The War on Drugs: Strategies and Impact


For centuries, people were looking for different methods of enjoyment and relief from the frightening reality through the use of various intoxicants. Many members of different tribes used drugs. The rate of non-medical use of drugs was insignificant and mainly due to the national and religious traditions. At the turn of the XIX – XX centuries, this consumption gradually increased and acquired features of an important problem in several countries. Nowadays, drug addiction is a serious social problem. Many countries around the world are taking different measures to solve it, including preventive activities and legislative restrictions. A large-scale war on drugs continues for a very long time. However, during this war, it is impossible to stop an increasing tendency for the supply and demand of drugs.

History of Drugs

Drugs are familiar to people for thousands of years. Apparently, people from various cultures used drugs for different purposes, namely during religious ceremonies, to restore forces, alter consciousness and relieve pain or discomfort. In a preliterate period, it is already possible to find evidence that people used psychoactive chemicals such as plants and alcohol since these substances affected the mind. Talking about Stone Age people, they knew such drugs as cocaine, hashish and opium and used them to alter consciousness (during religious rites) and in preparation for battles. “Several writers have found references to opium in the Bible, arguing that the ancient Hebrews must have known about it since it was so prevalent in neighborhood” (Escohotado 128). Over a period of history, contacts between different peoples occurred mainly through wars and trade. For example, as a result of Marco Polo’s travels, the Europeans learned about hashish and opium, which were widely distributed in the East. Moreover, Europeans’ travels brought new discoveries to America, while the main drugs brought from America to Europe were tobacco (North America), numerous hallucinogens (Central America) and cocaine (South America).


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Until the early XX century, there were virtually no restrictions on the consumption and production of drugs. Occasionally, there were attempts to prohibit or reduce the use of different substances. However, they usually were unsuccessful and short-lived. There were even incidents when countries did not forbid drugs but contributed to their sale increase. In the XX century, almost the same drugs were used in America and Europe. It is interesting that the number of new or forgotten old drugs was controlled by the United States, and only then, they spread in other countries. Therefore, the USA started a trend toward drug use at international level.

Drug Abuse as a Social Problem

Negative effects arising from the consumption of drugs pose a great danger to society. Drug use has especially bad influence on people’s health. “Legal drugs such as nicotine and alcohol have a higher addictive potential than many illicit drugs” (Benavie 12). In fact, drugs contribute to the development of physical and mental illness. Moreover, they are one of the causes of death. The frequency of accidents and injuries in men using drugs is higher than that of the entire male population of the country. Furthermore, drug users have low working capacity and violate labor discipline. Drug abuse also causes high levels of crime. Firstly, in order to attain drugs or means to acquire them, drug addicts commit crimes, especially grave ones. Secondly, addicts often commit crimes under the direct influence of drugs on the psyche. Finally, interrelation between drug addiction and crime is evident in the commission of unlawful acts related to illegal operations with drugs (manufacture, storage, sale and acquisition). Thus, drug addiction is terrible disease of the modern world, while drug users experience high mortality from drugs.

The United States against Drugs

Narcotic US market is one of the most lucrative in the world. The population of the USA is more than 315 million people, and about 15 million of Americans constantly use drugs. The turnover of drugs in the black market exceeds $ 70 billion. Drug users commit about half of all street crimes, including burglaries and robberies. Annually, drug abuse causes the United States losses in the amount of $ 600 billion. Consequently, many Americans believe that the US is losing the war on drugs. In fact, two out of ten Americans informed that drugs were the cause of serious problems in their families, while more than 40% of Americans fear that their family members can become drug addicts.

Nowadays, there are three possible conceptions to fight drug addiction in the US. However, many people criticize American drug policies. The first strategy involves activation of the traditional model. It embraces global and utterly hard fight against drug producers and drug dealers, including those outside the United States, and the process of toughening anti-drug legislation. Critics of this strategy contend that it is impossible to combat drug addiction completely because drug abuse has always been an integral component in any society. The endeavor to toughen drug laws can cause the situation that prisons will be overcrowded with prisoners. Moreover, the enhancement of the role of law enforcement officials will cause misuse of public office on the part of security services and police, triggering manipulation of laws and restrictions of civil rights of people. In addition, intervention of the country in the internal affairs of other countries can lead to negative consequences.

