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Why The War On Drugs Doesn’t Work

The Federal Government spends over $15 billion dollars per year in the War on Drugs – almost $500 every second – and we have lost. The reason for this failure is that we are fighting the war on the wrong front. We have focused the battle on stopping the flow of illegal drugs, thinking that our enemy is the drug dealer or the addict. Law enforcement agencies make drug busts – big and small – taking product off the streets and putting dealers and addicts in jail. This doesn’t work because the addict still wants product there is always another drug dealer or pain clinic around the corner. The only true solution is to reduce demand – which means spending the money on Addiction Treatment.

Scare tactics like the DEA report ( said that “Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations represent the greatest organized crime threat to the United States” and that “intelligence estimates indicate a vast majority of the cocaine available in U.S. drug markets is smuggled by Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations across the U.S.– Mexico border.” This type of report fuels the fire and encourages spending more and more money on drug interception – which doesn’t work – rather than substance abuse education, intervention and treatment – which has a much larger impact on demand.

The same report also cited a 2007 study that “nearly 7 million Americans are abusing prescription drugs — more than the number who are abusing cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens, Ecstasy, and inhalants, combined. That 7 million (figure) was just 3.8 million in 2000, (that’s) an 80 percent increase in just 6 years.” The “war on drugs” solution to this problem is twofold: 1- Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMP), passed in 38 states (Florida is one of the states that passed this legislation with the caveat that they will purchase a computer monitoring software system when the funds are available; in these economic times, chances of that happening anytime soon are very slim) and 2- reducing the number of “rogue internet pharmacies” – internet sites that require little to no documentation for the purchase of prescription drugs. These do reduce availability, but they do nothing to reduce demand, as evidenced by the growth in the number of people abusing prescription drugs.

According to the same report, “the most widely abused drugs today are Prescription pain relievers. These are new drug users’ drug of choice, vs. marijuana or cocaine. (In addition), Opioid painkillers now cause more drug overdose deaths than cocaine and heroin combined. Misuse of these painkillers represents three-fourths of the overall problem of prescription drug abuse in this country, (and) hydrocodone is the most commonly diverted and abused controlled pharmaceutical in the U.S.” Clearly, the majority of abused substances in this country are prescription drugs – not illegal substances. This means that that the addict is not just the stereotypical dirty junkie living in a crack house, but is our neighbor the accountant or the doctor or the homemaker proving that no one is immune to the disease of addiction, and the problem affects everyone from park bench to Park Avenue.

With prescription drug abuse is rising at an alarming rate there are more addicts today than ever before, in fact, one study states that one in six Americans has a problem with alcohol and/or drug abuse – which does not including those with prescription drug abuse problems. Instead of attempting to win the war on drugs by taking away the substances, we have to focus more of our resources/dollars on reducing demand. This means recognizing and treating alcoholics and addicts as early as possible in the cycle of their addiction. It is only then that substance abuse can reduced in our society.

Imagine how much could be done to treat and educate addicted people if for one year if we took all the money we spend on the war on drugs and used it for intervention, education and treatment. Millions of people could get help and that would mean fewer buyers.

When an addict becomes a recovering addict, demand goes away – it’s that simple. To me, this is the only way to win the war on drugs, one recovering person at a time. When enough people begin to believe this, the war on drugs and drug addicts will cease and the campaign for Recovery will begin.

Join me in my campaign for Recovery.

James F. Davis, CEO

Recovery First Inc.

Call us now at 800-706-9190

or Ask a Question Online Recovery First offers several levels of substance abuse treatment and rehabilitation. Our most intensive level of treatment is the Inpatient Substance Abuse Program, but we also have other treatment options for drug addiction and alcoholism like our Day/Night Program or Sober Living.

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