The word “War on Drugs” refers to a set of programs, tactics, and procedures used by the federal government, state governments, and other institutions in the United States to address the manufacture, sale, and usage of specific narcotics. For years, officials in the United States have been concerned about the growing number of people in the country who use hard drugs like cocaine, opioids, and marijuana. The drug industry in the United States was worth approximately $60 billion a year at the end of 2012, and it affected more than 16 million people in the world (Shannon). It was based on some indicators that the authorities in the country developed a set of strategies to fight the problem. The essence of War on Drugs is that the enforcement of the policies developed by the state and federal government should contribute to a reduction in the rate of crimes related to drugs, reduction in the demand and supply of drugs by disrupting the market for drugs and generally reducing the level of drug use in the country. Therefore, these form the goals for the US War on Drugs. It follows that the success or failure of the war can be determined by examining these criteria. In this paper, it is argued that the US War on Drugs has been successful, given the extent to which there has been a reduction in the overall level of drug abuse in the country, disruption of the demand and supply aspects of the drug market and a reduction in the rates of drug-related crimes in the country.
One of the main reasons as to why it can be said that the War on Drugs in the United States has been a success relates to changes in the number of people in the country who are actively using any of the drugs. The ultimate goal of the War on Drugs is to reduce the number of persons who use drugs (Dell). Although it is impractical to expect that the use of drugs in the United States, or any other country for that matter, can be totally eliminated, it is possible to reduce the numbers to such an extent that the issue is no longer regarded as one of national concern. Throughout the 1990s, the majority of people in the United States used to single out drug use and its consequences as some of the main problems that the country was facing at the time. The opinion of the public was backed up by the numbers. Back in 2012, about 16% of the persons in the United States aged over 12 years were reported to be active users of one or several of the banned psychoactive substances in the country. However, this figure has been declining slowly over the years. For example, in 2014, the percentage of persons above 12 years in the country who are active users of drugs was reported to be about 10.1%. In 2015, this figure further reduced to about 10%. Therefore, it can be seen that going by figures of the persons in the United States who are actively using banned drugs; the war on drugs has had a positive impact on reducing the number over the years.
However, it has been argued that the success of the war on drugs cannot be entirely determined by the number of persons who are actively using the drugs in the country. It has been argued that if the war on drugs is pegged on the number of individuals, who are active users of the substances, then authorities involved in the fight are likely to set unrealistic goals and that this may jeopardize the overall objective of the campaign. It has also been argued that an assessment of the success of the war on drugs should take into consideration other salient features such as the percentage of users who are addicted as well as those who are first-time users. However, what is important to note is that the reduction in the percentage of persons in the US who actively use the drugs over the past few years is an indication that the policies, strategies, and efforts of the federal government, state governments and other agencies have been successful so far.
The second reason as to why it can be argued that the US War on Drugs has been successful relates to crimes that arise directly from the use of drugs. There is a complex relationship between drugs and crime. In the first place, drug trade is directly tied to violent crimes by members of cartels that participate in drug trade (Bergen-Cico). For long, cartel violence has remained a major problem in some countries in South America, most notably in Mexico. Cartels attempt to control particular routes that are used to smuggle drugs into the United States and other countries. Cartels normally use violence to retain control over particular aspects of the local and international drug trade routes and markets. Also, cartels use violence to intimate law-enforcement agencies and grow their level of influence.
Apart from cartel violence, drugs fuel other serious forms of violence, the most important one being international terrorism. There seems to be a consensus that international terrorism is heavily reliant on drug trade. It is based on these finding as well as the realization that drugs use is related to general forms of domestic as well as street violence that the authorities in the United States have been motivated to fight drugs. It has been pointed out that the War on Drugs has enabled the authorities to successfully burst the activities of notorious cartels. In addition, it has been noted that the War on Drugs has led to the arrest and imprisonment of some of the most notorious cartel leaders in Mexico and other countries. Thus, because of the efforts of authorities under the auspices of War on Drugs, the US government has managed to disrupt the activities of cartels that control international drug smuggling activities.
In addition, it has been observed that the desire to fight drugs is directly tied to the motivation to combat global terrorism. Drug trade and international terrorism as closely related to each other in that terrorists rely on international drug trade to fund their activities. In the recent past, governments across the world have been concerned with the need to fight global terrorism. As part of the concerted and coordinated efforts by governments across world to fight global terrorism, it has become necessary to identify the main drivers of terrorism activities. Since drug trade is one of the major sources of funds of terrorists, it follows that attempts at fighting global terrorism should be include deliberate and particular efforts to disrupt international drug trade.
