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The War on Drugs Public Policy

Drugs are one of the most urgent and depressing problems in the world. Hundred millions of lives are shattered by these poisonous substances. They do economic, social, and political damage to the producing and consuming nations. Several decades ago, the United States declared a War on Drugs, the notion refers to the attempts of the federal government to interdict and end the manufacture, sale, import, and use of illegal drugs. At the turn of the 20thcentury, the situation with drugs, especially the drug market, was almost unregulated. Medical remedies, which contained heroin and cocaine, were sold without any medical prescription and any notice about the drugs to the people who bought them.

The history of a drug use is ancient. The appearance of drugs in the United States dates back to the 1800’s. Opium surfaced after the American Civil War, and then followed cocaine that was widely used in remedies and health drinks. 1906 marked as the discovery of morphine, famous for its pain relieving effect. At that time, it was already witnessed that psychotropic drugs caused addiction. At the end of the 19th century, drugs were no more considered harmless remedies, as the result local governments began prohibiting importation of drugs and the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 required all physicians to label medicines.

The first US drug policy is the Harrison Narcotics Act that was passed in 1914, restricting the manufacture and sale of heroin, marijuana, cocaine, and morphine. The Act caused the punishment of physicians who prescribed drugs to addicts. Over 5000 physicians were convicted to fine or imprisonment between 1915 and 1938 (Trebach, 1982). Thus, the United State’s federal drug policy first targeted pharmacists and physicians.

The Treasury Department (founded in 1930) created the Federal Bureau of Narcotics that caused the fact that drugs were increasingly criminalized. The Boggs Act of 1951 boosted increased penalties for the use of marijuana. The Narcotics Control Act was passed in 1956 and created the most repressive and punitive legislation concerning drugs that had ever been adopted by Congress. It eliminated discretion to suspend sentences. Only the first offenders convicted of possession were allowed a parole, but the death penalty could be invoked to any heroin seller (McWilliams, 1990). The weapon against drug, which was used by the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, was propaganda in the form of horror stories and myths about drugs. In 1940 – 1950’s the propaganda was so far fetched that people did not take it seriously.

In the 1960s, heroin remained the most feared drug in the United States. By the end of the decade there were almost a half a million heroin addicted people, but there is a concern that the true number of heroin addicted was much higher. The studies show that the production of barbiturate drugs was higher than one million pound a year. Marijuana was blamed to be the cause for murder, sex crimes, and insanity as after using it, people have the feeling of flying into a delirious rage during which action may commit violent crimes (McWilliams, 1994). A rebellious movement of 1960’s made drug use popular, and marijuana became popular even on college campuses. Due to the sharp rise of drug use, the Johnson Administration passed in 1966 the Narcotics Addict Rehabilitation Act. The Act considered drug addiction to be a mental illness, which was still a crime. It was not effective, because of small funding needed for the treatment of addicted.

Amphetamines, which were synthesized in Germany during the 1960s, became recognized as a drug of abuse in society in the 1970s. The first use of amphetamines in the US was witnessed during the World War II and later the drug was popular among people, who were in weight control programs, and trunk drivers. But very soon the drug became the most addictive and abused in many regions of the US. In the 1970s, the US government passed the laws, which tightened the prescription of amphetamines and cut the drug production by 90%.

The War on Drugs was officially declared in 1971 by President Richard Nixon. At that time drug abuse was considered as the major enemy in the United States (Sharp, 1994). Nixon fought demand fronts and drug supply. He was the initiator of the first federal funding of treatment programs. The President’s mistake was launching of an interdiction effort in Mexico. In 1973, he boosted the creation of the Drug Enforcement Agency. Mexico was pressured to regulate its growers of marijuana. Thus, the US had to spend millions of dollars to close the border. Nixon achieved his goal, but Columbia replaces Mexico very quickly and became America’s supplier of marijuana. Since the prohibition of drug trade, the US efforts resulted in the rerouting of the international drug trade and drugs began to enter the United States through sea, air, and land, making it impossible to stop smuggling due to the constantly increasing demand.

In 1977, the President Carter called for the marijuana decriminalization. He announced that “penalties against possession of the drug should not be more damaging than the drug itself” (Rosenberger, 1996). In spite of his lenient laws concerning marijuana, the President did not want to legalize the drug and focused his policy on the supply funding into interdiction and programs of eradication. However, the period of Carter’s presidency faced a sharp increase in the use of cocaine. From 1978 to 1984, the consumption of cocaine increased to 71-137 tone from 19-25. As marijuana was a feeder drug and was closely connected to cocaine, the government moved away from the decriminalization of marijuana.

