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US Drug Control Policy

US Drug Control Policy could not be better stated than “The War on Drugs.” This aptly describes the United States’ policy of aggressive drug control by enforcement methods that target the production, distribution, trafficking and possession of drugs. However, a more effective war on drugs would be one that targets the cause of this problem, and that problem is the DEMAND for drugs: as long as there is a demand people will find a way to obtain drugs, regardless of eradication efforts or possible consequences. And since the Obama administration has reaffirmed its fight against drug use as part of a new Strategy, resistance to the old status quo of the War on Drugs is becoming more visible.

According to the 2011 National Drug Control Strategy, the Obama administrations reaffirmed Strategy (as it is being called in the White House) consists of the following:

“This five-year plan aims to cut drug use among youth by 15 percent, drug-induced deaths and drug-related morbidity by 15 percent, and drugged driving by 10 percent. To achieve these goals, the Strategy focuses on seven core areas:

  • Strengthening efforts to prevent drug use in our communities
  • Seeking early intervention opportunities in health care
  • Integrating treatment for substance use disorders into health care, and supporting recovery
  • Breaking the cycle of drug use, crime, delinquency, and incarceration
  • Disrupting domestic drug trafficking and production
  • Strengthening international partnerships
  • Improving information systems to better analyze, assess, and locally address drug use and its consequences” (1)

The full details of this report go on to stress the dire drug abuse and addiction situation the United States is currently experiencing and the urgency of the need for more intense action. However, the Office of National Drug Control Policy seems to contradict these statements with the following praise for former eradication and prevention efforts:

“Overall drug use in the United States has dropped substantially over the past thirty years. In response to comprehensive efforts to address drug use at the local, state, Federal, and international levels, the rate of Americans using illicit drugs today is roughly half the rate it was in the late 70s. More recently, there has been a 46 percent drop in current cocaine use among young adults (age 18 to 25 years) over the past five years, and a 68 percent drop in the rate of people testing positive for cocaine in the workplace since 2006.” (2)

This would seem to indicate that efforts could be lessened, but each year the eradication, prevention and control strategies are ramped up more and more at significant taxpayer cost. In fact, this cost is one that is shared by countries that the US has focused a great deal of its drug control policy on. This is illustrated by a 2005 report by US Navy Captain Jeffrey E. McLean that states in the abstract: “. . .this will examine the second and third order effects of U.S. drug control policy and the policy’s potential to destabilize democracy and foster narco-terrorism in Colombia. Finding that U.S. drug control policy has been only marginally successful in achieving national objectives, the SRP will propose possible reasons for its ineffectiveness and recommend alternatives to improve policy.” (3) This clearly indicates that not only is the US aware of the woeful ineffectiveness of it current drug policy, but also that the country is at least funding research to determine how bad this effect is and what can be done to reverse it.

However, some of the world’s most authoritative organizations find the US Drug Control Policy to be far more destructive and even sinister. According to the Institute for Policy Studies – a powerful think tank, “U.S. drug control policy is based on a deceptively simple theory of deterrence: the application of the force of law against the supply of illegal drugs (primarily cocaine, marijuana, and heroine) will curb drug consumption by making drugs scarcer, more expensive, and riskier to buy. Following this logic, law enforcement pressure is applied to every link in the drug trafficking chain, from eradicating the production and processing of drugs abroad to interdicting drugs at the border to disrupting domestic distribution networks and sales. Less punitive demand-side measures–treatment, prevention, and education–play a secondary role.” (4) This sentiment is shared not only across some public bodies worldwide, but also across a number of world governments.

The real trouble with the War on Drugs and the US Drug Control Policy is that to the person on the street suffering from drug addiction, it’s all just politics. Education and treatment are the only two effective ways that the US can eradicate the demand for drugs. If someone close to you has fallen victim to substance abuse or addiction, there is help available right now that doesn’t focus on politics and red tape – it focuses on you, and it starts by calling the number at the top of your screen right now.

(1) White House Drug Policy 2011 National Drug Control Strategy, Executive Summary
Accessed 07/20/2011

(2) Office of National Drug Control Policy Obama Administration Releases Blueprint to Reduce Drug Use and its Consequences Press Release Dated 07/11/2011
Accessed 07/20/2011

(3) Captain Jeffrey E. McLean, USN US Drug Control Policy’s Second and Third Order Effects on Columbia: Destabilizing Democracy and Fostering Narco-Terrorism Strategic Studies Institute
Accessed 07/20/2011

(4) Peter Andreas US Drug Control Policy Foreign Policy in Focus 11/1/1996
Accessed 07/20/2011

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