In 1971, Richard Nixon first declared the war on drugs. Since then, $250 trillion has been spent and millions have been arrested. Today, there is a drug arrest every 19 seconds in America. Drug and alcohol offenses account for 80 percent of the prison population.
America’s “war on drugs” aimed to control drug abuse through strict laws and enforcement. The war on drugs, however, has failed.
The fact that illegal drugs have become cheaper and more concentrated, suggests an increase in the world supply. According to United Nations estimates, global consumption of opiates, cocaine and marijuana increased by 35 percent, 27 percent and 9 percent, respectively, between 1998 and 2008.
Some unfortunate “unintended consequences” emerged as a result, as acknowledged by the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). He stated:
“The first unintended consequence is a huge criminal black market that now thrives in order to get prohibited substances from producers to consumers. Whether driven by a ‘supply push’ or a ‘demand pull,’ the financial incentives to enter this market are enormous. There is no shortage of criminals competing to claw out a share of a market in which hundred fold increases in price from production to retail are not uncommon.”
Other crime-related costs that emerged as a result include:
Since the drug war, drug use and related costs have risen faster than any other period of history, even escalating during the rise of the war on drugs in the 1980s. Evaluation of drug law enforcement still invariably focuses on process measures, like arrests and drug seizures, rather than meaningful indicators that might demonstrate failure – such as levels of availability, or health and social costs, including the creation of crime. It is now important to consider the mental health care aspect of this issue and look to implement a more humane approach.
Sovereign Health is a leading behaviorally health treatment provider, devoted to the provision of evidence-based treatment for substance abuse disorder and mental illness. Our aim is to see our patients not just succeed in treatment but excel in their normal lives as well. If you or a loved one is currently battling substance abuse, call us right away.
Written by Sana Ahmed, Sovereign Health Group writer