The most expansive periods of drug abuse and addiction are considered the 1970s through the 1980s. At that time, the United States government was concentrated on the new arising drug problems, working on the strengthening of the punitive laws regarding drugs. The problem was that as soon as one drug was being addressed by the government, another one was already waiting to take its place on the market. The programs of drug treatment were unsuccessful and raised the apathy eliminating the belief that anybody can recover from addiction (Head). It has been stated that in the 1970s and 1980s, almost all the cocaine, which was consumed in the United States was brought from Colombia and shipped to the South Florida through air and sea routes. Since the constant fighting for the market share, Colombian traffickers turned Miami into the city of kidnappings, shootouts, and contract killing. After the appeal of citizens to the federal government for help to control the situation with drug trafficking and drug use, President Ronald Reagan commanded to establish a special force, which was made responsible for cutting the pipelines of cocaine and ending the violence. The force scored several bright successes within weeks, but seizures of cocaine and marijuana gave a prompt to Colombian traffickers to move their smuggling routes to Mexico. Even nowadays, Mexico is a major source of marijuana, methamphetamine and heroin.

In 1981, President Regan criticized Nixon’s policy concerning supply front as he considered it to be a losing proposition. During the Carter’s presidency, 437 million dollars were spent annually on the funding for eradication and interdiction programs, whereas Reagan spent 1.4 billion dollars on the same funding. As the result, the funding for prevention, education, and rehabilitation were considerably cut (Rosenberger, 1996). Reagan’s program emphasized measures against drug users.

In 1983, the police department of Los Angeles created a special lecture program for schools, called Drug Abuse Resistance Education, in order to teach children not to use illegal drugs. Later, the studies showed that the program did not prove to be effective as it did not prevent children from becoming drug abusers.

President Clinton continued the supply sided drug policy of the Republicans. In 1995, he earmarked extra 1 billion dollars to improve the government’s drug policy concerning supply fronts. The President made substantial increases of funding for law enforcement and eradication programs. 13,2 billion dollars for drug policy were included in the budget of 1995. Clinton encourages grass roots organizations and Community Action Programs to unite the efforts and participate in the demand side of the war on drugs. Unfortunately, the potential of the programs was never realized due to the lack of funding for education, prevention, and treatment (Rosenberger, 1996).

There have been a lot of arguments concerning the legalization of drugs. Moreover, drugs are still used for medical purposes, but only if they are prescribed. In 1996, marijuana was legalized in California for medical use. Anyway, medical distributors of marijuana were arrested by the governments of Bush and Obama (Head).

The Network of Reform Groups (1999) notes that 60% of costs that are spent on the illegal drug use are due to the black market and related crimes. It was also stated that the failing War on Drugs has created increased costs, which the community has to pay while considering illegal drugs (The Network of Reform Groups).

George Walker Bush policy (2001-2008) targeted the use, distribution, and import of marijuana, methamphetamine, and MDMA. The United States anti-drug policy included the Rave Act (known as The Reducing Americans’ Vulnerability to Ecstasy Act) passed in 2002, the Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act (2003), Cleanup Act (2003-2004), Victory Act (2003), and others. In 2002, the administration of President Bush had a goal to make a 25% reduction in the illegal drug use. Regrettably, the results showed that the drug abuse only increased, except marijuana, the use of which showed a 6% decline.

The poll conveyed in October 2008 showed that 76% of voters consider the War on Drugs as a failure. In 2009, President Barack Obama announced that the phrase “War on Drugs” cannot be used any longer as the federal anti-drug efforts (Head).

During the presidency of Obama, the US government planned to concentrate on the prevention of drug use and treatment of the addiction. It calls for changes in the probation and parole systems aiming not to send non-violent offenders to jail, but to special abuse treatment programs. The Obama policy concerning drugs embraced three concepts. It treated addictions as a disease, the fact that people can recover from drug addiction, and that reforms of criminal justice can stop the use of drugs, crimes and arrests. The new plan outlines more than 100 actions that could be taken instead of criminal enforcement, among them brief interventions, drug screenings, the Affordable Care Act, and referral to treatment.

According to the statistics, United States gets 90% of cocaine through its southern border. Being only 370-miles from the border with Mexico, Arizona had suffered a rash of ransoms and kidnappings. The studies show that drug prohibition leads to increased crime rate, corruption in law enforcement, and the criminal justice system. It was revealed that there were instances of police force corruption, as well as corruption in the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Coast Guard. Furthermore, researchers state that corruption and violence stem from the competition for illegal profits, but not from the use of drugs.

