(This is the second installment of a five-part series on President Trump’s against the ongoing ‘Opioid Crisis’)
Back in 1971, President Richard M. Nixon called drugs and the culture it has created “Public Enemy Number One”. There was no doubting his sincerity about his desire to disrupt and dismantle the free-flow of illicit narcotics in our country. As proof, he approved the creation of a new federal agency to take on this enemy: the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). The main purpose of the DEA was to shutdown domestic drug traffic as part of the Controlled Substances Act of 1970.
But the problem with drug enforcement policy is it was strictly about prohibition. That’s it. Wait, what? We saw what happened with the prohibition of alcohol. Much of the country still found a drink. And all we did was strengthen the black market demand for booze. So by cleansing our country of alcohol, we sullied our neighborhoods with mob thugs and endless violence.
In the 45 years that the DEA has been in existence, what have we accomplished? It depends on who you ask. How can that be? Simple. Like everything else in America, it has been politicized…severely! In fact, the issue as to whether or not the War on Drugs is winning or losing is so politicized, that it was extremely difficult to find source material for my report that was free from any bias!! Most of them that say the War on Drugs is failing, want legalization of drugs. In contrast, any reports from the government itself says we have slowed the drug trade and drug usage tremendously. Why, sure! I mean, why would you tell your citizens that all the money going towards drug enforcement is a complete waste!
With this in mind, we must carefully sift through the data while using the common sense that God has provided us. The Cato Institute is a libertarian-based think tank that analyzes policy in the U.S. They are one of my first choices for analyzing policy because they are not affiliated with either of the major parties, but yet are highly respected by both as they rank amongst the top think tanks in America. They also have the most recent comprehensive study on the issue of drugs in America.
In the review of public policy entitled Four Decades and Counting, and after all the crunching of numbers and reviewing the history of drug trade in America going back to our humble beginnings, here is what Cato concluded:
We conclude that prohibition is not only ineffective,
but counterproductive, at achieving the goals of
policymakers both domestically and abroad. Given the
insights from economics and the available data, we find
that the domestic War on Drugs has contributed to an
increase in drug overdoses and fostered and sustained
the creation of powerful drug cartels. Internationally,
we find that prohibition not only fails in its own right,
but also actively undermines the goals of the Global
War on Terror.
Pretty astonishing! Nearly takes my breath away. But, at the same time, not surprising. Here is just a small sampling of what they uncovered. Despite the battle to stop drugs, with the government telling us how they’ve made such an impact, the numbers tell us that not only have we not made any progress, but our governments policies and involvement may have made it worse. Take a look at the chart below. This CDC study displays the number of overdose deaths over a 28 year period, starting in 1980.
As we see, overdose deaths increased nearly five fold! If the usage rate has dropped, and the volume of drugs reaching citizens has dropped, then how could this number increase by so much?
Cato pointed out another concerning issue: the safety of our communities. We have seen a steep increase in drug-related crime that reaches far beyond major urban areas. “The War on Drugs has created a domestic battle zone where U.S. citizens are viewed as potential enemies to be defeated by an array of government agencies working in conjunction to enforce prohibition”, states the co-authors of the report.
All of this at what cost? Well, we did not even touch upon the number of deaths related to halting drug traffic. But what about our taxpayer dollars?
The Federal Drug Control Funding has hovered between $15 – $16 billion per fiscal year, over the last ten years. And what do we have to show for it? People overdosing more than ever…crime running rampant in our communities…and with greater enforcement to stop the drug trade, it only gets worse.
So there is no question it depends on who you ask. But you don’t need another useless study to see that what is going on around us is not working. We will continue to look at the results of the drug war through other sources, government statistics, and people that work in the fields of drug enforcement on our next segment.
One final note for full disclosure: The Cato Institute has a libertarian worldview, which means that they believe in the legalization of drugs. Both charts, however, are from government sources. See what I mean?
(Chris Gaines is an author and Editor-in-Chief for Patriot Gaines. He resides in the Cedar Valley of Northern Iowa with his wife, Jen, and two kids, Patrick & Megan.)
Ove_rdose Chart Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Data Brief 81: Drug Poisoning Deaths in the United States, 1980–2008,”
Funding Chart Source: Office of National Drug Control Policy, “National Drug Control Budget FY 2017 Funding Highlights,” February 2016, https://obamawhitehouse.archives.