War on Drugs
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The battle against proliferation of drugs in the American society has been a daunting task, for the government and its people. Not only are the drugs becoming a perpetual part of our social life, their consumption has continued to increase with time. Current consumption rates have been indicated to be higher than they were ten years ago, far much higher than they were in the 1970s when “war on drugs’ was first declared by President Nixon (Rowe 105). On the global scale, the war on drugs has been regarded as a failed mission with a number of solutions advanced to help alleviate the situation, including the bizarre idea of legalizing some of the commonly abused drugs such as marijuana. Terminating the criminalization of drugs, as advised for by the Global Commission on Drug Policy, will not only open doors for all, but also vanquish the fight. It is an apparent show of the desperate situation on the global front, as well as developing societies around the world. So, what can be done to effectively deal with the problem?
Taking a look at how the war has been fought in the past by the government institutions under direction of drug policies indicates why they have failed. Concentrating on the nature of transportation of these drugs and the main suppliers does not consider the fact that consumers and hardened addicts within the country will find ways of dealing with their addiction (Kerlikowske). In the interview with Gil Kerlikowske, the director of National Drug Control Policy, it was evident that much effort by the country’s drug policies put more emphasis on managing the problem in countries from where the country’s illegal drugs flowed from. Latin America forms the region from where various drugs, especially cocaine and marijuana are grown, finding their way to the ready market in the US (Kerlikowske). Placing far more emphasis on interdiction measures leave the demand for drugs to raise; a demand which will be filled by any means possible (Rowe 67). The lack of a given drug preferred by a client will cause the addicted person to channel their attention to another, a trend that continues to perpetuate the problem.
During an interview conducted by Michelle Norris on the issue with Joseph Califano, a director of National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, it was further outlined that drug consumption in the US was a major driver of the global illegal drug trade (Califano). High consumption is what fuels the trade. Policies have failed to tackle the issue in the past, and as noted by Mr. Califano, this is due to the imbalance between “interdiction and treatment” as are other policies directed at the problem by the administration. As said by the interviewee, these have not “shrunk the domestic market for drugs”, by focusing more on interdiction than creating more access to treatment and fostering prevention measures (Califano).
Rather than focusing on the movement of these illegal drugs and their trade, more focus should be shifted to other avenues that can alleviate the problem. Fuelled by the demand, trade of illegal drugs will not depreciate without first attending to the root problem; consumption. Reducing consumption rates will effectively curtail the drug business and organized criminals investing in the trade for profit. The question remains; what can we do to ensure the problem is effectively curtailed? Such a measure would have to deal with the root of the social problem, rather than the means through which it operates within the society.
Prevention is the best cure as the old saying goes. To counter the drug monster, it would be the best strategy to destroy and completely annihilate it before its development, instead of combating it at an advanced stage of development or even maturity. This refers to countering the problem at the first instance, and this can only happen at the family level. A child not exposed to drugs during childhood is least likely to have interest towards drugs with minimal chances of being actively involved in related activities in later life. Mr. Califano points out “from their research that if you get a child through to the age of twenty one years without getting into drugs”, the child will most certainly live free of drugs for the rest of their lives. This perspective is added weight to by similar sentiments raised by Dr. Nora Volkow – director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse-, that any individual who has never used drugs before are less likely to start such habits at later stages of their life (Volkow).
An individual of twenty five years of age is less likely to start abusing drugs at the age of fifty or even less. This is a result of the simple reason that drugs have never been part of their lives. On the same level, persons who have in the past been victims of drug addiction are most likely to relapse (adding to consumption rates and market demand for the drugs), once they breached the decision to not touching the same drugs. In essence to counter the drug problem, focus should be placed on preventive and treatment measures; preventive measures primarily being the best strategy of ensuring individuals do not become potential consumers of illegal drugs and substances (Volkow).
In spite of the immense challenges involved, being a social and communal problem and the fact that drug abuse is a learnt habit, the issue can be tackled at the community level. Parents and the family unit, play a huge role that will secure the future in relation to the war on drugs. Good parenting skills, with knowledge on the adverse effects of drugs will make sure parents bring up the children with appropriate values and protection from drugs. Parents are the child’s first teachers and their behavior, values and traditions impact on the child (Volkow). By focusing on the parents’ role, the society can effectively reduce the chances of their children ever coming into contact with drugs, which together with guidance and education will guarantee the child grows with knowledge on the adverse effects of drug abuse and addiction (Rowe 117). Together with on going treatment of drug addicts, this preventive measure will guarantee a reduction in future demand of these drugs, effectively eliminating much of the progress made by its perpetrators through organized crime.