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To begin with, I will present some basic information about what exactly it is that we are fighting. The first fact to know about this war is exactly how many people are using these illicit drugs. According to the Survey on Drug Use and Health, in 2007 there were 19.9 million illegal drug users; which is nothing compared to the 66 million tobacco users or the 109 million alcohol users (NDCS 15). According to the National Drug Control Strategy, in 2003 only seven percent of people are using drugs (Speaking Out Against Drug Legalization 5). The actual amount of users is pretty small and the truth is the majority of Americans are not users of illegal drugs.
Now that we know how small the amount of users of illegal drugs are, we move to the next issue, of what exactly makes drugs so bad. First the physiological issues surrounding drugs. Drugs are harmful the body and the FDA doesn't recognize any of the drugs on the Controlled Substance Act Schedule I, as having any actual benefit to health. The FDA actually states that all Schedule I drugs are as follows: "The drug or other substance has a high potential for abuse. The drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States. There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision" (Schedule of Control Substances). According to the NDCS, there are 7 million problem users out there, which makes the addiction rate of drugs to be extremely high (NDCS 15). Some people may try to argue that this fact shouldn't count because not all drugs are addictive and some would point to marijuana as being the example of why all drugs are not addictive. This argument is not very strong though when you consider the fact that according the NDCS 61.9 percent of the people being admitted into treatment for a substance were there for marijuana (Speaking Out Against Drug Legalization 13). This is compared to the 7.6% percent that enter for alcohol treatment. Now to go even further, what exactly is the cost of this addiction?
According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, in 1998 drugs cost Americans $144 billion dollars (Executive Office of the President-Office of National Drug Control Policy). This seems an even bigger number when Alcohol cost America $184 billion according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism ("Updating Estimates of the Economic costs of Alcohol Abuse in the United States"). Even though the damage caused by drugs is less you have to also remember that seven times more people use alcohol then drugs. The damage doesn't end our pocket book though.
Next comes something that we cannot put a dollar amount on, and that is our health. Drugs have detrimental effects to our health. Drugs like cocaine cause side effects like paranoia, nosebleeds, heart attacks, and death (NoraÂ D.Â Volkow,Â M.D.). Even what the public considers a minor drug, like Marijuana for example, has major side effects such "memory loss, increased heart rate and loss of motor skills" (Speaking Out Against Drug Legalization 9). Marijuana users are also five times more likely to have a heart attack within an hour of smoking according to Harvard Researchers (Speaking Out Against Drug Legalization 9). Most of all though, in 2000, 15,852 people died due to drug induced deaths according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) this is compared to the 18,539 people who died from alcohol induced deaths (Speaking Out Against Legalization 8). Once again remember that seven times the amount of people use alcohol then those who use drugs. Drugs do not just affect ourselves. They also affect the people around us in many different ways.
Another way that drugs have an affect on the general public is through drug related crime. Supporters of ending the 'war on drugs" are always stating how harmless drugs are and how it only affects the person that uses them. This in case is entirely not true. The FBI states that "24% of violence that is committed against law enforcement officers is committed by suspects under the influence of drugs and 72% of violence against law enforcement is by suspects who have previous drug law violations" (Speaking Out Against Legalization 16). This is substantial when you again remember that only seven percent of the society uses any illegal substances. According to the Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring Study, more than fifty-percent of the suspects arrested for violent crimes were under the influence of illegal drugs (Speaking Out Against Legalization 17).
The supporters of legalization like to state that all this violence is just because people are trying to acquire these drugs or get the money to buy the drugs and that by legalizing drugs these numbers would not be as high. The truth is that more than six times the amount of murders happen by people on drugs rather then people who are trying to get money to pay for drugs (Speaking Out Against legalization 16). Joseph A. Califona from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, put it best when he stated, "Drugs like marijuana, heroin and cocaine are not dangerous because they are illegal; they are illegal because they are dangerous" (Speaking Out Against Legalization 17).
Proponents of ending the "war on drugs" like to state that even though drugs may be dangerous we are approaching combating drugs in the wrong way. Proponents like to state that this war we are fighting is not working and we need to take it in a new approach. I would argue that it is working. The first reason why it's working would be in 1979 there was 25.4 million illegal drug users and now there is only 19.9 million drug users (Speaking Out Against Legalization 17). Also teen drug use is down 25% since 2001 showing that this war is working in a positive direction (NDCS 1). This war may be a tough one but it is one that needs to continue to be fought for, even if it is costly.
