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How America Lost the War on Drugs

After 35 years and $500 billion, according to Ben Wallace-Wells of the Rolling Stone magazine, drugs are as cheap and plentiful and ever.

What went wrong? Here's an article on how America lost the war on drugs:

But after Escobar was killed in 1993 - and after U.S. drug agents began systematically busting up the Colombian cartels - doubt was replaced with hard data. Thanks to new research, U.S. policy-makers knew with increasing certainty what would work and what wouldn't. The tragedy of the War on Drugs is that this knowledge hasn't been heeded. We continue to treat marijuana as a major threat to public health, even though we know it isn't. We continue to lock up generations of teenage drug dealers, even though we know imprisonment does little to reduce the amount of drugs sold on the street. And we continue to spend billions to fight drugs abroad, even though we know that military efforts are an ineffective way to cut the supply of narcotics in America or raise the price.

All told, the United States has spent an estimated $500 billion to fight drugs - with very little to show for it. Cocaine is now as cheap as it was when Escobar died and more heavily used. Methamphetamine, barely a presence in 1993, is now used by 1.5 million Americans and may be more addictive than crack. We have nearly 500,000 people behind bars for drug crimes - a twelvefold increase since 1980 - with no discernible effect on the drug traffic. Virtually the only success the government can claim is the decline in the number of Americans who smoke marijuana - and even on that count, it is not clear that federal prevention programs are responsible. In the course of fighting this war, we have allowed our military to become pawns in a civil war in Colombia and our drug agents to be used by the cartels for their own ends. Those we are paying to wage the drug war have been accused of ­human-rights abuses in Peru, Bolivia and Colombia. In Mexico, we are now ­repeating many of the same mistakes we have made in the Andes.

Link (Photo: Dalton/AP Photo)


Very interesting read and all... but I'm not liking Neatorama being plagued by all of this political stuff. Don't get me wrong, I think things like this are absolutely important to America... but there also rather depressing. No where near as cool as glowing cephalopods or Monty Python slippers. :)
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A young co-worker of mine went down the spiral of drugs : drugs were around her, with her "friends". Try pot, it's not dangerous. And then alcohol, party, and try this and that, up to oxycontin and heroin. With work performances subsequently impacted, she was fired. Then given a second chance (never seen before in the company) and then fired again when she went down the spiral again. She's now down the drain in the gutter of the society. What a waste. I think of her evrytime I read drug stories.

Nothing is going to make my mind change on:
- Too much drug out there : cut the supplies!
- Pot is not highly dangerous, but the 'concept of taking it' is : you're opening doors, changing consumption behaviours.
- I'm ready to pay high taxes to get the f*g death sellers behind bars
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@Christophe
How naive. Supply is always determined by demand.

Your co-worker chose to destroy her life - why should taxes fund a failing strategy to protect her (and others like her) against their own stupidity?

Personally, I'd rather see 500 billion dollars being spent on national health care.

The government is pissing away billions making arbitrary decisions on what bad habits it's citizens can enjoy. If they really "cared" - they'd outlaw alcohol, tobacco, fast food, and soda - all which kill way (WAY) more people then all the abused drugs combined.
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Here's the solution. You're either smart, and you do no drugs of any kind, or you're an idiot, and you do. Institute a nation wide test where each person is given the option, "Would you, or would you not use illegal drugs?". Person answers yes, they are instantly euthanized on the spot. Problem solved.
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Cristophe:

- What if reducing the supply involves spraying toxic chemicals over thousands of acres of land and small villages occupied by hundreds of thousands of children and desperately poor subsistence farmers growing innocent crops?

- Is the behavior pattern of smoking marijuana worse than the pattern of binge drinking, huffing solvents, "tripping" on Robitussin, etc.? Why is it the focus of prosecution, when these legal "gateways" are not?

- Are you also willing to pay to imprison the manufacturers of pharmaceuticals that kill and addict, such as Vioxx (killed 20,000) and Oxycontin, respectively? (this from the point of view of an ex-"ADD"-youth who was addicted to and very messed up by my legally prescribed 9 pill a day dose of amphetamines, AKA Dexedrine, throughout high school)

- America has more than twice as many people in prison as *China*. That is not per capita, but an absolute number. Exactly how many tax dollars are you willing to pay? How much freedom are you willing to trade?

