As Drug War Escalates, Drugs Get Stronger And Cheaper
The 18th century British philosopher and statesman Edmund Burke once famously declared: “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.” In the years since, Burke’s quote has been repeated often in slightly different forms by a variety of public figures, which is a testament to how much truth the sentiment behind it contains.
This statement could undoubtedly be applied quite aptly to the ongoing War on Drugs. Over the past several decades United States law enforcement agencies have spent over $1 trillion persecuting this war, and during that time hundreds of millions of tons of illegal drugs have been seized and destroyed here and around the world. And yet, much to the chagrin of those responsible for the continuation of this military-style anti-drug campaign, there is no evidence to suggest that any drug pipelines have been permanently closed off or that the flow of illegal substances has been reduced in any meaningful way as a result of this approach. In fact, the international drug trade appears to be more profitable and efficient than ever before.
Effects Of Drugs On The Black Market
The Sept. 30 edition of the online medical journal BMJ Open includes a report from a multi-national team of researchers who studied and analyzed international drug surveillance databases in order to identify long-term trends in the illegal drug trade. They discovered that despite the stalwart anti-drug efforts of law enforcement, officers and administrators from across the globe, over the last 20 plus years the cocaine, heroin and marijuana available on the international black market has gotten both stronger and less expensive.
In the United States, from 1990 to 2007 the potency of these three substances rose by 60 percent, 11 percent and 160 percent respectively, and yet the street price of these three popular illegal drugs actually fell by 80 percent over the same time period when adjusted for inflation. The increased strength of such drugs is a testament to the fact that demand for illegal substances has remained high enough to spur constant innovation in production methods, while their steadily dropping price shows that supplies are bountiful and that users of cocaine, heroin or marijuana are still very much operating in a buyer’s market.
War On Drugs And Illegal Drug Use
Contrary to hype and popular opinion, the War on Drugs was never designed to stop the trade of illegal substances entirely. Instead, its goal has been to disrupt supply chains just enough to drive prices up and make dangerous intoxicants unaffordable to many who might be tempted to experiment with them. But even this modest goal has proven elusive, and few if any honest observers still believe that ramped up law enforcement strategies will ever reduce illegal drug consumption or prevent millions of users from plunging headfirst into the dark canyon of substance abuse and addiction.
At the present time, the global black market drug trade generates about $350 billion in tax-free profits annually. In the U.S. alone, there are approximately 22 million illegal drug users above the age of 12, and while the majority could not accurately be classified as addicts, those who do become dependent on substances like cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine usually have no difficulty in obtaining the supplies they need to quench their addictive thirsts. And with drugs becoming stronger and cheaper, we may start seeing greater percentages of casual drug aficionados eventually succumbing to addiction, since these individuals will be able to afford greater quantities of illegal substances even as the high they are getting from what they are using intensifies.
Drug Popularity, Reputation And Availability
It is true that the rates of usage of drugs such as cocaine, angel dust and heroin have generally been declining over the years. However, it would be a mistake to assume that the drug war has been successful just because certain drugs have now gone out of style. Once a drug starts to get a bad reputation, its use will usually decline. But as some drugs become less popular, other illegal substances will inevitably flood the market to fill the void, and, as a result, the whole cycle of casual use, abuse, addiction and disillusionment just keeps repeating itself with no apparent end in sight.
What Can Help Drug Addiction?
We can only speculate about what might finally make the merry-go-round of drug dependency stop spinning—expanded availability of treatment, more drug courts, innovative educational campaigns, greater social awareness, a reduction in the rates of poverty and unemployment, community outreach programs, or some combination of all of the above. It seems clear, however, that more interdiction, indictment and incarceration will not make the decisive difference.
The “Just Say No” campaigns were mocked in their day and seem hopelessly quaint now. Trying to shame people into avoiding drugs has not worked any better than treating drug use as a crime. But in the end, illegal drug use will only decline precipitously if enough people decide the risk of addiction is too great to flaunt. So in a sense, it really is about just saying no, and being able to recognize the critically important reasons it is logical to do so. Cheaper and stronger means extreme danger, and consequently a refusal to get involved with drugs in the first place is the smartest decision one can make.