The second strategy focuses on reducing drug abuse. In particular, the emphasis is made on community education. Thus, drug dealers should be punished extremely strongly. However, people accused of possessing or using drugs should not receive severe punishment. Opponents of this approach argue that the promotion of a healthy lifestyle is not able to decrease the level of drug abuse. In addition, the correspondent response of dealers can be the extreme accessibility of drugs, which will increase the number of people who cannot refrain from the temptation to try drugs.

The third strategy suggests a new approach to drug addicts. Hereby, such people should not be regarded as criminals since they are patients that should not be punished but treated. Furthermore, the state should decriminalize drugs and make them legitimated. It will allow one to control the sale of drugs and will exclude the possibility of drugs acquisition by the youth. Moreover, this approach can reduce the influence of criminal gangs. However, critics believe that the availability of drugs will only promote their wider spread, and there are no techniques that are capable of saving drug addicts from drugs (Felbab-Brown 24-29).

“American drug control policies have undergone critical analysis since the basic architecture of these policies was first established” (Fisher 2). The official US policy on the fight against distribution of drugs is based on two basic strategies. Firstly, the country makes every effort to reduce the consumption of drugs in the US. Secondly, it limits foreign supply of drugs in every possible way. Over the years, the drug enforcement administration (DEA) has opened a considerable number of representative offices in various countries around the world, members of which are required to cooperate with local law enforcement agencies to identify ways of drugs transportation in the United States. Furthermore, the United States actively implements the program of replacement. The aim of the program is to convince growers of narcotic plants to close the business. Thus, it is more profitable to grow coca or opium poppy rather than corn or potatoes, since farmers are paid financial compensation. For example, during the last five years, the US has invested in Colombia more than $ 6 billion for implementation of these programs (Friesendorf 24). Moreover, the United States arms and controls the anti-drug services of countries, which are the main suppliers of drugs in the United States.

Approximately 80% of all drugs sold in the US come from overseas. In 2002, the budget of the United States anti-drug services was about $ 19 billion. Apparently, 12% was spent on the border control, and 6% was aimed at helping other countries in the fight against drug dealing. According to the US Customs Service, 60 million people and 116 million cars cross the US border each year. Moreover, 90 thousand of passenger and cargo ships visit the US port, and more than 160 thousand of smaller yachts, vessels and boats enter the territorial waters of the United States. It is obvious that it is impossible to inspect every car and ship; thus, drug dealers make use of this. Talking about dealers, Mexican and South American (Colombian, for the most part) criminal groups deliver heroin and cocaine to the US. Offenders from Israel and the former Soviet Union practically monopolized the US market of ecstasy delivered from Western Europe. Native criminal gangs specialize in the production of LSD and cultivation of marijuana (Friesendorf 25-26).

In 2002, the United States security officials involved in combating drug trafficking conducted about 30 thousand of arrests. In fact, it is twice as many as in 1985. They confiscated 705 kilograms of heroin, 11.5 million of different doses of hallucinogens, 62 tons of cocaine, 118 million doses of ecstasy and more than 195 tons of marijuana. Year by year, the number of confiscated drugs is increasing. However, it testifies not only to the success of the DEA but also to the increase in the supply of drugs in the United States. In 1960, only 5 million of Americans had Narcotic experience, while by 1980, their number had risen to 73 million (Friesendorf 26).


At present, the fight against drugs is urgently needed because the reason for the spread of drug addicts is not only the use of narcotics but also medications. The situation is extremely unsafe for society and can lead to its death. The fight against drug abuse is a problem not only for an individual country since it becomes a real fight for survival. In fact, the fight against drug addiction aims to defend the right to life. The fight against drugs and drug addiction is conducted everywhere, although approaches to this issue are different. The war on drugs should be a foremost issue of any government. It is crucial to involve different key factors to wage a successful struggle against this social issue. Eventually, a strong society is a society free from drugs.

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