes, accrued from drug trade (Ronald and Oppenheimer, 1993). The Methadone Program has been a very successful development in the New York of the way to engage the War on Drugs. Many people in the United States have the belief that drugs legalization is the solution to the problem of drugs that is so prevalent in the American society. All the same, quite a number of the Americans believe that the legalization of drugs is an invitation to the society that is infested with drugs. Even with the legalization of drugs, many people in the United States will not inject heroin or cocaine in their body.

The design of an effective legalization plan on the issue about drugs could go a long way in fighting drugs. The federal government can get some learning from the experiences that have come along with the abuse of alcohol and tobacco. These past experiences have realized great positive developments after legalization was effected. This is a very controversial issue and in some way a venture into that which is not known. It has not been tried before by any government. It could be a great risk, even though it is worth it, considering the developments that have been realized in the past in alcohol and tobacco. Drug addiction is currently a disaster (Gabriel, 2002). Moreover, the ‘War on Drugs’ is an embarrassing and absolute failure. The only beneficiaries of the real laws on drugs are the suppliers, manufacturers and the dealers.

Gary (2001) describes the way legalization could be useful. Legalization touches on the aspect of the product price of the drugs that are at present illegal and would be determined through the free market without making any restrictions on brand price or names and advertisement. The FDA would be used to regulate the products and ensure that they are labeled accurately just like the sale of other common medication drugs. The United States of America can also benefit from the legalization because they can impose tax on these substances. A former chief of the Planning Branch of the National Institutes of Mental Health, Theodore Valance, conducted an analysis on the much the United States would save through legalization (Indicated as “New Cost”) and the following tabulated and graphically represented results was what he found out.

The above study was conducted in 1993, a time, when costs were apparently cheap. Now in 2011, it is possible that the savings that can be realized through a legalization process would be even much more than those days. The money that the United States of America would save could find another use in other important things like healthcare, housing and education among others. The amount of finances that are used in the War on Drugs is ridiculous and rather unnecessary (Ronald and Oppenheimer, 1993).

The graphical representation below, Figure 5, shows the number of Americans, who were incarcerated, expressed as a percentage of the total American population from 1920 to 2008. The incarceration trend in the American population has a very close relationship with the War on Drugs (Gabriel, 2002). Richard M. Nixon declared the War on Drugs in 1971 and the sentencing reform act came into place in 1984. The trend has been perpetually increasing and this puts more fear whether the war on drugs is really turning out to be a success.

Figure 5. Graph demonstrating increases in the United States Incarceration Rate

The War on drugs is an operation of prohibition and the foreign military aid, and the intervention by the military that the United States has taken all these years, being assisted by participating countries, with the intentions of defining and reducing the illegal trade of drugs. The initiative included and still involves a set of drug policies of America that are purposed to discourage the distribution, production and the use of illegal drugs of psycho-action.

The War on Drugs is, indeed, a war of good intentions and is, basically, fought towards the welfare of the people and the nation at large. There are very many benefits that the United States can achieve by engaging in this war. Many other countries like Switzerland have done it and, therefore, America is not an exception. The strategies that have been highlighted so far can assist the United States in fixing the problem of drugs within the borders. There will never be a complete drug-free United States but in some way, it can be mitigated and lessened. Through teenage education at a very early age, concerning drugs, they will experience fewer problems of drugs later on in their life. This will amount to a decreased number of Americans, addicted to drugs in the future.

The options of drug treatment can be useful in treating many individuals. However, this can only happen if the particular individuals are motivated and the suitable program is provided for them. Normally, these alternatives have been proven to be effective. The legalization approach would work very well because the federal government of the United States could regulate the trade on drugs. There would be less crime, related to drugs, and fewer individuals would be apprehended for minor infractions of drugs. Generally, the combination of all these strategies by the United States would make the nation a safer place. The United States of America can possibly win over the War on Drugs. The most important thing, however, should be engaging in practices that can make these changes very successful.


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