Examining the Ineffectiveness of the War on Drugs: The Failed Crusade
For centuries, the human mind has been enamored with the mind-blowing effects of substances that they can put into their bodies. Never before, however, has this drug use become more prevalent than now. The War on Drugs has been an ongoing and ineffective tactic meant to steer U.S. citizens away from drug use, but instead, it only leaves them misinformed and more likely to try drugs, filling up our prisons in the process and putting drug use on the same platform as murder or theft.
Misinformation and its Implications
The official “War on Drugs” was a process that started in 1971 by the U.S. government to combat drug use and has been largely deemed as a failure. The War on Drugs is defined as “a comprehensive domestic and foreign campaign by the U.S. government to stop the production, distribution, and use of illegal drugs.” The campaign reached an official end in 2009 due to its counterproductivity and unsuccessfulness, but a substantial amount of its policies remain.
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Overpopulated Prisons: A Consequence of the War on Drugs
One downfall of the War on Drugs is that it misinforms people and leaves them more likely to experiment and/or become addicted to drugs. Citizens are not properly educated on the topic of drug use and what it can do to you. More specifically, they aren’t taught the differences between hard drugs and drugs like marijuana. The War on Drugs curriculum makes marijuana seem just as bad and consequential as substances like cocaine or heroin.
One woman interviewed by Marsha Rosenbaum said, “They told us if we[she and her classmates] used marijuana, we would become addicted. They told us if we used heroin, we would become addicted. Well, we all tried marijuana and found we did not become addicted. We figured the entire message must be B.S. So I tried heroin, used it again and again, got strung out, and here I am.” This is just one example of a teen who was taught to abstain from and demonize all drugs, being misinformed in the process of it, and deciding to make their own uninformed conclusions based on little experience.
Another prime example of the ineffectiveness of the War on Drugs is how overpopulated our prisons have become. Lauren Carrol states, “The state and federal prison population grew from 218,466 in 1974 to 1,508,636 in 2014, which is a nearly 600 percent increase. For comparison, the overall United States population has increased just 51 percent since 1974”(Carrol). These dates and numbers line up with the timeline of the War on Drugs and are an exact result of it. This is a travesty, considering that drugs are not a good reason to lock somebody up for a substantial period of their life. This wastes space that could be used for much more dangerous criminals and leads to a less happy and productive society.
Ethical Considerations in Criminalization
This leads to the third reason why the War on Drugs is a failure. Drug users are put on the same platform as murderers or thieves. This is unfair because drug users are not nearly as ethically immoral as others who commit actual crimes. “Drug use, unlike any of these real crimes, does not involve a trespass against anyone’s right to life, liberty, or property.” In other words, drug use does not violate any of the constitutional and unalienable rights. Good citizens are being put in jail alongside people who actually rape, murder, and kidnap simply because they put harmful substances in their own bodies. “The overwhelming majority of drug users are nonviolent. Generally law-abiding people. A significant portion of the prison system is filled with such people.”
Some people argue that “If all the drugs, drug abusers, dealers, and manufacturers are behind bars, there will be no one else there to bring drugs into the area”(The War on Drugs). This is a misconception because there will always be people out there to make the drugs and distribute them to others, and there will always be people curious enough to try them. There are numerous amounts of underground operations and trafficking that go undetected by the government. There are people who hide drugs in their very own homes and evade arrest daily. People will not stop something simply because the government says to.
The Call for Reform and Education
The War on Drugs has been going on since 1971 and has had few successes. It has been counterproductive, has filled up our prisons with good and lawful people, and has failed to properly educate its citizens on the drugs that they deem just as bad as murder or theft. The amount of time and money that the War on Drugs has wasted has had no benefits to American society and should go through reformations to better suit the productivity as well as the needs of the American citizens. The focus should be directed more on educating our people about the harmful effects of different drugs and persuading them away from addiction, but not jailing them if they decide that that is the path they would prefer to take. Otherwise, our prisons will continue to be overpopulated, and generation after generation will continue to be uneducated on these topics.