Stating that we have won or lost the war on drugs is suggesting that this issue can be easily defined in black and white terms. This is not the case for a variety of reasons. First, we can not win or lose a war on drugs because there is no defined enemy. The term “drugs” is a very general term. Pharmaceutical companies legally distribute some of the most dangerous, addictive, and abused substances in society. However, they are not deemed the enemy and are often close friends with politicians. Doctors, who are sought for medical advice and help, are wined and dined by these companies and write prescriptions based on these relationships. This is not to infer that these parties actually are the enemy, many prescription drugs are of great benefit and are essential in certain medical situations. But the fact is that they are not discussed during the war on drugs, and therefore inhibit accurate measurements of winning and losing.
Next, one of the most overlooked factors in the war on drugs is the number of jobs it creates in the US. It is sad to say, but rather then attempting to educate and prevent the pain that others will endure through drug use, individuals who use drugs are exploited for the benefit of others. DEA, DEU, specified police narcotic units, entire task forces, and a variety of other organizations are given enormous budgets at the expense of taxpayers. Then, rather than stopping drug use, the make arrests. By doing this they take individuals away from their jobs and families with no regard to the emotional damage incurred by the families. This could lead to the individual losing his job, the family losing their means of support, and inevitably creating a “viscous circle” which often leads to criminal acts that stem from desperate situations, not dangerous people. As this occurs, more arrests are made, and prisons are built. Prisons are on of the largest sources of employment in the US. Entire towns are employed by state prisons. Politicians lobby to have prisons built so that they can create more jobs. As a result, the financing for the drug war goes towards placing non violent individuals in prisons, again at the expense of taxpayers. Moreover, this has no impact on drug use in society because there is not enough funding for education and prevention programs. This means that once the non-violent individual is incarcerated, he will be immediately replaced in the drug market by another user.
It may sound like I’m suggesting that we are losing, but I’m not. I’m suggesting that we are going about it the wrong way. we can not win or lose because we are not fighting anything. We are profiting from the drug trade more so then drug dealers and we are doing so at the expense of people that the war on drugs should be helping.
It’s easy to look at certain statistics or see stories on the news and declare that we are losing the drug war, but in fact, the drug use can not be defined by quantitative measurements. Many people may disagree with this, but attempting to measure drug use on such scales is counter productive. They simply do not take into considerations the reasons for drug use in the first place; which is exactly what must be looked at. Drugs have always been around, and in many cases, are distributed legally (i.e. pharmaceutical companies , alcohol companies, ect.). Some drugs even have practical uses and are essential in certain medical situations. Given that drugs, in one form or another, will always be present, the best strategy for minimizing drug use is addressing the issues that first cause it. Also, alternatives and help for current users can facilitate recovery. Once the market is weaker, then and only then will the presence of drugs diminish.