Free The War on Drugs Essay Sample
Crime is not a standalone issue it is integrated into the socio-economical fabric of any society or country. Any crime triggers associated crimes and sets a chain reaction in motion. Among the examples of this ripple effect is the American war on drugs, one of the worlds harshest programs related to the use of illicit substances (Winterbourne 95). The infusion of drugs through the Mexican border not only directly affects the U.S. drug market or the economy in general but also the public health and overall crime rates. The majority if not all instances of drug importation to the country are associated with adjacent crimes, such as deaths in cartel wars, kidnapping, money laundering, skyrocketing rates of drug use and deaths from overdose among the citizens, etc. Unfortunately, many of the previously implemented strategies on mitigating the problem have failed. The drug war still goes on causing havoc to the country. By targeting merely the drug trafficking problem, it is impossible to solve the entire issue in all its magnitude. Hence, to combat the problem of drug smuggling and related crimes, it is essential to focus on both the legal and public spheres, yet devoting more attention and money to the latter.
The best strategy to combat the crimes associated with the war on drugs is the two-dimensional model that centers on the main problem (drug trafficking and drug market) at the incoming end and on mitigating the adjacent crimes (kidnapping, drug abuse, etc.) on the resulting end. In fact, the strategy can be symbolically represented as a coin with two sides: the legal effort and the rehabilitation/education effort. One is impossible or at least inefficient without the other. So while the law enforcement is needed to contain and combat the drug problem per se (the legal battle), public health should carry the burden of dealing with the aftermath and consequences. If the anti-drug politics is a war, then the public health sector should play the role of a hospital for the war victims offering treatment and education. Hence, the former should be carried on the national and international (cross-border) level, while the latter should take place on the community and city levels.
It is impossible to implement educational and treatment strategies pertaining to the public health unless/until the effort is made to uproot the cause of the resulting crimes. It is essential to focus on the issue trigger, i.e. on stopping the cross-border drug flow and internal circulation. However, if exclusively prioritized, this single-sided effort is deemed to be a failure. Even more interestingly, some of the past drug war efforts per se have been proved to cause damage to the public sphere only contributing to gun violence and homicides (Werb at al.). The link between illicit drug trade and violence including street violence in urban settings that results from both the drug market businesses and the law enforcement interventions is an undeniable fact, yet each of the elements demands a separate approach. While the law enforcement effort is supposed to be efficient in terms of decreasing the magnitude of the drug smuggling problem, it will be of no or little effect on associated crime, such as drug abuse and violence. The recent study of Werb at al. suggests that, increasing drug law enforcement is unlikely to reduce drug market violence. Instead [...] disrupting drug markets can paradoxically increase violence (87). Hence, there is enough reason to shift the focus of the federal drug budget from failed supply-side programs to cost-effective demand- and harm reduction strategies (Drug Policy Alliance 9). At this point, the mechanisms on the local community/city level should be set in motion.
Some of the policy recommendations issued in the report of the Drug Policy Alliance as of 2013 prove to be quite promising. Among the potentially beneficiary strategies in this sphere is making the drug treatment available to all categories of people. The most viable way to do that is through increasing the federal funding for an array of treatment programs that already proved their efficiency, such as the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment (SAPT) Block Grant. Most essentially, the treatment scheme should embrace various services ranging from mental health treatment, to domestic and child abuse services, since all of them are associated with the prospect of drug abuse and addictive behavior. The inter-agency cooperation is also essential. For example, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) can coordinate a cross-agency federal response to lethal drug overdoses. The Department of Defense (DoD) and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) can and should also be involved to expand the net coverage of the drug abuse and drugs-related crimes in the public health sector. That was the reactive approach. In terms of proactive measures, in-school and/or youth-oriented programs should refocus from punitive approaches to counseling and intervention (Drug Policy Alliance).
The relocation of the financial effort and manpower from the law enforcement missions to the public health sphere can actually work. Researchers, such as Matt Winterbourne, emphasize the currently unsustainable economic costs of enforcement, convictions and incarceration compared to treatment and rehabilitation programs. As of recently, a big part of the federal budget is spent on the war on drugs per se. For example, in 2010-2011, the U.S. government carried the operation Merida Initiative into which $177 million dollars were infused. It was the enforcement-based federal effort on Americas behalf on assisting Mexico in fighting and exterminating the phenomenon of the drug cartels (Werb et al. 88). Another study shows that merely a 10% reduction in enforcement expenditures can lead to a long-run reduction of nearly three thousand drug-associated deaths annually (Shepard and Blackley 771). Considering the ambiguous effort on the cartel elimination, it would probably be more efficient to relocate those resources to treatment programs.
To sum up, the drug war should be viewed as first and foremost a public health issue. It by no means implies that no effort namely, the military-, police-, or force-based responses to drugs should be made at combating the problem. Instead, it is suggested that the aftermath and side effect of the war on drugs can be much more destructive that the war itself. Hence, the focus should be shifted towards proactive and reactive measures on drug abuse treatment and education programs. While the governments law enforcement initiatives will fight the drug trafficking (along with the adjacent crimes, such as kidnapping and human trafficking), the local though nationwide public health effort will address the remaining problems, including addition, overdose, and deaths associated with drugs.