The National Drug Control Strategy states that, the illicit drug trade…poses a serious threat to our national security.(1) The Office of National Drug Control Policy adds, we and our allies will attack the power and pocketbook of those international criminal and terrorist organizations that threaten our national security.(2)
The way we perceive a problem is vital to how we solve it. Perception frames the problem and colors the formulation of policies. Thus, if the enemy is primarily external, resources would be mostly allocated to deter drugs from coming into the country.
In line with its strategy, our government spends $14.5 billions dealing with the drug threat. Two-thirds ($9,589.7 billions) go to attack the external supply side; one-third ($4,909.8 billions) is aimed at confronting the demand at home.(3)
Drug trafficking is illegal primarily because illicit drugs pose a high risk to human health. This is not political or religious ideology; it is science speaking. Doubters may want to check the hundreds of scientific studies conducted in the last decade by clicking on http://www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov/publications/.
Is illicit drug use a big problem? According to a 2008 World Health Organization survey, the U.S. leads the world in illegal drug use.(4) The National Drug Threat Assessment indicates that more than 35 million Americans, including children and adults, used illicit drugs in 2007.(5) (This is over 10 percent of the population.) Also, 12.3 million adults in the United States classified with substance or abuse dependence are among the full-time employed according to The Na¬tional Survey on Drug Use and Health.(6) Altogether, we spend $65 billions each year getting high and getting low.
These facts lead us to ask the following: Are international criminal and terrorist organizations truly threatening our national security and the well-being of our country, or are we not in fact doing this to ourselves? Are these criminal and terrorist organizations forcing us to use illicit drugs?
Blaming outsiders for our drug problem is not a new policy. In 1989 the United States intervened militarily in Panama and deposed its dictator, Manuel Noriega, claiming among other reasons Noriega’s involvement in drug trafficking. There is little doubt that Noriega was guilty. The point is that Noriega was catering to our own vices.
On his trip to Mexico, President Obama—as well as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton prior to his trip–admitted that the American people are “partially responsible” for the drug wars in Mexico. Although an understatement, their admissions signal a welcoming shift in how we view the problem. For, although it has neither reduced the supply nor the demand of illicit drugs, this same flawed drug strategy has been the same since its inception.
What does a strategy that places the burden of our drug problem on foreigners say about our nation? Chutzpah? Sure. Arrogance? That too. But above all, by blaming others we conceal the nature of the problem—along with its causes–from ourselves.
A first step in facing the drug threat should be to reverse the allocation of resources. Currently, government funding for parental education programs is irresponsibly low. That is our fault. Although the National Institute on Drug Abuse research indicates that the most crucial risk factors for drug abuse are those that influence a child’s early development within the family,(7) all levels of government have traditionally abstained from formulating policies regarding parenting because we are leery of government intrusion into family matters.
Government funding of adult programs is even worse. Failure to own our drug problem inhibits us from going much further than tough laws, incarceration, treatment or occasional drug testing. These have not worked.
That millions of people need to ingest, snort or inject drugs to “feel good” points to much needed empirical research concerning ultimate questions: Why are many of us so insensitive regarding the social ills our behaviors create? Why does our way of life create a craving for drugs? Why so many among us need illicit drugs to be happy and feel good despite that we live in a bountiful and free nation?
While reviewing our illicit drug strategy, we might as well take a close look at our guns policy. FactCheck.org attests that there is no exact data regarding the percentage of US-sold guns that end up in the hands of criminal cartels. Its research, nonetheless, indicates that, there is no dispute that thousands of guns are being illegally transported to Mexico by way of the United States.(8) Drug cartels use these weapons to conduct their criminal behavior that stems from our addiction to illicit drugs.
(6) (SAMHSA, 2007 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (September 2008)
(8) FactCheck.org. “Counting Mexico’s Guns.” (Revised on April 22, 2009, http://www.factcheck.org/politics/counting_mexicos_guns.html).
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