In the early 1970’s, Nixon officially declared the “War on Drugs”, identifying drug abuse as “Public Enemy Number One.” Forty years later, The Global Commission on Drug Policy, composed of 19 leaders from around the world, has gone on record stating, “The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world.”
In the 1920’s, alcoholic beverages were illegal. Known as “Prohibition”, laws against alcohol sales and consumption were intended to lower crime and corruption, lower taxes to support prisons, and improve health and safety for Americans. Instead, alcohol became more dangerous, organized crime flourished, courts and prisons were being filled at a rapid rate, and corruption took hold of many police officers and public officials. But, can we really equate the use of Heroin, Meth or Cocaine to Alcohol?
Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) has strong opinions about this matter. “We believe that by eliminating prohibition of all drugs for adults and establishing appropriate regulation and standards for distribution and use, law enforcement could focus more on crimes of violence, such as rape, aggravated assault, child abuse and murder, making our communities much safer.”
In the latest research conducted in 2007 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 38,000 people died of drug-induced causes. Over 34,000 deaths were classified as suicides and over 18,000 are homicides.
While some officials feel that the legalization of drugs, starting with cannabis, will result in fewer deaths and crimes, other officials feel the opposite effect will happen.
Rafael Lemaitre, Communications Director at the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), issued the following statement in response to the report regarding the legalization and regulation of all drugs:
“The Obama Administration’s efforts to reduce drug use are not born out of a culture war or drug war mentality, but out of the recognition that drug use strains our economy, health, and public safety. The bottom line is that balanced drug control efforts are making a big difference. Today, drug use inAmericais half of what it was thirty years ago, cocaine production inColombiahas dropped by almost two-thirds, and we’re successfully diverting thousands of non-violent offenders into treatment instead of jail by supporting alternatives to incarceration. Drug addiction is a disease that can be successfully prevented and treated. Making drugs more available – as this report suggests – will make it harder to keep our communities healthy and safe.”
Addiction and substance abuse in our nation is an escalating problem. If a fire is out of control, do we put it out with more fire, smother the flames with gas, or do we find a solution that works? The report also recognizes the need for education, prevention, and treatment; noting that drug dependency and addiction is a health issue. Instead of imprisoning drug offenders, who have not caused harm to others, they will be admitted into a form of treatment which will provide an opportunity to recover from this disease and become productive members of society.
“The war on drugs has failed to cut drug usage, but has filled our jails, cost millions in tax payer dollars, fuelled organized crime and caused thousands of deaths. We need a new approach, one that takes the power out of the hands of organized crime and treats people with addiction problems like patients, not criminals,” said Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group and co-founder of The Elders, United Kingdom. “The good news is new approaches focused on regulation and decriminalization, have worked. We need our leaders, including business people, looking at alternative, fact-based approaches. We need more humane and effective ways to reduce the harm caused by drugs.
The one thing we cannot afford to do is to go on pretending the “war on drugs” is working.”
While under the influence of any drug, including alcohol, it is no secret that judgement is impaired. How many vehicular homicides, domestic violence acts, accidental overdoses, suicides, homicides, burglaries, or even rapes would be lessened if the dependence and abuse of drugs and alcohol were recognized as an illness and treated as such?
The Watershed is an accredited alcohol and drug treatment center staffed with highly trained addiction specialists. We understand what Addiction and Drug Dependency feels like; you no longer have to walk this road alone. If you or someone you know needs help with substance abuse, please contact us on our 24 hour Helpline at1-800-861-1768.