Drug addiction is a problem that concerns not only the health of particular members of society suffering from this disease but also the country as a whole. The US drug market is one of the most profitable in the world. Nowadays, one of the most critical tasks is to reduce the level of addiction in the country. Although the global “war on drugs” has been going on for a long time, the state failed to stop the trend towards an increase in the demand and supply of drugs. This paper will examine the major effects of the “war on drugs” through a socio-political framework.
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The statement that the “war on drugs” allows reducing or eliminating the production and availability of drugs in the US has not been corroborated by the experience of the past 50 years. In 1971, American President Richard Nixon declared the war on drugs (Casement). In the eyes of the president, drug use was so widespread in 1971 not due to the great social pressure but because drug users were law-breaking pleasure seekers who deserved only punishment (Casement).
First and foremost, the “war on drugs” contributes to the exacerbation of conflicts and violence. To a large extent, this is due to the transfer of control over the “black market” to representatives of the criminal business who usually act extremely tough. In the absence of formal rules governing the market, violence becomes the main tool of the criminals. To provide security and the possibility of expanding a business, drug cartels create armed groups that are often stronger than the state ones. Crime syndicates can finance rebel movements and cooperate with them.
At the same time, illegal income from drug trafficking becomes one of the principal sources of financing terrorist groups which act at the national and international level. A combination of corruption, threats, and real violence in regard to politicians, judges, police, and members of the armed forces derogates the state authority and contributes to the exacerbation of conflicts.
Moreover, legalized violence, including corporal punishment, extrajudicial killings, and executions, is often associated with the “war on drugs” regime. The widespread use of severe penalties for non-serious crimes overloads the criminal justice system, damages health and, as a rule, is associated with human rights record. Increasing the role of law enforcement agencies inevitably leads to the abuse of power on the part of police and security officials, the manipulation of laws, and restriction of civil rights of ordinary people.
People who use or make drugs are an easy target for the police, they face violence, torture or extortion of money under the threat of imprisonment or drug withdrawal. Such severe measures force a person to incriminate and testify against themselves. In the long term, such cruelty can affect several generations of people, provoking the development of a culture of violence among youth.
Also, the violation of fundamental human rights occurs as a result of measures taken to destroy crops of narcotic cultivations. One of the most unwanted consequences of the “war on drugs” is the devastating impact on the environment. Sprayed chemicals are not safe for health because they cause fever, headache, nausea, cold, vomiting, and dysfunction of the digestive tract. Toxic substances penetrate the plants that people consume every day. Spraying sometimes even leads to forced migrations of many groups of people, while the elimination of the primary source of income for these people adversely affects the economic and social well-being of the country.
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Furthermore, one of the concepts of the “war on drugs” proposes to change the approach to drug addicts – they should be considered not as criminals, but as patients who should not be punished, but treated. Drug addicts who treat their illness often return to society, live, and work like ordinary people (Sharp 72). Restored drug addicts can start a family, raise children and are a positive and powerful example in their community. It is possible to stop most drug addiction in the United States within a short time, by making all drugs available and selling them at cost (Vidal). A noticeable effect of this concept of “war on drugs” is the decriminalization of marijuana in some states.
For example, Colorado has allowed medical marijuana since 2000 through a system of licensed private dispensaries (Baum). This drug is used for medical purposes to improve health and general well-being of people. Looking at all the effects of the “war on drugs” one may say that punitive drug law enforcement measures did not reduce global drug use (Fulton). Such policies fuel crime, maximize health risks, undermine human rights, and promote discrimination.
To sum up, the “war on drugs” results in a threat to public health, the cause of the emergence of health issues, violation of human rights, discrimination, and the appearance of suitable conditions for the growth of crime and criminal capital. Concerns about the effectiveness of the “war on drugs” led to a decrease in state support for the most relentless aspects of the war at the beginning of the 21st century. The United States should find other approaches to create a safer, healthier and fairer world.
Baum, Dan. “Legalize it all: how to Win the War on Drugs.” Harper’s Magazine, 2016, pp. 21-32.
Casement, Roger. “Nixon’s Drug War – Re-Inventing Jim Crow, Targeting the Counter Culture.” The Hartmann Report. 2012. Web.
Fulton, Deirdre. “Citing Failed War on Drugs, World Leaders Call for Widespread Decriminalization.” Common Dreams, 2014. Web.
Sharp, Elaine B. The Dilemma of Drug Policy in the United States. HarperCollins College Publishers, 1994.
Vidal, Gore. Drugs: Case for Legalizing Marijuana. The New York Times, 1970. Web.