I would like to say that this paper shows the point of view of total drug ban supporters, provides a history of drug policies pursued by the United States, and puts forward arguments against the softer (less restrictive) policies, commonly referred to as “legalization of drugs”, while as a main argument against the last is considered negative global experience with such permitted by law psychoactive substances such as alcohol and tobacco. Also the paper was written with an aim to show how funds that are used to fight drug trafficking would be better used if we would channel the funds to preventive and rehabilitation programs which should alleviate the need for illegal drugs in the United States. In the end of the paper we conclude that only strong public policy, intended to reduce harm through the prevention of drug abuse can achieve successes.
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Recent trends in the U.S. policy towards the consumption of psychoactive substances are discussed in the context of the history of drug policy in the country. Restrictive policy in this area serves as a deterrent consumption of such substances, and helps reduce social problems and costs associated with them. Legalization or decriminalization of drugs could mitigate some of the legal consequences of their use, but the growth of their use would lead to harmful consequences.
Recent discussions on how to achieve success in solving problems related to drug use in the U.S. are concentrated around the two opposing models of politics. Proponents of one of these concepts, generally known as the prohibition, support the expansion of measures to ban them, as well as implementation of curative and preventive programs. Proponents of the opposite point of view, defined as the “legalization”, insisting on the abolition of restrictive policies on drugs and psychotropic substances, at the same time seeking methods to reduce the harmful consequences associated with their non-medical use. Knowledge of the history of drug policy in the United States would consider the subject of debate and the positions of its members in a more complete and objective context.
Let’s discuss historical context of the problem that will help us to plunge into the problem of this paper with more details. Musto (1987) demonstrated that the history of modern politics, aimed at the prohibition of drugs, has its roots in the XIX century, when the pharmaceutical industry has begun to develop and produce powerful and addictive substances. One of them was heroin, which in the United States first went on sale in 1898. These substances are sold as the most common items, along with a popular new drink “Coca-Cola, which was part of the cocaine. At that time, doctors freely gave to their patients prescriptions for drugs that cause addiction. So, a fairly large group of people with dependence on psychoactive substances designated for medical purposes, or “drug addicts on the prescription” was formed. Drugs such as cocaine, originally used for medical prescriptions were legal. Drug use quickly spread among the population, gaining compulsive character, accompanied by illegal activities in order to maintain a non-medical use and continuing despite the obvious negative health and social consequences.
Dupont and Voth (1995) stated that this period of chaotic sale and use of addictive substances ended in the first two decades of the XX century, when a new “social contract” embodied in the Act on the Control of Food and Drug Administration was adopted in 1906. This Act provided compulsory indication of drugs composition. Harrison Drug Act banned the drugs trade was adopted somewhat later in 1914. Volstead Act, together with the Eighteenth amendment was added to the Constitution of the United States in 1919, banned the selling of alcohol.
In the United States, these laws were part of a broader movement for reform, which also called for granting voting rights to women.
In accordance with this new “social contract” addictive drugs became inaccessible, except cases when they were appointed by doctors, and even then they were used exclusively for the treatment of diseases which will not include a painful addiction to these substances. In 1933, an alcohol was excluded from the list of strictly controlled or banned substances. In 1937, marijuana was added to the list of banned substances because of the sudden increase in the number of its users. This epidemic of drug abuse started in the last decade of the XIX century with morphine and heroin and ended in the first decade of the twentieth century with a sharp rise in cocaine consumption.
According to Horgan (1993), it is necessary to mention that “Social Contract” that restricts the use of psychoactive substances, has brought considerable benefits to the country, nearly putting an end to the epidemic of drug abuse. During the first two-thirds of the twentieth century, the U.S. laws on the control of drug trafficking provides a model for similar legislation in many countries. In the period from 1920 to 1965 in the United States sharply reduced addictive consumption of psychoactive substances, which at the end of the XIX century were used freely and uncontrollably.
Analyzing historical facts we could say that solid and steady success of this policy against psychoactive substance abuse lulled our vigilance. Social and political figures in the United States have forgotten the tragic consequences of the widespread use of psychoactive substances. An old epidemic of drug abuse in the country left in the memory of the little amount of the U.S. citizens to 1960. The majority of American population knows about drug abuse tragedy except by hearsay. Strict prohibition of psychoactive substances, except alcohol, was widely recognized until drugs were not included in the range of the rising youth culture as one of the key elements of a new lifestyle.
