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Effectiveness of the War on Drugs Reaction Paper

Pages:14 (4146 words)

Sources:18

Subject:Government

Topic:War On Drugs

Document Type:Reaction Paper

Document:#69451857


Introduction

People like drugs. Drugs derived from plants, from coca and tobacco to ibogaine and opium, have been popular throughout the world, as has fermented and distilled alcoholic beverages. Altering human brain and body, drugs have a wide range of effects including pain relief, stimulation, and relaxation. Drugs have also been traded on the global commodities market for centuries, with the most infamous being opium and tobacco: both of which became so lucrative they led to political and military skirmishes. Government intervention in the drug trade is a new phenomenon, traceable to the Opium Wars first and then to the initial controls placed on chemical compounds as scientific research into their uses expanded in the late 19th and early 20th century. The first drug policy on the books in the United States was the 1914 Harrison Narcotics Act (“America is At War,” n.d.). It was followed by a cascade of similar legislation that is collectively referred to as the War on Drugs.

Prohibition of alcohol can be viewed as the only battle the government of the United States admits to have losing in the War on Drugs. In spite of the failure of prohibition to quell public fears about the abuse of alcohol and the violence exhibited by some intoxicated or addicted individuals, the War on Drugs continued. The War on Drugs has enabled the rise of a powerful military-industrial complex, and is intimately entwined with non-state actors including terrorist organizations and other organized crime syndicates worldwide. Perpetuating the War on Drugs has become fundamental to the political and economic stability of nations around the world, which is why drug policy reform proves particularly thorny in spite of the fact that no research can substantiate its effectiveness. Quite the opposite: the War on Drugs has led to more lives lost, more crime, and more economic and social instability, than drug abuse or addiction has ever caused.

Fear of addiction, and fear of drugs, have become the propaganda fueling the War on Drugs, duping the public into supporting drug policies. The first cracks in the mirage appeared when several states and a handful of countries decided to decriminalize or legalize cannabis. Alcohol is illegal in more than a handful of nations around the world, including Libya, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Bangladesh. Ironically, the United States views Muslim prohibitions on alcohol as being strident while enforcing an equally inhumane policy that criminally penalizes users of non-state-sanctioned drugs. Alcohol and opioids cause many more deaths—not to mention ruined lives—than the illegal drugs.

Literature Review

Scholarly databases contain over a million entries related to the war on drugs, covering perspectives linked to psychology, sociology, public health, history, and the law. Of these, none provide tangible support for the war on drugs or recommend its perpetuation as evidence-based or pragmatic policy. Almost without exception too, major research organizations and academic institutions decry the war on drugs and point out its failure in quantitative terms. Writing for Harvard Law Today, London (2005) mentions the more than 500,000 individuals serving time in prison for nonviolent drug offenses. Imprisonment as a response to drug-related offenses has led to a humanitarian crisis. An anonymously written article published on a Stanford University domain indicates why America—and the world—is losing the war on drugs by pointing out effects on the children of those who are serving time in prison and the reverberations within the global economy (“America is At War,” n.d.). Thus, the literature shows that the War on Drugs is more responsible for breaking apart families and communities than the drugs themselves. The Center for American Progress (Pearl, 2018) likewise refers to the “disastrous effects” of current drug policy, advocating for widespread reform of drug laws on human rights and social justice grounds (p. 1).

Major themes emerging in the scholarly literature include the deleterious effect of the War on Drugs on racial disparities including income disparity, criminal justice disparity, and also healthcare and political status disparities. Other themes include a loud and substantial cry from the healthcare industries, calling for the decriminalization of drugs and addiction in order to provide effective interventions and better educate the public. The literature also directly discusses the economics of the drug trade, and the financial implications of the war on drugs versus ending the war on drugs. A deeper historical and political analysis shows that the war on drugs is linked to the war on terror.

Recent literature on the ineffectiveness of the war on drugs capitalizes on the hypocrisies evident in the opioid epidemic, currently raging in the United States and ironically paralleled by the opium trade-fueled Islamist terrorist regimes. Using unique methodologies focusing on the proliferation of pharmaceutical opioids in the United States, Netherland & Hansen (2017) “trace a separate system for categorizing and disciplining drug use among Whites,” not altogether dissimilar from the racial tensions that emerged when different penalties were given to crack cocaine offenses versus powder cocaine (p. 217). The opioid epidemic reflects the inability of the war on drugs to tackle the root problem of addiction, while perpetuating the false belief that there is a difference between legal and illegal drug addiction. A path less trodden in the literature connects drug policy to intersections of power, leading researchers like Muehlmann (2018) to notice a link between gender and discriminatory criminalization of specific classes of drugs with men of color suffering the burden of problems—leading to dismantled families and communities even while whites receive an abundance of media attention related to the woes of the opioid epidemic.

Another theme emerging in the literature on the War on Drugs relates to decriminalization as sensible public health policy. The criminal justice system is not equipped to handle the mental health factors contributing to drug abuse; the editorial staff of prestigious publications like The British Medical Journal (Godlee & Hurley, 2016) say “doctors should lead calls for drug policy reform” in order to save lives and improve the quality of life for countless millions around the world (p. 1). Perhaps the only cogent arguments against full-scale global legalization cite, albeit incorrectly, the correlations between drug abuse and criminal behavior—as well as the correlations between drug trafficking and legitimate, violent criminal behavior. Historically, the arguments in favor of a War on Drugs, also referred to in the literature as drug prohibition (Taylor, Buchanan & Ayres, 2016) showcases the deleterious effects of drug abuse on communities, particularly on communities of color around the world (Putt, Payne & Milner, 2005). The bulk of literature in the social sciences shows that the correlations between drug abuse, drug trafficking, and violent behaviors is not direct or causal at all, and are far too complex to be dealt with in a binary manner in which drugs are classified as illegal or legal based on how they are used.