Some perceive that this war on drugs is all about just locking up offenders and trying to put users in prisons. This is entirely not true; the war is more then just law enforcement. The "war on drugs" is a fight that includes many tactics such as prevention, rehabilitation and lastly enforcement. The war on drugs wants to prevent people from succumbing to the dangerous clutches of drugs and tries to save a person from getting into something that seems harmless. This would include types of programs like, abovetheinfluence.com and Drug Free in the Community Grants the government gives out to the organizations whose cause are to help educate the general public about drug use.
Next there is the rehabilitation arm of the war on drugs that is trying to help addicts to recover and get back on their feet. This arm of the war on drugs includes programs such as forced rehabilitation, drug courts and suspended sentences. This may sound offensive to some that, we are having to force people into treatment, but the truth is that most of these addicts do not think that they have a problem. According to the 2007 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 93.6% of dependent users or addicts did not feel that they needed any treatment. Only 1.8% dependent users felt they needed treatment and did make effort to pursue help (NDCS 18). Also the success rates of addicts in private rehabilitation programs are low. Eighty to ninety percent will drop out within the first year, and most will pick up the habit again within a year of treatment (Speaking Out Against Legalization 6). Possession offenders who go through these drug court programs, have a recidivism rate of about two to twenty percent. This is much lower than the possession offenders who don't go through drug courts, and have a recidivism rate of about fifty percent (Speaking Out Against Legalization 6).
Drug Courts are on the rise because of their proven success rates. According to the National Drug Court Institute there are over 2,147 drug courts in the United State (Huddleston, C., Douglas Marlowe, and Rachel Casebolt 1). These courts allow for offenders to finish treatment in exchange for being able to have the stigma of a conviction off their record. They are being given a second chance at starting fresh. Over 19,900 drug offenders graduated from these courts in 2005 and over 884 babies were born drug free in 2005 because of these courts (Huddleston, C., Douglas Marlowe, and Rachel Casebolt 8,15). These drug courts lead to the last part of the war on drugs the most critical one, the enforcement part of the "war on drugs."
Drug enforcement is one of the most critical issues when it comes to the drug enforcement, because it is the part that is accused of taking away peoples free will and locking up possession offenders in prison. The truth is that you have to have some type of enforcement to get these programs like drug courts to work. There needs to be some type of deterrence in place for people in these drug courts to finish off their treatment. There has to be the threat of jail or prison sentence lingering on them to get them to be motivated to change. Also law enforcement is not trying to just shove users behind bars, they are trying to get the kingpins in this drug market or the sellers. The actual amount of possession offenders in federal prisons, is only about five percent and in state prisons, about twenty seven percent (Speaking Out Against Legalization 23). Also most of the offenders there for possession, are there because they plea-bargained down from higher drug charges to possession. An example of this that would be the state of Michigan. There are 47,000 inmates and, out of those inmates only five hundred of them are there for possession and out of those five hundred, four hundred and eighty-five of them were inmates that had plea bargained down from more serious drug offenses Speaking Out Against Legalization 23).
Overall the "war on drugs" breaks down to this fight between the public's freedom and the protection that the public expects from the government. Proponents of the "war on drugs" like to discuss how harmless these drugs really are, but as shown previously, there is a lot more danger to drugs than meets the eye. Drugs have a major connection to violent crime. They also are dangerous to the health of the general public and cause more economic damages per user then alcohol.
The "war on drugs" is not a losing battle, like opponents against it like to state that it is. Drug use is on the decline and minors are also using less. There is an increase in these proven drug court programs and drug abusers do not actually think they need treatment so this increase of rehabilitation type programs are best fit in the "war on drugs" Therefore it could be said that the war on drugs is a combination of prevention, rehabilitation and enforcement, all of which are necessary for the war on drugs, to continue to be successful. If we were to end this war on drugs we would have to be prepared for the consequences that would follow from letting these dangerous drugs into our community. We already have alcohol and tobacco freely used in our society do we want to add any more drugs to the list?