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The Importance of War on Drugs in The United States

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Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Background
  3. What has the U.S done to solve this problem?
  4. International involvement
  5. Consequences
  6. Current situations
  7. Proposed solutions
  8. Conclusion


The war on drugs has been around for decades. From rich countries to poor countries a solution to the problem hasn’t been discovered and very little improvement has been made. The producer countries and consumer countries are both affected by the problem. In order to solve the problem of drugs we have to find the root of the problem, which is poverty in countries where drug is being produced. This being said, I believe that the United States should offer aid as well as expert assistance to promote jobs and potentially help lower or exterminate the need of selling and growing drugs. This is a problem that needs to be solved now, as data shows that over the length of three decades drug related deaths have risen. According to the CDC statistics, in 1999 there were 16,849 drug related deaths and in 2017 there were 70,237 drug related deaths.

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The war on drugs has been around for a long time and in order to solve this problem we need to know why it started in the first place. Columbia which has been the biggest distributor of cocaine was not at first the leading producer of the coca plant. Most of the drugs at the time (1960’s to early 1970’s) came from either Peru or Bolivia.

The reason why Columbia began to rapidly own the industry of cocaine and marijuana was due to the fact of the country’s location. Being on the coast of the United States and Europe made it easy to ship the products. By the end of the decade, Columbia accounted for about 70% of the marijuana reaching the United States from abroad. Between 30-50 thousand farmers along the colombian caribbean coast came to depend directly on marijuana cultivation for their livelihood,while at least another 50,000 Colombians- including seasonal pickers, transporters, guards, bankers made a living from it. At this time marijuana and cocaine were a growing industry and Colombia not having the best economy, many people were looking for ways to bring extra money in.

From not having many job opportunities this drug industry became the first option for many people. With cocaine growing rapidly in the 1980’s it is not surprising that someone was running a cocaine empire. The Medellin Cartel gained notoriety as the world’s leading supplier of cocaine. Within that cartel, the key player was Pablo Escobar Gaviria, who was not just a gifted entrepreneur but also a second string liberal politician, local philanthropist, and employer of squads to kill both inconvenient rivals and public servants whose jobs were to enforce laws. With Pablo Escobar already being in the drug industry in the late 1970’s he knew how to sell and grow the drug. By the 1980’s the total land devoted to Coca production increased 60% from 1983 to 1986, reaching about 25,000 hectares. Each hectare could produce an estimated 1.6kg of cocaine base, meaning that the total annual production in 1986 was estimated at 27 tons.

A more recent drug lord named Joaquin Archivaldo Guzman Loera, or better known as “El Chapo” has also been contributing to the problem of the war on drugs. El chapo who was captured for the third time on January 8, 2016, was the most notorious drug lord at the time. Leaving his empire behind it wasn’t long till his son took over. El Chapo was born in La tuna de Badiraguato, Sinaloa a rural town filled with poverty, violence and struggle.

According to Michael Vigil, a former U.S Drug Enforcement Administration official, Guzman was physically abused by his father. With having no where else to go he followed his father into the drug trade and began to independently sell drugs. By his 20’s Guzman was placed by kingpin Hector Luis palma salazar, to transport drugs from Sinaloa to coastal cities in the U.S.

As he rose to the top Guzman became one of the leaders of El Cartel De Sinaloa and quickly came to be known by the U.S Government. His ways of smuggling drugs impressed many. Digging underground tunnels with ventilation, and transporting drugs with the disguise of other products El chapo had very inventive and smart ways to transport the drugs into the U.S. Soon enough in 1993 when Pablo Escobar was killed, the Mexican cartel took over being United States first concern. As Guzman grew in power he also extended his market. Guzman went on to produce cocaine, methamphetamine, marijuana, and heroin, which were smuggled into, and distributed throughout the United States and Europe.

Poverty was a role in these countries and it might have been a reason why people were going into the drug industry. Both of these cartels have been created for the primary purpose of having money. With having money they have power. It is likely that if the economy wasn’t so bad in these countries there would not be a need to go to the direction of drugs as they would be financially stable.

What has the U.S done to solve this problem?

The war on drugs has been present for years and Nixon initiated the first significant federal funding of treatment programs in the United States. Treatment programs were about the only option they had to stop people doing drugs until 1973. It was in 1973 when President Nixon founded the Drug Enforcement Administration. The duty of this administration was to enforce the laws implemented on drugs. They also brought to justice those who manufacture, grew and transported the drugs. The DEA was the first major administration that actually started battling the war on drugs rather than just offering rehab. It was clear that the goal of the DEA was to stop Americans abusing drugs and to this present it’s still the same goal.

