How the Government is Helping Fight the War on Drugs

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How the Government is Helping Fight the War on Drugs

It’s unlikely that there is anyone in the US who has not heard of the “War on Drugs.” You hear about it on TV, in the news, and online. There are many different opinions regarding the way this war is being fought and varied views on where we should go from here. However, not everyone who has heard of the war on drugs has a real understanding of what it means. A lot of articles on the subject are misinformed or are simply current events pieces which don’t go into the history of the drug war – a history from which we can learn.

What is the “War on Drugs?”

Richard Nixon War on DrugsIn June of 1971, President Richard Nixon declared a “war on drugs.” This war was fought by increasing the size and presence of federal drug control agencies. It was also challenged by pushing through measures like changing the minimum sentences for those convicted of possessing, using, or dealing an illicit drug. This is the original face of the war on drugs – strict regulation of possession, use, and sale of illegal drugs, a federal drug control presence, and jail time when you get caught. Later, President Jimmy Carter relaxed one of the laws regarding possession of marijuana.War on Marijuana He got it passed that if a person was in possession of an ounce or less of marijuana that they were using for personal reasons, it was not a criminal act.

Reagans in the 80s

President Ronald Reagan made his stamp on the war on drugs in the 80s by increasing the arrests of those possessing, using, and selling drugs. Public concern about drugs had risen quite a bit in the 80s because of crack cocaine’s spread in society. Crack is very addictive, and in the 80s it was becoming more and more popular in the US. Crack also became notorious for its association with gang violence.

Nancy Reagan War on DrugsSoon after President Reagan took office in 1981, the First Lady, Nancy Regan, began the anti-drug campaign “Just Say No.” This campaign was less effective than it could have been because it reduced the complicated issue of drug abuse and addiction to one simple slogan. However, it got the ball rolling when it came to the idea that kids could get educated on drugs and make their own informed decisions.

Drugs America's Top ProblemAwareness of drug abuse and addiction was raised in the 80s. A poll that asked Americans if they saw drug abuse as the nation’s number one problem changed from 6% in 1985 to 64% in 1989.

Back-and-Forth Bill Clinton

War on Drugs Bill ClintonThe Clinton administration in the early 90s was rather confusing when it came to the drug war. President Clinton said on the campaign trail that addicts and drug abusers should be treated instead of jailed. But while he was president he escalated the drug war. Then, a month after leaving office, he said that America needs to re-examine our policy of imprisoning drug abusers. Previous plans have been heavy on the imprisonment of all those related to drug abuse – the users, the dealers, and those bringing the drugs across state and international lines. Currently, some facts indicate that the current administration is shifting America’s tactics in the war on drugs, concentrating on stopping drug use before it starts, putting more emphasis on helping those abusing drugs to get into rehab while continuing to arrest dealers and smugglers who bring drugs into the country.

The Parts of the Drug War

There is a lot of negative press about the War on Drugs. The majority of this news focuses on imprisoning non-violent drug offenders. Many news outlets say that these offenders need rehab – not jail, and sending them to jail is just entering them into a system which they will never leave because they exit the prison system as addicts and will go back to buying and using drugs after they have served their time.
Prison vs Rehab

While this is an issue, there are many groups which are actively working to solve this. For example, the National Association of Drug Court Professionals works to help non-violent offenders get into a strictly monitored rehab program.

Beyond the issue of arresting nonviolent drug offenders, there are two other parts of the war on drugs which are not always focused on by the news media. The first is the work done by federal agencies to cut supply in the US.

War on Drugs

Drug suppliers come from all over the world: inside the US, Mexico, South America, Eastern Europe, Afghanistan, China – to name a few. Federal agencies work to help stop the drug supply so that there is less of the drug available to drug dealers. The hope of this campaign is to put the drug dealers and suppliers out of business.

Cartels & Smuggling

Cartel MuleCartels and gangs use high-tech tools and equipment to get their drugs past the border. They also use human “mules.” Typically, these are unfortunate people who are struggling economically. The cartel takes advantage of them by paying them to go across the border with about two pounds of drugs on their person – usually in their stomach or in body cavities. Not only do these people (often poor and uneducated) get arrested and imprisoned, they can wind up dead by toxic overdose if the container holding the drugs ruptures while in their bodies.

Catching and shutting down international cartels is part of the war on drugs. Drug laws have also helped police capture gang members and drug dealers within our borders.

Fighting the War on Drugs with Education

The next side of the war on drugs is educating young people, adults, parents, and teachers by giving them the truth about drugs. When people know what drugs to do them, understand why it’s better to seek help than self-medicate with prescription meds or illegal drugs, they can make an informed decision about their future.

Effective drug rehab programs are a part of this modern drug war. By helping addicts through the detox process and aiding them in discovering how to a live a drug-free life, a drug rehabilitation program helps put drug dealers out of business on the home front.

With drug education and effective rehab coming into play in the war on drugs, every American can help fight against abuse, addiction, and drug overdose.


  • – DEA Diversion Control Division
  • – Drug Free World
  • – Penn State News
  • – National Association of Drug Court Professionals
  • – NBC News