If you say you aren't trading any freedom because you don't do drugs, pray that you never upset a police officer who now has the foolproof ability to "find" a planted bag of drugs in your vehicle, locking you away with no recourse and no way to prove they were planted.

Since it started, drug use is much more widespread and users have switched to harder, more dangerous drugs. No matter your opinion on drugs, statistics do not lie.

The government has discredited itself with its one sided propaganda, particularly against marijuana. Now, when the government claims that a genuinely dangerous drug like Ecstasy is dangerous, young people don't believe it and wind up in the hospital. Marijuana itself certainly has addictive properties, but the government is no longer seen as an honest broker of information, so its claims of marijuana's addictiveness are largely treated with derision.

The type of youth who are inclined to use drugs will only be encouraged to use it by anti-drug propaganda and enforcement measures. It comes to represent a "risk" that many young people crave.

If anything, the War on Drugs increases drug use by sensationalizing drugs. Remember the old marketing maxim: "There is no such thing as bad publicity."

People have to be responsible for their own actions. The War on Drugs is Socialism plain and simple. No freedom loving American should support it.

The only people who have a valid reason to support the War on Drugs are the organized crime cartels who profit from it.

Look to the desperate hordes of immigrants streaming across the border from the failed narco-state of Mexico, awash in guns, drug money, and corrupted cops and politicians, and think a little bit about unintended consequences.

Drugs are terrible. The War on Drugs is worse.

P.S. Read Genesis 1:29, and see if that makes you reconsider what a "drug" is.
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I'm with Christophe on this one. Not all pot smokers end up being an addict of harder drugs - but pot is almost always the very first psychedelic drug addicts use. It's the "gateway" drug of choice. Where do you draw the line, if pot is permissible?

@VonSkippy "How naive. Supply is always determined by demand." Not with drugs. Because they're addictive, supply will create demand.

Having said that, there have been many missteps and missed opportunities in America's War on Drugs.
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People are so easy to judge everything around them, rather than looking at the issues. People do hard drugs because of socio-economical or emotional problems. Look at who the drug users are! As far as the war on drugs, it's over. It's had it's very poor shot. Pot, just like everything else, should be legal. There should only be two laws: Don't be an asshole, and don't kill anybody. Everything else should be legal. Some people wanna a nanny goverment, I don't! I'm smart enough to make decisions for myself.
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hmm, around here pot is plentiful, but it is crap......not "hella strong" as some young'un said earlier. the "strong stuff" is usually hydroponically grown indoors and is outrageously expensive....$125 for an eighth of an ounce for Purple Haze. the plentiful grass wouldn't get a fly high. i want my sinsemilla!
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@ Alex - "Not with drugs. Because they’re addictive, supply will create demand."

You've got to have demand in the first place.

Also, pot isn't psychedelic, as that would make it hallucinogenic. As for it being a 'gateway' drug, it depends on the person who knows the conciquence of their actions.

I assume you don't take drugs?
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Oh yeah.. I forgot to mention... Our lovely USA hasn't grasped the fact that you cannot fight an abstract.

You have to know what you're fighting in order to actually wage any sort of half-effective war. You can't fight things like "drugs" or "terror". There is no monster loping around with a nametag that says "Hello, I'm DRuGs." While "drugs" is a great deal more concrete that "terror", the government and school systems haven't been honest or open about it.

Oh, and what happened to America the free? The stuff under the sink and in the medicine cabinet can mess me up worse than most of the stuff I can get on the street. The war on drugs is just a fancy name for prohibition. I don't use drugs nor have I ever. But I still don't think the government should be able to say what one can and cannot put into their body.
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@Cori.
I agree about the direction, this is more like something I would read on BoingBoing - which I enjoy, but I read netorama for different reasons.

I also agree that we cannot seem to grasp the idea that you cannot "fight" and abstract or an idea.
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pot is a non-addictive drug that usually leaves its users high-functioning (unless you take a lot) and has a wide variety of useful applications. a recent study done in the UK found the second active ingedient in pot to be a cancer inhibitor. there is no way it should be illegal in the US when tobacco and alcohol are not.
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@Googamooga and L.C.

