The Failure of War on Drugs in America

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 1476 |

Pages: 3|

8 min read

Published: Jan 28, 2021

Words: 1476|Pages: 3|8 min read

Published: Jan 28, 2021

Introduction: America’s history with drugs can be traced back to the 1800’s when opium surged in popularity following the American Civil War. Drugs were an integral part of American life with heroin being used medicinally to treat respiratory illnesses and cocaine being an ingredient in Coca-Cola. Background: With this came the realization that psychotropic drugs carry with them a great likelihood of addiction and thus action was taken, in response to an opium and cocaine epidemic the government cracked down on opium dens and importation, America experienced a paradigm shift, no longer were drugs legitimate medicine to aches and pains. At the turn of the 20th century, the Journal of the American Medical Association published an editorial stating, “Negroes in the South are reported as being addicted to a new form of vice – that of ‘cocaine sniffing’ or the ‘coke habit.’” Chinese immigrants were blamed for the rise of opium use in the US. America’s war on drugs began in 1930 when the Treasury Department created what would later become the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics headed by Harry J. Anslinger until 1962.

'Why Violent Video Games Shouldn't Be Banned'?

During this 32 year period America’s drug policy would change drastically with drugs becoming increasingly criminalized. Despite the government’s efforts to prevent drug use in the 1940s and 1950s, drug use surged in the 1960s due to a combination of the rise of the counterculture and returning soldiers from the Vietnam War who had developed habits of using marijuana and heroin. The War on Drugs was formally declared by the Nixon administration in June of 1971 when Richard Nixon declared drugs “public enemy number one”.

Topic sentence: Rehabilitation efforts are effective means of combating the drug problem. Evidence & citing: Much like the US, Portugal was suffering a drug crisis prior to the turn of the century, a large percentage of the population had become addicted to hard drugs and half of the prison population was made up of drug users, in response Rui Pereira, a former constitutional court judge decided to take matters into his own hands and proposed a new approach to the drug problem. In 2001, the paradigm in Portugal shifted, drug laws went from penalizing people for possession of small amounts of drugs to giving warnings, small fines, or being told to appear before a doctor, lawyer, and a social worker about treatment, harm reduction, and services available to them in an effort to prevent discouragement from seeking treatment and removing the stigma from drug addiction. Commentary: 10 years later, the number of addicts shrank by half overdose deaths plummeted to a mere 30 a year nationwide. 90% of public money spent fighting drugs in Portugal is channeled towards harm reduction, treatment, and rehabilitation and only 10% is spent on law enforcement.

Topic sentence: When trying to solve a problem we often think of tackling the source as the solution however, as history has taught us, tackling the supply of drugs does nothing but worsen the situation. Evidence & citing: In June of 1971 Nixon addressed Congress saying, “as long as there is a demand, there will be those willing to take the risks of meeting the demand.” Commentary: Despite hitting the nail on the head of the issue, Nixon would set the precedent for drug policy launching a massive interdiction effort in Mexico with the aim of tackling the supply side of marijuana. Evidence & citing: A decade later, Reagan echoed Nixon’s idea that fighting the supply side of the war was an exercise in futility when he said, “It’s far more effective if you take the customers away than if you try to take the drugs away from those who want to be customers.” Commentary: However, following suit once again, Reagan ignored his own advice. Evidence & citing: The annual funding for eradication and interdiction increased from an average of $437 million during the Carter administration to a whopping $1.4 billion during Reagan’s first term. Additionally, funding for drug education, prevention, and rehabilitation programs were reduced from $386 million to $362 million.

Topic sentence: Reagan’s efforts to tackle the demand side were enforced by a “zero tolerance” program where punitive measures against users were emphasized. Evidence & citing: The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 changed the system of federal supervised release from a rehabilitative system into a punitive system. With the bill came new mandatory minimum sentences for drugs with a minimum sentence of 5 years without parole for possession of 5 grams of crack cocaine while it mandated the same for possession of 500 grams of powder cocaine even though they’re virtually the same drug. Commentary: In the streets of America, an ounce of pure cocaine can go for several thousands of dollars, yet to produce it costs less than $20. Such a high profit margin is enough incentive for a criminal to not only assume all the risks involved but also adapt and figure out new ways to avoid detection, if we’ve learned anything from the era of prohibition it’s as long as there’s a demand there will be a supply, all prohibition does is make things more dangerous since they have to exist in the underworld.

Topic sentence: Reagan era drug laws have fueled mass incarceration costing the US billions of dollars every year and disparaging minority communities throughout the US. Minimum sentencing laws have contributed greatly to the rise in incarceration of minority groups. Evidence & citing: Research shows that prosecutors are twice as likely to pursue a mandatory minimum sentence for a black individual when compared to a white individual for the same charge. Throughout the 1990s, marijuana possession arrests accounted for a 79% growth in drug arrests, and in 2005, approximately 40% of all drug arrests were for marijuana possession yet the majority of small-scale drug offenders have no previous records of violence or high-level drug selling. Commentary: There is no evidence to suggest that punitive measures deter the use of drugs. Such methods ignore the social cultural and economic factors that contribute to drug use.

