In the early 1900’s, the U.S. passed the Volstead Act, which criminalized consuming and possessing alcohol. This lead to a massive underground market, the rise of numerous criminal organizations that took over cities with violence and the widespread corruption. It gave rise to a number of notorious criminal organizations that controlled cities with violence, vast underground black markets, widespread police corruption and did little to nothing to curb alcohol use in the general population. Sound familiar?

It may come as no surprise to you now, but America’s war on drugs has shown to one of the most widely recognized failures in public policy and has proven to be completely ineffective. It has been going on for decades and despite the increasing efforts from police and government agencies to stop the drug issues in America, it only grows stronger. The policies implemented to treat drug users have only worsened the matter, left many Americans marginalized and stigmatizes those who suffer from the disease of addiction.

In 1971, President Richard Nixon declared the “war on drugs”. He passed measures that fiercely increased the size of federal drug control agencies, increased sentencing for drug offenders and even went as far as putting marijuana in the Schedule One class of drugs. In the 1980’s, Ronald Reagan took office, which marked a period of mass drug hysteria and skyrocketing incarceration rates. Since then, drug use only gotten worse and many other problems have arose as a result of our nation’s ongoing war on drugs.


Since former President Richard Nixon announced the war on drugs in 1971, the government has spent over a trillion dollars on fighting this war. This comes out to government spendings of $25 billion a year for the past 40 years. Recent reports suggest government spendings of $51 billion per year to combat the transportation of illegal drugs into the U.S. I’m sure many of us could agree that most of this money could’ve been put to better use in benefiting the educational and healthcare systems. Instead these dollars were used in trying to crack down on non-violent drug offenders flood the prison system, rather than actually treating the condition itself.


In 1972, Nixon gave the green light to the start the War on Drugs and law enforcement executed hundreds of military-style drug raids. During the 1980s this number rose to roughly 3,000 and in the 2000s, this number rose to 40,000 raids being conducted per year. Since then, the number of raids has increased to roughly 80,000 per years.Like many with many other efforts of this drug war, the rates of drug abuse and addiction showed no signs of changing and only brought in an overhaul of non-violent drug offenders into the prison system.


Despite the proven effectiveness of addiction treatment programs, many non-violent drug offenders are jailed and make up over half of the inmates in the U.S. prison system. The U.S. holds the highest incarceration rate in the world. Forty years ago, the U.S. held just 38,000 inmates for drug-related offenses. Today, that number has increased 13-fold and stands at 500,000. This amounts to more inmates being held for drug-related offenses than the entire European Union prison population.In total, we jail 25 percent of the world’s prison population, despite the fact that the U.S. only makes up only five percent of the world’s total population.


The costs of imprisoning a low-level drug offender for three years is $100,000, which amounts to a lot of money considering in 2014, 50 percent (95,800) of sentenced inmates in federal prisons were in there for drug offenses. For less than a third of that price, inmates could’ve received actual treatment for their condition, rather than being thrown in a jump suit into jail and secluded from society.


The U.S. started this large scale no-holds-barred war on drugs and enforce some of the harshest drug laws in the world, yet we still lead the world in drug use. Americans are more likely to experiment with illegal drugs than anybody else in the world, according to research done by the World Health Organization. 42 percent of American adults have tried Marijuana. Ironically, in such countries will relatively relaxed and more public health-driven drug laws like the Netherlands, only 20 percent have tried marijuana. We also lead the world in lifetime tobacco use.

Prescription painkiller addiction is the largest epidemic the U.S. has been facing and regarding these drugs, we are a serious outlier. We currently consume over three quarters of the world’ painkillers.


The War On Drugs has been fought all across the map and most countries has been driven by the sole aim to destroy all illegal drugs, which I’m sure we can all agree on, isn’t practical. This war has resulted in large-scale criminal networks battling to make profits, leading to tens of thousands of deaths every year. While law enforcement efforts to stop wars advance, so do these criminal networks that are hiding from them.


Some 354,000 Americans have contracted AIDS from sharing needles. The argument of implementing enforcement over treatment prevents the establishing of public health programs that can help reduce the spread of the AIDS virus among intravenous drug users. A study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that increasing accessibility to programs that provide sterile syringes reduced the number of HIV diagnoses among those intravenously abuse drugs by up to 80 percent. Reports have shown that cities that provide access to clean needles demonstrate an 18 percent reduction in HIV cases while cities without these programs see an increase of eight percent in HIV/AIDS cases per year.


Overall, the war on drugs is a huge misallocation of resources. It has wasted the time of money and law enforcement and ruins the live those who truly need help. This has lead to massive losses on the part of law enforcement and struggling addicts alike. Millions of dollars continue to be poured into a battle that treats addiction as a crime and only benefits those who run the large criminal networks that are supplying the drugs in the first place. It is imprisoning low-level drug users and lessening their chances at getting the treatment they really need and living a better lifestyle, where they will not marginalized.


Let’s face it, having a felony on your record can keep a recovering addict from obtaining a comfortable living. Whether they have changed their ways or not, sometimes a felony on your records reads as a big fat F and future employers won’t be willing to take a chance on you. There are still some states where a drug conviction can make people ineligible for health benefits, food stamps, or financial aid. Meanwhile, robbers, sex offenders and convicted rapists aren’t restricted access to these privileges.

It’s clear to see that the War on Drugs was and still is trying to tackle the addiction issue from the wrong direction. It has put millions of Americans in prison and branded them a criminal for life. Many of them will unfortunately have a hard time finding well-paying jobs due to their record, all the while they are not being offered the type of treatment they truly. Drug Court programs, which give non-violent offenders the chance to clear their record of felonies, have proven to be effective in keeping these offenders out of jail. A survey of these programs showed that people who were diverted to drug courts and treatment programs had lower recidivism rates after one year and were able to avoid having criminal record, that would hinder them from following promising employment opportunities in the future. They also saved an average of $697,652 in costs during the study, which spanned over a year’s time.

Fortunately, there has been a wave of lawmakers who have recognized how much of a disaster the war on drugs has beenand are leaning towards advancements in treatment, rather than enforcement. Many of the current presidential candidates are taking a stern stance on the issue and propose numerous advancements in treatment options, expansion of diversion programs to keep offenders out of jail and in treatment and increased funding to help those who’re still struggling with addiction.

Morningside Recovery is among the leading addiction treatment providers in the country and we offer various services to those suffering from addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders. If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction and need help, please don’t hesitate to call. You may reach us anytime at (844) 825-7925. Our treatment specialists will answer any questions you may have and are will help you find the right treatment option for you.


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