The government should spend more money on giving aid, appropriate education, and support to those who suffer from drug addiction, and find out other ways, which may eliminate the use of these poisonous substances. Families, especially those who experience or experienced drug abuse, should be given special support as a teenager with such a family history and lack of pro-social skills can rapidly move to serious dependency. Educational sector should provide better educational programs for pupils and students to take all possible steps in tackling the growing problem, the production of the anti-drug advertisement should also be boosted. Supervision programs for parent would be a positive step towards decrease of drug use among teenagers. As community is the first social contact for those who have limited family support and live beyond their families, it should be provided with immense support and supervision. It could be reasonable to invest in activities, which can prevent the youth from using drugs. The most successful prevention efforts are those, which are targeted at certain at-risk groups. It is important to offer treatment services to those who are in need and respect the human rights of those who use drugs.

Drug abuse is a major problem of any country. The issues concerning legalization of drugs are many faceted and there is a lot to debate. The government should begin from the transformation of the drug interdiction regime replacing policies and strategies of drugs. From my point of view, drugs should not and cannot be legalized as they cause health problems, ruin families, and increase the level of crimes. It is important to mention that much had been done in order to solve this social issue, but much more is to be done in order to eliminate it as the problems associated with drug use are complex and require serious solutions.

Being a failure, the War on Drugs has a lot of negative consequences for the societies, which were engaged in the use, production, and importation of drugs. First of all, they faced geographical displacement as the location of drug production was shifted constantly to avoid the attentions of law enforcement. Due to the difficulty to obtain drugs and law enforcement pressure, consumers were to move together with substance displacement. The black market was constantly growing whereas the treatment of drug addicted became excluded and marginalized (War on Drugs).

Modern US policy concerning illegal drug use, production, and trafficking is directed into the reducing of drug use and its consequences. The government commits itself to ensuring the compassionate, balanced, and humane drug policies as they should acknowledge the fact that drug addiction is a disease, which can actually be prevented and treated. Public safety and health are relevant to the reduction in drug use and cost-effective, evidence-based approaches that protect these values. The government aims to integrate prevention, treatment, and recovery services into the systems of public health as the strategy of effective drug control includes such approaches as drug treatment programs, recovery support services, evidenced-based prevention, brief interventions and screening in health settings, and others. Protection and respect of human rights are integral parts of drug policy as all have the right to be safe from illegal use of drugs, crimes associated with it, and consequences of drug use. Drug consequences may be reduced if the use of drugs is also reduced. In the same way harms associated with drugs may be decreased with the reduction of drug use. Thus, the government aims to implement public health services for drug users in the context of recovery-oriented and comprehensive public health systems that have an opportunity to provide drug users access to addiction treatment. The breaking of the drug use cycle is important to reform the systems of criminal justice. As people are responsible for breaking the law, they have to have contact with treatment services if they suffer from the disorder of drug use, therefore, they should be provided with treatment services in correctional facilities, alternatives to incarceration, drug testing, and all possible means that lead to recovery from drug use. It is important to support and expand access to medication-assisted therapies as they have demonstrated effectiveness in reducing illegal drug used and its consequences. Criminal organizations have to be concentrated on the prosecution, arrest, and incarceration of drug traffickers, seize illegal assets, eradicate illegal drug crops, disrupt networks of drug production, and others involved parties in this business. Due to the international scope of the problem, it is essential to unite the efforts in the cooperation in order to protect public health and safety. Drugs are illegal due to the government protection of its citizens from these dangerous substances. The drug problem is addressed as a shared responsibility and the production, use, and import of drugs are considered to be globalized problems, which pose a threat to all nations.

The failure of the War on Drugs may be divided into four categories. Among them arresting a drug seller that never stops the flow of drugs, spending on criminalization does not reduce drug supply; money, which are spent on government spending on jails and criminalization are taken from public health interventions, public health initiatives are harmed by the criminalization of drugs. The biggest jump in the incarceration of drugs was after Ronald Reagan’s Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986. Since that time in the United States the number of jailed for drug related crimes has risen by over half a million more each decade. Half of Americans in jail are there because of illegal drug use or drug related crimes. According to the statistics, the US jails more citizens than any other country. Thus, the War on Drugs may easily be called the war against citizens.

The War on Drugs was started by President Richard Nixon. Since that time America has spent more than a trillion of dollars making no changes in the illegal drug use and its consequences. People continue to use drugs, drug traffickers and criminals also continue getting profit from drugs, and as a result, more and more citizens are jailed every year. Thus, the history shows that the War on Drugs has failed as it did not achieve the conditions, which eliminated the use and production of drugs. Consequently, drug strategies require more money from the US government. In order to address the real problems, which are associated with drugs, current drug policy should be rethought and our efforts must be refocused. The greatest issue is that, unfortunately, the war on drugs has failed. History has proven that the War on Drugs was a complete failure. While the government spends over 2.5 trillion dollars in order to fight the War on Drugs, the number of drug users has risen to 19.9 million Americans. In spite of huge efforts of different governments and presidents, the War on Drug has no limits, and lastly, it is ongoing and endless.

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