Another law that Nixon passed was the Controlled Substance Act. This act is a federal statute which regulates the manufacture and distribution of controlled substances. The Act categorizes these drugs on their potential of abuse, status in international treaties, and any medical benefits they may have. Drugs which are classified as level one are the most regulated since they have no medical value. The reason they are grouped is to make it easier for legislators to pass laws against them. The DEA is the agency that is in control of this Act and is able to add or take off drugs from classifications.

“Our number one goal is to save American lives… the strategy builds upon our current whole-of-government approach that educates Americans about the dangers of drug abuse, ensures that these struggling individuals with addiction get the help they need, and stops the flow of illegal drugs across our borders” ONDCP Director Jim Carrol said. It is clear that the United States is focusing more on getting help for people who abuse of the drug. With them not being into drugs anymore the market would plummet and the need for drugs won’t be needed.

The problem with this is that many people won’t listen and the demand for drugs will still be there. The United States is also trying to prevent people from starting to do drugs. “Prevention messages targeting youth are being disseminated through social media and other platforms utilized by young people”. “The campaign will use data analytics to determine appropriate messaging’. This will be used across schools, healthcare systems, faith, social service organizations. This is another way that the government has tried to prevent the use of drugs which to my knowledge has been around for years but no little to no progress has been made this way.

In the ONDCP official website ( you can see that they have many statement and releases on how the United States has been funding programs which prevent drug use and find new ways to stop drugs entering the United States. It’s clear that they don’t really look into the countries producing the drugs and find a way for them to stop. This is another reason why I suggest the United States try a new method to solve this drug problem instead of them funding programs that haven’t really had any big decrease in drug consumption.

International involvement

Portugal who was once a country struggling with a heroin addiction might have found a solution to their country’s drug problem. Their solution to the problem that helped decrease their numbers of people who used heroin was to decriminalize the use of all drugs. Before this the government’s laws were similar to the ones in the United States. They had harsh policies led by the criminal justice system, and they were looked as criminals. Seventeen years later after the law was introduced, Portugal’s death rate dropped five times lower than that of the United States, which had an estimated 64,000 deaths on opioid drugs in 2016.

In addition to plummeting drug use Portugal also saw a drop in HIV cases. The rate of HIV dropped from 104.2 new cases per million in 2000 to 4.2 cases per million in 2015. Portugal decided to decriminalize all drugs as they didn’t want to see drug addicts as criminals but rather as people who needed help. With the help of organizations Portugal was able to supply cocaine and heroin addicts with clean supplies and get to know more about the people. When drugs were decriminalized it made it easier for people to get help as they didn’t have to worry about criminal penalties and the stigmas around it. “Between 1998 and 2001, the number of people in drug treatment increased 60%…(It’s time for the U.S. to decriminalize drug use and possession).

Overall when the law was put into effect changes happened slowly but there was an increase of people trying to get help. While this may have worked in Portugal it is not clear that the U.S. will have the same effect. What can be taken from this article is that the U.S should stop looking at addicts as criminals but rather as people who are struggling to get back on track.


The United States has very strict laws and consequences when being found with drugs. When people are found with drugs it can be sectioned into two parts. Simple possession which occurs when a person is caught with a small amount of illegal substance intended for personal use. Under the federal law being caught with a simple possession is a misdemeanor that can lead to a year in jail or a fine up to $1,000. Being caught with drug paraphernalia such as syringes and pipes with drug residue are also classified as simple possession. The second type of possession is possession with intent to distribute. This occurs when a person is found with large quantities of drugs.

Drug trafficking and distribution law penalties are set when people are caught transporting, selling or smuggling drugs. Drug trafficking is a felony and penalties depend on what drugs are being trafficked, where the person was caught, and the amount of drugs they have. “Federal minimum trafficking penalties for powdered cocaine involving 500-4,999 grams are 5-40 years in prison with a fine of up to $5 million. Trafficking between 1-9 grams of LSD (acid), 5-49 grams of pure methamphetamine, 50-499 grams of a methamphetamine mixture, and 100-999 grams of a heroin mixture carry the same penalties as cocaine. Second offense penalties for these drugs range between 10 years and life in prison, with a fine of up to $8 million”.

