This paper explores every reason that the American War on Drugs has been ineffective. The war has not benefited any individuals, has overcrowded prisons and has wasted billions of American tax-payer dollars. A new system must be introduced that considers the health of drug users as well as the constitutionality of imprisoning them. To ensure that former drug users are able to return to society as productive contributors, the system must not imprison them, but rather, provide them with proper rehabilitation. Decriminalizing all drugs and enforcing mandatory rehabilitation will cost the government less money as well as benefiting those who have fallen into making poor choices regarding substances. These reforms will make it possible for drug offenders to enter back into society as productive contributors rather than rotting in prisons for the rest of their lives. This restoration of justice within the American War on Drugs will allow for a more developed and socially accepting America.
Over the past several decades the United States Government has been fighting a constant war on drugs. The war on drugs has placed over 500,000 nonviolent drug offenders in prison and done very little to addiction and trafficking rates in the USA. The massive budget that is poured into anti-drug propaganda should yield much loftier improvements. It is disappointing that America’s war on drugs contained only within its own continent cannot be successfully won. The war on drugs has entierly failed. A new system must be adopted that takes into consideration the ethics of denying addicts proper rehabilitation, the constitutionality of holding offenders in overcrowded prisons, and the mental health of recovering drug users.
The war on drugs has not significantly reduced the rate of addiction or trafficking. Although drug trafficking is difficult to track, it is easy to identify the use and addiction rates. Rates in usage have had a minimal decrease if they have decreased at all. “By the early 1900s, some 250,000– 500,000 Americans were addicted to cocaine or opiates, according to the Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse,” (Addiction and Substance Abuse: Have the ‘war on drugs’ and the imprisonment of drug offenders been effective in combating addiction and substance abuse in the United States?). In response to this, each president felt the need to write and pass their own drug-related legislation. President Ronald Reagan strongly opposed drug decriminalization and went as far as lengthening mandatory sentencing for drug users. This was one of the first times that critics began to point out the issues with imprisoning drug users, primarily related to flooding the penal system. The amount of non-violent drug users entering the system was putting an extreme strain on government funding. This has been a major concern to political critics ever since Reagan’s law was passed. The number of drug offenders flowing into prisons has never really decreased since the passing of this law. The flooded penal system costs the government millions in tax-payer dollars every year. The flood of drug users entering prisons daily costs the government more than many other programs.
Along with preventing proper rehabilitation, overcrowded prisons are a violation of the basic human rights stated in the Declaration of Independence. The document states, “they [all men and women] are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”. A recovering addict that is in a prison is forced to go through withdrawal symptoms without being educated on proper coping mechanisms to resist the temptation of returning to the usage of this drug. Being deprived of the privilege of rehabilitation is a direct removal of an individual’s right to pursue happiness. Living a life full of irresistible temptation and public deprecation entierly removes the possibility to pursue happiness. “With just 5% of the world’s population, the U.S. holds 25% of its prisoners” (Prison Overcrowding: Should more prisons be built to house the rapidly growing U.S. prison population?). A quarter of the prisoners in the world come from the United States, this is entirely due to the unjust mandatory minimum sentencing laws related to drugs that have been put into place within America. Statistics show that we have far too many prisoners, this issue must be solved and the penal system’s population must be deflated.
Prisons deny convicts of the necessary rehabilitation, this is a violation of the ninth amendment rights that are not specifically enumerated in the constitution. Citizens need the opportunity to lead successful lives and an addiction to drugs should not limit an individual’s social standing and likeliness of being chosen for a job. Imprisoning individuals who have made a mistake in their lives and not giving them the chance to continue advancing within society like normal citizens is quite frankly unconstitutional. Along with being unconstitutional, placing drug offenders is a detriment to their rehabilitation because of the environment they are being forced to live in. Studies on how prisoners are treated within prisons have even shown that “prisoners who are treated poorly are more likely to revert to a life of crime after being released” (Prisoners’ Rights: Does the U.S. Prison System Deny Prisoners Too Many Of Their Essential Rights as Americans?). The human brain, like any other tissue, is unable to recover from trauma if it is constantly being battered by new attacks. The majority of drug users only have a long-lasting effect on their own minds and bodies. The limited effects on society should be considered more heavily. When only an individual is being affected they should be given the chance to go through rehabilitation without undergoing even harsher physical and mental conditions. Allowing convicts to go through rehabilitation is the key to the general recovery of American drug addiction.
