The real War on Drugs isn’t being fought by law enforcement and government agencies. It’s being fought by parents, teachers, city and local officials, religious groups and charitable organizations. That’s because while law enforcement may wipe out a cache of drugs here and there, no amount of policing will ever wipe out the demand for drugs. And as long as there are people, there will be a demand for drugs. This means that it is our responsibility as individuals to fight the war on drugs however and wherever we can, because clearly the official version of this battle has yet to yield tangible results.
The War on Drugs isn’t something new – as Americans we have done this before. In 1920 the US government outlawed the manufacture, distribution, transport or sale of alcoholic beverages. For the next 13 years the country plunged into barely managed chaos. Bootleggers killed other bootleggers in feuds, law enforcement battled violently with the gangs that rose up to meet the never-ending demand for alcohol, and everywhere were speakeasies and underground bars and saloons. The parallels that could be drawn to today’s War on Drugs are striking – this is a very familiar story in America history.
Drug related crimes are steadily rising despite billions of dollars spent on enforcement. With 1.75 million arrests for drug charges in the US in 2007 alone (1), it’s obvious that the demand for drugs is not at all influenced by the often severe penalties for drug abuse crimes. And because the War on Drugs is fought in South America, Southeast Asia, the Middle East and virtually all other parts of the world, one can only imagine the true scope of these statistics. However, the War’s efforts focus almost exclusively in finding and destroying drug supplies and imprisoning those who are involved. Clearly, this isn’t working.
The War on Drugs could more accurately be described as the War on Drug Suppliers. The real war should be the War on Demand for Drugs, and it doesn’t need to be fought with guns and lengthy prison sentences. The best weapon in the world’s arsenal in this respect is education and treatment; we must educate everyone about the real dangers of drug use and addiction, and we must treat those who become addicted. The reality of the matter is that addiction is a human condition and as long as we exist, some of us will seek out and become addicted to drugs or alcohol. This means the real frontlines on the War on Drug Demand must be fought as follows:
*Parents: Parents must properly educate their children about the effects that drug use has on the human body and on social and economic conditions at the individual and community level.
*Educators: Teachers have an obligation to supplement the drug education provided by parents. Being that drug abuse and addiction is one of the most significant problems facing modern society, it only makes sense to make education about drugs as much a part of a school’s curriculum as math or science.
*Community Action: Communities must recognize the impact that substance abuse and addiction has on the economic and social integrity of a particular area and make decisions accordingly by making an investment in treatment options instead of law enforcement.
*Drug Treatment: Treatment for addiction or alcoholism must be made available to anyone who wants it. Addiction must be treated as the disease that it is and be made part of a larger overall public health program.
The current War on Drugs is violent and ineffective. If you’ve been caught up in the middle of it and you have a substance abuse problem, you can get out of this dangerous cycle right now simply by picking up the phone. Dial the number at the top of your screen now for a free, confidential consultation. Don’t become another statistic in the failed War on Drugs.
(1) Bureau of Justice, Statistics Drug Arrests by Age, 1970 – 2007