Those who feel the war in Iraq has progressed far too long and think it is time the U.S. government starts spending its money on more important things, need to also consider looking into the U.S. War on Drugs. The Drug War Clock shows that as of Tuesday February 20, 2007 the U.S. government has spent over 7, 132,404,175 dollars on the War on Drugs. Yet, according to research conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Mental Services Administration, over 112 million Americans aged 12 and over reported having used an illicit drug at least once in their lifetimes, which is nearly half of the U.S. population. This radical data is evidence that although the government is using so many of its resources to end drug use, deeming certain drugs illegal does not equate a stop in their consumption.
Lou Dobbs anchor of the weeknight program Lou Dobbs Tonight on CNN, posted an editorial February 14, 2007 titled, “The War Within, Killing Ourselves”. In which he emphasizes the need for treatment programs that actually work. Dobbs says; “We must end the abuse of drugs and alcohol, and provide successful treatment for Americans whose addictions are destroying their own lives and wounding our families and society.” He criticizes John Walters, Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, for claiming that anti-drug policies have helped reduce drug abuse. Although Walter is correct in claiming that there has been a minor decline in drug use, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported an increase of 113 percent in drug overdose rates. Lou Dobbs also discussed what he calls “The War Within” during a series of programs in his weeknight show, it is now available for viewing through youtube.com.
Like Dobbs, there are others who feel strongly about putting an end on the war on drugs. “Allow drugs but Control and Enforce, Activist Says” appeared Sunday, February 18, 2007 on the Palm Beach Post. Peter Christ, a retired police captain and member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, states how although he is against illicit drug use, and recognizes that drugs are dangerous, banning drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, and heroine does not work. Christ says; “Because of prohibition, gangsters, not the government, decide where the drugs are sold, of what quality they are and what the price is.” The government should review its efforts against the War on Drugs, considering that it has been going on for almost three decades and there have been no significant improvements.
The problem has gone from being a street related, urban neighborhood problem, to an issue that is continuously being addressed in mainstream culture. For those who have spent their entire academic career in the U.S. the programs D.A.R.E. and S.A.N.E. are indicators that drugs are commonly introduced at a young age and that it is important for children to be educated enough to say “no”. A Survey by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse finds that 28% of middle school students say that drugs are available in their schools. However, this is no longer a problem that occurs away from the public eye in school playgrounds anymore, now celebrities are openly checking themselves into rehabilitation centers and making their addictions public. Stars such as actress Lindsey Lohan and former pop princess Britney Spears have been subject to this during this last month. They are attempting to regulate their lives, drug and alcohol problems. Courtney Love has been in and out of rehabilitation battling drug abuse since 2003. Likewise, in 2006, prominent actor Robin Williams admitted to having a cocaine and alcohol problem and worked on ameliorating his addiction. These are just a few examples, celebrity gossip almost makes it seem like no celebrity can escape being tempted into consuming drugs. Like stated by Courtney Love in an interview with E! News, “it is almost like a rite of passage.”
This “rite of passage” has not only cost the U.S. government billions of dollars every year, but most importantly it has taken people’s lives. From the homeless person, to the richest celebrity out there, drugs are a part of every industry and institution. Those unfortunate people who have become addicted to any illicit substance present greater danger risks because the process of obtaining illegal drugs can be a dangerous act in an of itself. People go to many extremes to satisfy their cravings, yet, once “high” the satisfied person does not pose such a major threat. Therefore, legalization, but strong regulation seems to be the best possible alternative. For, people are still finding ways to get their hands on what they desire, and without legalization, it is harder for people to openly admit they have a problem and get help.