NEW YORK (CNN) -- We're fighting a war that is inflicting even greater casualties than the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and, incredibly, costing even more money. We're losing the War on Drugs, and we've been in retreat for three decades.
That statement may come as a surprise to John Walters, Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, who spent last week trumpeting the Bush administration's anti-drug policies. He claims these policies have led to a decline in drug abuse and improvements in our physical and mental health.
While Walters focused on a marginal decline in drug use, he made no mention of the shocking rise in drug overdoses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week reported unintentional drug overdoses nearly doubled over the course of five years, rising from 11,155 in 1999 to 19,838 in 2004. Fatal drug overdoses in teenagers and young adults soared 113 percent.
More than 22 million Americans were classified with substance abuse or dependence problems in 2005, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Nearly 8,000 people are trying drugs for the first time every day -- that's about 3 million a year. The majority of new users are younger than 18, and more than half of them are female.
Obviously, John Walters and I are not looking at the same statistics. There is simply no excuse for permitting the destruction of so many young lives.
How can anyone rationalize the fact that the United States, with only 4 percent of the world's population, consumes two-thirds of the world's illegal drugs?
Former President Richard Nixon first declared a modern-day war on the use of illicit substances, calling drugs "public enemy number one" and pushing through the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. Since then the government has waged a futile, three-decades-long war of attrition.
Illicit drug use costs the United States almost $200 billion a year, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Include alcohol and tobacco-related costs along with health care, criminal justice and lost productivity and the figure exceeds $500 billion annually.
Even with new rehabilitation centers and clinics, less than 20 percent of drug and alcohol abusers receive the treatment they need and the cycle of drug-related crime continues unabated.
It's estimated about half of the more than two million inmates in our nation's prisons meet the clinical criteria for drug or alcohol dependence, and yet fewer than one-fifth of these offenders receive any kind of treatment. Studies show successful treatment cuts drug abuse in half, reduces criminal activity by as much 80 percent and reduces arrests by up to 64 percent.
As NIDA reports, "Treatment not only lowers recidivism rates, it is also cost-effective. It is estimated that for every dollar spent on addiction treatment programs, there is a $4 to $7 reduction in the cost of drug-related crimes. With some outpatient programs, total savings can exceed costs by a ratio of 12:1."
In the midst of the global war on terror along with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we have forgotten about the brutal effects of narcotics trafficking on millions of American lives. We must end the abuse of drugs and alcohol, and provide successful treatment for Americans whose addictions are destroying their own lives and wounding our families and society.
Whatever course we follow in prosecuting other wars, we must commit ourselves as members of this great society to only one option in the War on Drugs -- victory.
All of that sounds just peachy, until you get to this part,
We must end the abuse of drugs and alcohol, and provide successful treatment for Americans whose addictions are destroying their own lives and wounding our families and society.
What's with the 'our families' offal? Is it
that they no longer own just our children, but the rest of us as well?
Addiction to any substance is a PRIVATE FAMILY MATTER!!
Americans with addictions are not the business of the Government and my
family is just that MY FAMILY. Not the governments family, not CNN's family and certainly not Lou Dobb's family.
If Mr. Dobbs has any real interest in reducing the harms associated with the use of mind-altering substances then he should take a serious look at ending prohibition.
However, I'd wager that this is just a sexy news story for this week on CNN. I think if either CNN or Mr. Dobbs had any real interest in finding a solution to the failed war on drugs then they wouldn't pose questions like the following,
Do you believe we should commit to win the war on drugs?
Well, what does 'commit to win mean' in this context? Does it mean I think we should end prohibition and find ways to reduce the harms associated with drugs and alcohol, thereby negating the need for a war on drugs? Then, Yes I most certainily do.
Or, does 'commit to win' mean we give police and government more firepower to use against citizen's, lock up more non-violent people, destroy more families and waste trillions more dollars while leaving our children at high risk, facilitating the spread of deadly disease, and enabling the balck market which produces 99.999999999% of the crime associated with drug use?
If so, then my answer is hell no.
And how about this question,
Do you believe only a nation bent on its own destruction would continue
to permit its population to consume 2/3 of the world's illegal drugs?
What a ridiculious non-question. Show me one nation in all of history that has ever wiped out drug use. There isn't one. Even China and other places like Bali, which execute non-violent drug offenders on a regular basis, have not been able to eradicate drug use. Sure, there is probably less drug use in those places than say LA, but do we really want to turn America into that over what is indisputably a PRIVATE FAMILY MATTER? I think not.
If the death penalty isn't enough deterrent then don't you think maybe it is time to acknowledge that no matter how tough the policy, the government simply cannot legislate natural human behavior? People are going to use drugs. The only way to move forward from prohibition is to find ways to reduce the harms associated with drug use. That will be best for all involved.