Marijuana, hallucinogens and cocaine received widely used definition of “minimally addictive” or “light” drugs. Exactly they focused on itself calls for legalization, which justify unsubstantiated allegations, that these drugs are no worse than alcohol and tobacco. Nowadays serious problems of the past (and present) time related both to the deteriorating health problems and the development of psychoactive substances addiction, which are a consequence of cocaine and marijuana use are known. Extensive data research on the harmful effects of many drugs substances indicate how society has been misled in the 1960’s. These effects include: development of drug addiction, traffic injuries, illnesses, suicides, and adverse effects of psychoactive substances on the human organism.
In the next part of this paper it is necessary to return to the contemporary reality and I would like to begin this section with Barack Obama’s words quoting taking from his appeal to the Congress of the United States. According to 2010 National Strategy we know that “the 2010 National Drug Control Strategy was developed by ONDCP with input from Federal, State, and local partners. It provides a collaborative and balanced approach that emphasizes community-based prevention, integration of evidence-based treatment into the healthcare system, innovations in the criminal justice system, and international partnerships to disrupt drug trafficking organizations.” Basing on this fact Barack Obama said that: “I am committed to restoring balance in our efforts to combat the drug problems that plague our communities. Drug use endangers the health and safety of every American, depletes financial and human resources, and deadens the spirit of many of our communities. While I am proud of the new direction described here, a well-crafted strategy is only as successful as its implementation. To succeed, we will need to rely on the hard work, dedication, and perseverance of every concerned American.”
Discussing the National Drug Control Strategy we see that it emphasizes cooperative and balanced approach with emphasis on preventive work in the region, the integration of evidence-based treatment in general health care system, innovations in the criminal justice system to break the cycle of addiction and crime, and creating international partnerships to stop the activities of transnational organizations involved in drug trafficking.
The 2010 National Drug Control Strategy was developed on the base of public discussions and necessary documents in this area. Director of National Drug Control Policy has met with police and doctors, representatives of organizations involved in treatment of drug addicts and people recovering from treatment, elected officials and officers from correctional establishments, scholars and groups of parents, religious leaders and others. The consultation process identified a number of important topics that link the drug problem with the main political priorities of the administration, including the economy, healthcare reform, youth development, public safety, military, veterans’ issues and international relations.
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Adopted drug control strategy allows funds that are used to fight drug trafficking implement in directions of preventive and rehabilitation programs which should alleviate the need for illegal drugs in the United States. In acknowledgement of these words I would like to show real facts taken from the FY 2011 Budget Summary and according to it we see: “The President’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2011 National Drug Control Budget requests $15.5 billion to reduce drug use and its consequences in the United States. This represents an increase of $521.1 million (3.5 percent) over the FY 2010 enacted level of $15.0 billion. These resources are categorized around five major functions: (1) Substance Abuse Prevention, (2) Substance Abuse Treatment, (3) Domestic Law Enforcement, (4) Interdiction, and (5) International Support.”
The 2010 National Drug Control Strategy sets the five-year goal of reducing drug use and its consequences. This Strategy is going to:
reduce drug use among youth by 15 percent;
reduce drug use among young adults by 10 percent;
reduce the number of chronic drug users by 15 percent;
reduce mortality drug use by 15 percent, and
reduce the incidence of driving under the influence of drugs at 10 percent.
In addition, the strategy outlines three significant problems with drug addiction, which the administration will focus this year: the abuse of prescription drugs, driving under the influence of drugs and drug prevention. Abuse of prescription drugs in the U.S. is the fastest-growing narcotic problem, which in recent years has resulted in significant overdose. Driving under the influence of drugs poses a threat to public safety, as evidenced by a recent survey on the roads, found that every sixth driver in the evenings at the weekend gave a positive test result for drugs in the organism. Prevention of drug abuse before its appearance – is the best way to protect America’s youth from drugs. In addressing each of these problems, the strategy provides scientifically based, evidence-and a combined approach.
Elements of the new strategy also includes a concerted effort on how to make it possible to restore to every American who is suffering from drug addiction through an expanding network of community centers to combat drug addiction and develop new drugs and treatments confirmed this dependence. Further support of work of law enforcement authorities, criminal justice system, suppression of drug trafficking and drug production in the country, work with partners on reduction of the global drug trade, and innovative public programs, such as the courts about the drugs, play a major role in reduction of drugs consumption and its consequences in America.
Thus, taking into account above discussed information it is possible to conclude that the ongoing drug policy reduces the level of their consumption and makes its consequences less severe. On my opinion, the United States chose the right way for healthy nation and basing on fact that harm reduction is a pragmatic approach to minimize the harmful consequences for the individual and the community associated with drug use, it is understandable that country’s policy and adopted National Drug Control Strategy is also the right direction of development. For the end of the paper I would like to say that I strongly believe in the efficiency of discussed policy and it will lead our nation to success and prosperity.
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