If we culled all the drug users out of the population, a great many of your favourite people would be gone. And a great many of the inventions that make your life easier, and the art and entertainment that you enjoy, would never have existed.

You two are really, really myopic.
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1. Christophe- I have some sympathy for your views & agree that the use of drugs can spiral a lot of people out of control -- better to avoid them all together. Unfortunately, what has long been proven is all these aims to reduce the supply simply raise the price & profits and makes it all the more attractive for new people to enter as "supplymakers". In my view, you decriminalize it all and spend 1/100 the effort convincing people it's stupid. You'll never "win" the war on drugs anymore than the US was able to "win" the war on booze during the Prohibition Era. As long as there is demand, there will be a supply.
2. VonSkippy - spending the $500B on healthcare is not a good alternative -- besides resulting in a crappy product, it only provides the gov't a plausible rationale for having its hooks into people's personal lives re: their consumption of fatty foods, soft drinks, alcohol. whatever. How about just tax people $500B less in the first place and allow that $ to enter the economy in a rational manner or to support private investment? Stay out of our lives.
3. Sasha- Vioxx didn't kill 20,000 people. That's bloody crazy. WHat it did do was greatly improve the quality of life for a lot of people with debilitating pain. There is a small risk for some very dangerous side effects in a very small % of the population, most of whom could be easily screened out. Drugs like Vioxx, Accutane, and even Thalidomide can have very positive results and be an absolute godsend to those who really need them. Side effects are a risk and indeed, some can show up after the product is in commercial distribution. The liberals and socialists like to pin this all on evil money grubbing drug companies hiding the side effects, but this is pure krap. Only a tiny fraction of new drugs developed ever makes it to the market and it usually takes decades. Depriving the private companies of profit potential only ensures that nothing new will ever be developed. We wouldn't even have aspirin without private drug companies.
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oops... I hit "enter" too by mistake.

@Sasha, I am interested in your perspective on the ADD/ADHD meds that are pushed into increasing numbers of our kids yearly. I think it's an absolute digrace as well. Where we differ is in where the blame is laid. I would rest it with the pediatricians that prescribe it, the schools that pressure the parents into doping their kids, but ultimately responsibility must rest with the parents.

The benefit of such powerful psychoactive medications may be there for a *tiny* fraction of the populace (which is why I do not blame drug companies), but not 10% or more as it is in some government school districts. Parents dope their kids because it makes them easier to control. What a poor message this sends to them as they continue on through life.
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About Pot - I'm from holland and i've never seen a more innocent drug than pot, the people that smoke pot here smoke it to relax and kick back - why people would think this is a gateway drugs...it's in no way as agressive as any other drug. Take alcohol: most fights, accidents and dumb things happen because of alcohol.
At party's most people drink alcohol and wil take drugs because they're drunk.
So in my opinion if there's a gateway drug i would say it's alcohol.

By the way, i used to smoke pot from my 16th to my 19th and i haven't done any other drugs(accept alcohol ;).
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About the dangers of pot: "According to the NIDA [National Institute on Drug Abuse], the conclusion that can be drawn from this scientific research is: someone who smokes marijuana every day may be functioning at a reduced intellectual level all of the time, even during periods of brief abstinence." (source)

And no, I don't smoke pot or drink alcohol. Well, I don't abstain from alcohol but just never got the taste for it. My "drug" of choice is Neatorama ;)

@Cori - re: Neatorama being plagued by all of this political stuff. Having personally written close to 10,000 posts on Neatorama, I got really tired of just posting innocuous "neat" stuff.

Don't get me wrong - the bulk of Neatorama will continue to be interesting tidbits from around the Net (I promise!), but I'd also like to post something of a more serious nature. The discussions are what I like most about editing for Neatorama, and you don't get serious back and forth on a post about a neat gizmo or something.
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I have to say after reading the whole article I am amazed at the thorough research the author put into it. I wonder if I'll be able to find a copy of this issue's magazine at my shop.
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pharmacuticals are also the problem,how many americans go through the day without opening a prescription jar? Do you honestly believe that is better? Look at the waist size of americans! Now find out the ingrediants that don't have to be listed.When is the last time americans ate real food? And some would have a pot smoker executed? Even though it's organic!READ KEVIN TRUDEAU you are all being lied to
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