Although all drugs should be decriminalized they should not be legalized because of the impacts this would have on general public health. Doctors do not all agree on whether or not minor drugs, such as marijuana, negatively impact users. More users of any drug will cause a general decrease in public health. Mandatory rehabilitation should be put in place to ensure that drug users have the chance to re-enter society as productive contributors. This rehabilitation should not be made public and should be kept entirely off of public records. Rehabilitation will be assigned in the form of a ticket similar to a parking citation. If the use of drugs does not occur within motor vehicles there will be no charges filed against the users related to DUI. Adult drug users going through rehabilitation will not be expected to report their activities to anyone as being forced to admit to prior usage could be viewed as interrogation. Adolescent drug users will be required to speak with their parents or guardians and then will be given the chance to speak with publicly funded counselors. The FDA will create a diagnostic system that will partner with the national census every ten years to ensure that there is readily available drug rehabilitation counseling for adolescents. If there is not a system within each county every ten years then they will be mandated to create one.
The most commonly used drug in the United States is caffeine. Caffeine is similar to several other drugs and is categorized the same as the prevalent drug cocaine. It occurs naturally in substances like chocolate and coffee but is concentrated in extreme amounts artificially. Users undergo chemical changes within their brains and have trouble staying awake when they are unable to access the drug. This stimulation is common in several drugs and is a characteristic of very dangerous ones. As is standard with drugs, doctors have not settled on a definitive list of beneficial uses or side effects. Society has become so dependant on this drug that writer for National Geographic, T. R. Reid wrote “ Without that useful jolt of coffee…to get us out of bed and back to work, the 24-hour society of the developed world couldn’t exist” (Caffeine: Should people consume caffeine?). Despite this description, it is obvious that caffeine users are not a detriment to society. “The most widespread scientific belief is that caffeine is safe in moderation—about 250 milligrams a day” (In-text caffeine). Extreme amounts of caffeine have negative impacts on the psyche and bodies of users. Regardless of this undeniable fact, caffeine is not illegal and is used by hundreds of thousands of Americans every single day. Users of this drug, like all other drugs, are not treating their bodies in the way they should. Caffeine users are not bad people, they are not a detriment to society, they are not hated by society, and they should certainly not be imprisoned. The majority of drug users are similar to users of caffeine. They are not bad people, they may not even want to be using the drug, but they have not been taught an effective way to reduce their usage of the substance. Assisting American citizens in need of proper rehabilitation should be a priority of the American Government. Without the knowledge needed to recover from an addiction or abuse of a substance, users are unlikely to separate themselves from the substance effectively. If the government wants to fight a true war on drugs, not just on drug trafficking then the only sensible way to do so is by educating those who have been put in a drug’s path of demolition.
Uneducated individuals believe that people who use drugs have given in to their temptations and are not mentally sound, making them deserving of their fate. Regardless of what poor choices individuals have made, as long as it only affects their own health and happiness, they should not be punished for it. Placing offenders in prisons will not help keep drugs off the street and it will most certainly not stop them from finding and using drugs again. The practice of rehabilitation is meant to help individuals re-enter society as productive contributors. Placing drug offenders in prisons without rehabilitation not only costs more tax-payer dollars but it also decreases the number of effective contributors to society long term. Being placed in prison makes it more difficult for offenders to get and retain a job long term. This is an unfair punishment for a mistake that only affects the individual. Placing drug offenders in prisons and ruining their lives is a violation of several fundamental rights guaranteed in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. Along with being unconstitutional, placing addicts in prisons is a detriment to their rehabilitation process. A brain cannot recover from trauma if it is constantly being battered. The war on drugs needs to be re-assessed and re-evaluated to prioritize cost efficiency and mental health. Avoiding the problem by throwing offenders in prisons will not solve the issue long term. The only way to restore justice to the war on drugs is to decriminalize all drugs and force mandatory rehabilitation onto drug users. This will be more cost-effective for the government, less straining on the American penal system and more beneficial to recovering users. To reach America’s greatest potential great changes must be made, starting with the war on drugs.