Many believe that being if a person is caught with drugs and they have to pay or do time they will think that what they are doing is not worth it. Even if some people do change no data has shown that there is a relationship between a states drug imprisonment rates to their drug problems. Pew which is an organization that provides information on social issues and public opinion has done research on the topic. In the website they say, “To test this, Pew compared state drug imprisonment rates with three important measures of drug problems — self-reported drug use (excluding marijuana), drug arrest, and overdose death — and found no statistically significant relationship between drug imprisonment and these indicators.

In other words, higher rates of drug imprisonment did not translate into lower rates of drug use, arrests, or overdose deaths”. In this test they compared Tennessee and New Jersey. With Tennessee having a much higher drug offenders rate than New Jersey it showed that the states drug use rank was pretty much the same. With no relationship in drug imprisonments and drug use in a state it is not likely that expanding drug charges will be a solution to the war on drugs.

Current situations

“Mexico is increasing its efforts to eradicate poppy fields more effectively, destroy clandestine laboratories and interdict heroin and other drugs before they reach the u.s border. The US government provides training to mexican law enforcement, analysts, chemists, and military personnel to identify and safely dismantle clandestine drug laboratories that produce heroin, methamphetamine, and fentanyl…”. Mexico also knows the dangers of drugs and the violence it comes with. From past and present violence of cartels Mexico is working with the United States to gain more knowledge on how to stop drugs from being manufactured and transported.

In the Mexican government website a statement of drugs was given for the goal of 2019. In their website Mexico’s Government was focused on the politics of drugs, prevention and reduction of drug use, and international cooperation. In overall conclusion of their website they had many similar goals to those of the United States. While they have many ideas of things they want to do to stop the use of drugs they barely mention any laws being put into effect.

Proposed solutions

Decriminalization of drug possession

One of the proposed solutions there is to stop the war on drugs is to decriminalize drug possession. A way this would help is that instead of people going to jail when being found with drugs they would be seen as individuals with a substance abuse problem. This would make it easier for people to get help and not be worries of getting thrown in jail.As we saw in the case of Portugal’s solution to the problem there was a decrease in deaths due to drug use and an increase of treatment by 60%. With this solution in place it would make it easier for people to get help and eliminate the stigma of them being criminals.

A problem to this solution would be that some individuals might take advantage of this policy. A way people can take advantage of this problem is by them only getting minor consequences. Therefore, people who distribute or take the drug will not have fear of doing such actions in public as they will not be thrown to jail. This might have the outcome of having people wanting to try the drug or simply their being an increase of demand. The solution showed improvement in Portugal but it can’t be certain that it will have the same result in the U.S.

Offering aid and expert assistance

he solution I believe is best for the United States to take is to provide foreign aid and assistance to struggling countries that grow and distribute the drugs. It would be best to start with struggling countries who have a great history with drug production as it would decrease the amount of production. This proposed solution will help by sending expert assistance and aid to those countries and analyze why the problem has gotten so out of hand.

The foreign aid will help farmers grow other crops that are in high demand and can help them get a stable income. In addition to this, the U.S. can fund rehabilitation centers in the United States to help those struggling. This will decrease the amount of drugs being sent to the United States potentially making the drugs that are still coming into the U.S more expensive. With more expensive drugs the demand of drugs won’t be that high.

However, as good as the solution sounds we have to take into consideration that the aid given might not be used correctly. In an article of The New York Times it is said that during the trial of Guzman many people saw how corrupt Mexican officials were. With many taking bribe money to let people go or giving them inside information about cases it isn’t in the U.S. interest to give the money if this were to happen.

Overall, this is a risky solution but I believe the United States should take the risk. With the amount of money used on other expenses I believe that the U.S should try it out and analyse what happens. Even if the aid doesn’t workout the expert advice still can come in handy to farmers. If the farmers are educated with ways of maintaining other crops they might not go back to drugs as they can benefit from the money coming in from the crops they produce and can even consume some of it.

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In conclusion the war on drugs has been present for many years and little to no progress has been made. I believe that the United States should direct foreign aid and assistance as it will help farmers find alternative solutions to make money. With farmers making clean money that will help out their country’s economy it is possible that more job options can come up. With farmers not growing drugs to help support their family, relatives won’t have to keep the cycle going on and have a career in something else.

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