It is pointed out that the War on Drugs has dramatically reduced instances and severity of the problem of violence. The most important thing to note at this point is that the correlation between reduction in rates of violence and drug use covers all the main forms of violence including cartel violence and general violence.
On the contrary, it is pointed out that the efforts of the authorities in the US to fight drugs have resulted in an increase in violence. It is said that although the government spends up to $100 billion on War on Drugs every year, the efforts do not necessarily lead to a reduction in the rate of crimes that are related to the use of drugs. In addition, the efforts by the government to fight international drug smuggling cartels normally result into increased violence as the members of the cartel groups attempt to fight back by murdering rival groups, perceived informers and government law enforcement officers.
However, it is clear that attempts by the government to fight drugs has an overall positive effect in that it helps to reduce crimes related to drug use. Therefore, when the government fights drugs, it also fights other forms of crime such as terrorism, cartel-based violence and general crimes that are related to the use of drugs.
The third reason as to why the war on drugs in the United States is necessary and has been successful relates to the negative effects of drugs on individuals and the society. Drugs harm people and the society in various ways. For example, it is pointed out that all the major drugs such as marijuana and heroin have negative effects on the health of the persons who abuse them. Drug addiction has been associated with poor mental states of health among mild as well as addicted persons (A Narco History). Moreover, addiction to other drugs has been associated with homicides and suicides.
Therefore, it is based on the harmful effects of drugs on the lives of individuals as well as the society in general and that the government attempts to fight it. Hence, the war on drugs is justified by the need of the government to fight the harmful effects of drugs on the health of individuals and the general wellbeing of the society. Interestingly, the attempts by the government to fight drug trade have helped to prevent further losses and damages arising from drug use. Particularly, the war on drugs has helped to reduce the number of people who are addicted to hard drugs. Drug addiction has far-reaching consequences on the health of the persons who are involved. However, the war on drugs has helped to reduce the number of persons who are hooked onto hard drugs. Therefore, the need to save lives is an important factor that drives the war on drugs in the country.
However, it is argued that it is possible for the government to help improve the lives of people by adopting a more liberal stance towards drugs. The basis of this argument is that criminalizing the possession and use of drugs does not necessarily reduce the number of people who are addicted to the drugs. On the contrary, it is argued that legalizing drugs may dramatically reduce the number of persons who are addicted to drugs. It has also been argued that some of the drugs that have been outlawed in the US are not as harmful as it has been initially thought. For example, marijuana is said to have medicinal qualities that can be used to in ways that are more effective if the drug is legalized.
However, when considering the need for controlling drugs in the society, one has to consider the reasons as to why the government attempts to control the use of the drugs in the first place. Although some drugs have medicinal qualities, it is important to point out that the negative effects of this drugs on the lives of individuals outweighs any medicinal properties that these drugs have. One only has to take into consideration how drug addiction is ruining the lives of young as well as old people in the United States and elsewhere to determine the need for the government to fight drug use. Therefore, as much as the war on drugs helps to reduce the use of drugs among people, it is justified.
In conclusion, the war on drugs has been successful so far because of three reasons. First, the efforts of the government to disrupt the production, supply and consumption of the drugs has helped to expose and dismantle cartels and terrorist organizations that rely on international drug use. Thus, by directly fighting drugs, the authorities are indirectly fighting other forms of serious crime. Second, the success of the war on drugs is seen in the reductions in the number of persons who are active users of drugs in the United States (Hahn). Over the years, the percentage of people who are addicted to drugs has been reducing. Reduction in the percentage of persons who use drugs means that the efforts of the government are successful. Third, the efforts of the government to prevent the use of drugs among members of the general population are justified by the harmful effects of drug use on the lives of users. Hence, by fighting drug use, the government is helping to prevent the destructive effects of drugs on individuals and the society in general. In conclusion, the war on drugs in the US is not only justified but has also been effective so far.
A Narco History: How the United States and Mexico Jointly Created the “mexican Drug War”. Audible Studios on Brilliance audio, 2016.
Bergen-Cico, Dessa K. War and drugs: The role of military conflict in the development of substance abuse. Routledge, 2015.
Dell, Melissa. “Trafficking networks and the Mexican drug war.” The American Economic Review 105.6 (2015): 1738-1779.
Hahn, Del. War on Drugs: United States. Place of publication not identified: Pelican Publishing Co, 2015.
Shannon, Elaine. Desperados: Latin drug lords, US lawmen, and the war America can’t win. iUniverse, 2015.