Topic sentence: There is a direct correlation between poverty and drug use. Evidence & citing: The majority of drug users belong to vulnerable, impoverished, and socially excluded groups. A staggering percentage of drug users are people who struggle with unemployment, poor skills, low income, poor housing, and bad health and family environments. Commentary: Rather than deterring drug users from reusing, punitive measures thrust users back into the cycle of poverty. A person stigmatized with a criminal record will have a difficult time finding a job, housing, and education prospects, further marginalizing them from society. The war on drugs has been incredibly expensive and the goals it hoped to achieve haven’t been met. Evidence & citing: Since 1971, the war on drugs has cost the United States an estimated $1 trillion. In 2015, the federal government spent an estimated $9.2 million every day to incarcerate people charged with drug-related offenses — that’s more than $3.3 billion annually. Despite these efforts drug use has done nothing but rise.

Conclusion paragraph: If history has taught us anything it’s that when there’s a demand there will always be a supply, the US government’s approach to fighting the drug problem has consistently failed to reduce the number of users and fatalities, increased the number of incarcerations especially among minority groups, and incentivized suppliers to find more cunning ways to get their products delivered.

Get a custom paper now from our expert writers.

We tend to forget why people use drugs in the first place, as humans we react to our environment, and when our environments are bleak we turn to something that takes the pain away. There is a direct correlation between drug use and poverty, when people feel trapped they turn to drugs to help ease the pain. Why should we punish those who are just trying to make their lives a little easier? In following Portugal’s footsteps of decriminalization, the US government would be able to reallocate resources towards rehabilitation, harm reduction, education, and poverty programs which would significantly reduce the number of users and in turn reduce the supply thus solving a more than a century-old problem.


  1. L. Jensen, Eric & Gerber, Jurg & J. Mosher, Clayton. (2004). Social Consequences of the War on Drugs: the Legacy of Failed Policy. Criminal Justice Policy Review. 15. 100-121. 10.1177/0887403403255315.
  2. Collett, Merril. 1989. The Cocaine Connection: Drug Trafficking, and Inter-American Relations. New York, NY: Foreign Policy Assoc. Series
  3. McWilliams, John C. 1990. The Protectors: Harry J. Anslinger and the Federal Bureau Of Narcotics, 1930-1962. Newark: University of Delaware Press
  4. Nadelmann, Ethan. (1991). “The Case for Legalization,” in James Inciardi, ed., The Drug Legalization Debate. (pp.19-20). Newbury Park, CA: Sage
  5. Rosenberger, Leif R. 1996. America’s Drug War Debacle. Brookfield, VT: Ashgate Publishing Co.
  6. Sharp, Elaine B. 1994. The Dilemma of Drug Policy in the United States. New York, NY: HarperCollins College Publishers
  7. Trebach, Arnold. 1982. The Heroin Solution. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press
  8. Wisotsky, Steven. 1990. Beyond the War on Drugs. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books
  9. Martina Melis and Marie Nougier, Drug policy and development: How action against illicit drugs impacts on the Millennium Development Goals, International Drug Policy Consortium, October 2010, p. 10.

Introduction close-button

Should follow an “upside down” triangle format, meaning, the writer should start off broad and introduce the text and author or topic being discussed, and then get more specific to the thesis statement.

Background close-button

Provides a foundational overview, outlining the historical context and introducing key information that will be further explored in the essay, setting the stage for the argument to follow.

Topic sentence close-button

The topic sentence serves as the main point or focus of a paragraph in an essay, summarizing the key idea that will be discussed in that paragraph.

Evidence & citing close-button

The body of each paragraph builds an argument in support of the topic sentence, citing information from sources as evidence.


After each piece of evidence is provided, the author should explain HOW and WHY the evidence supports the claim.

Conclusion paragraph close-button

Should follow a right side up triangle format, meaning, specifics should be mentioned first such as restating the thesis, and then get more broad about the topic at hand. Lastly, leave the reader with something to think about and ponder once they are done reading.

Image of Dr. Oliver Johnson
This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Oliver Johnson

Cite this Essay

The Failure Of War On Drugs In America. (2021, January 25). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 21, 2024, from
“The Failure Of War On Drugs In America.” GradesFixer, 25 Jan. 2021,
The Failure Of War On Drugs In America. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 21 May 2024].
The Failure Of War On Drugs In America [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2021 Jan 25 [cited 2024 May 21]. Available from:
Keep in mind: This sample was shared by another student.
  • 450+ experts on 30 subjects ready to help
  • Custom essay delivered in as few as 3 hours
Write my essay

Still can’t find what you need?

Browse our vast selection of original essay samples, each expertly formatted and styled


Where do you want us to send this sample?

    By clicking “Continue”, you agree to our terms of service and privacy policy.


    Be careful. This essay is not unique

    This essay was donated by a student and is likely to have been used and submitted before

    Download this Sample

    Free samples may contain mistakes and not unique parts


    Sorry, we could not paraphrase this essay. Our professional writers can rewrite it and get you a unique paper.



    Please check your inbox.

    We can write you a custom essay that will follow your exact instructions and meet the deadlines. Let's fix your grades together!


    Get Your
    Personalized Essay in 3 Hours or Less!

    We can help you get a better grade and deliver your task on time!
    • Instructions Followed To The Letter
    • Deadlines Met At Every Stage
    • Unique And Plagiarism Free
    Order your paper now