For example, approaches taken by legal scholars point out that the criminal justice system’s current tactics fail to yield any statistically significant decreases in recidivism or in drug abuse patterns (Farabee, Prendergast & Anglin, 1998). Coerced drug treatment programs offered in prison or to offenders serving alternative sentences like parole fail to address the underlying social justice and psychological problems of drug abuse, resulting in a “revolving prison door,” (Harrison, 2001, p. 462). The so-called revolving door costs taxpayers an exorbitant amount of money without solving any public…

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…difference between legal and illegal drug addiction. A path less trodden in the literature connects drug policy to intersections of power, leading researchers like Muehlmann (2018) to notice a link between gender and discriminatory criminalization of specific classes of drugs with men of color suffering the burden of problems—leading to dismantled families and communities even while whites receive an abundance of media attention related to the woes of the opioid epidemic.

Another theme emerging in the literature on the War on Drugs relates to decriminalization as sensible public health policy. The criminal justice system is not equipped to handle the mental health factors contributing to drug abuse; the editorial staff of prestigious publications like The British Medical Journal (Godlee & Hurley, 2016) say “doctors should lead calls for drug policy reform” in order to save lives and improve the quality of life for countless millions around the world (p. 1). Perhaps the only cogent arguments against full-scale global legalization cite, albeit incorrectly, the correlations between drug abuse and criminal behavior—as well as the correlations between drug trafficking and legitimate, violent criminal behavior. Historically, the arguments in favor of a War on Drugs, also referred to in the literature as drug prohibition (Taylor, Buchanan & Ayres, 2016) showcases the deleterious effects of drug abuse on communities, particularly on communities of color around the world (Putt, Payne & Milner, 2005). The bulk of literature in the social sciences shows that the correlations between drug abuse, drug trafficking, and violent behaviors is not direct or causal at all, and are far too complex to be dealt with in a binary manner in which drugs are classified as illegal or legal based on how they are used.

For example, approaches taken by legal scholars point out that the criminal justice system’s current tactics fail to yield any statistically significant decreases in recidivism or in drug abuse patterns (Farabee, Prendergast & Anglin, 1998). Coerced drug treatment programs offered in prison or to offenders serving alternative sentences like parole fail to address the underlying social justice and psychological problems of drug abuse, resulting in a “revolving prison door,” (Harrison, 2001, p. 462). The so-called revolving door costs taxpayers an exorbitant amount of money without solving any public health or public safety problems (“America is At War,” n.d.; London, 2005; Pearl, 2018; Taylor, Buchanan & Ayres, 2016). The literature reveals a nearly unanimous vote against the War on Drugs. Few scholars have weighed in on possible solutions, with Taylor, Buchanan & Ayres (2016) leading the more radical discussions on legalization and more sensible approaches that dispel common myths and misunderstanding about drug use and abuse. Best, Irving & Albertson (2016) offer a refreshing and new point of view from the field of psychology and addiction, noting that “identity change” may be the key to unraveling some of the complex knots preventing the emergence of truly workable drug policies (p. 1). The identity change referred to in the research encompasses subcultural, cultural, and individual identity in relation to drug use status.

Finally, a growing body of evidence supports full-scale drug policy reform as sensible international policy. Uruguay’s landmark decision to legalize drugs, starting with cannabis, spearheaded a revolution in the ways other countries considered how to change their domestic policies to become better aligned with human rights and social justice goals (Von Hoffman, 2016). The conversation on drug policy reform remains in its infancy, though, and has given rise to considerable “turbulence,” based in part by the fact that even seemingly liberal policies such as those related to cannabis decriminalization are still rooted in “arbitrary notions, moral dogma and fallacious evidence base,” (p. 452). Those arbitrary notions have to do…


Sample Source(s) Used

References

ACLU (2020). Against drug prohibition. Retrieved from: https://www.aclu.org/other/against-drug-prohibition

“America is At War,” (n.d.). Retrieved from: https://web.stanford.edu/class/e297c/poverty_prejudice/paradox/htele.html

Bambauer, J. Y. (2012). How the war on drugs distorts privacy law. Stanford Law Review 62(2012). Retrieved from: https://www.stanfordlawreview.org/online/how-the-war-on-drugs-distorts-privacy-law/

Benson, B.L., Kim., I., Rasmussen, D.W., et al. (1992, 2006). Is property crime caused by drug use or by drug enforcement policy? Applied Economics 24(7): 679-692.

Best, D., Irving, J. & Albertson, K. (2016). Recovery and desistance: what the emerging recovery movement in the alcohol and drug area can learn from models of desistance from offending. Addiction Research & Theory 25(1): 1-10.

Coomber, R., Moyle, L., Belackova, V., et al. (2018). The burgeoning recognition and accommodation of the social supply of drugs in international criminal justice systems: An eleven-nation comparative overview. International Journal of Drug Policy 58(2018): 98-103.

Coyne, C.J. & Hall, A. R. (2017). Four decades and counting. CATO Institute. Retrieved from: https://www.cato.org/publications/policy-analysis/four-decades-counting-continued-failure-war-drugs

Farabee, D., Prendergast, M. & Anglin, M.D. (1998). The effectiveness of coerced treatment for drug-abusing offenders. 62 Fed. Probation 3 (1998).

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