U.S. Drug Use Reaches an All-Time High

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(Newswire.net — November 21, 2016) — When President Richard Nixon declared war on drugs in 1971, most American citizens cheered. “America’s public enemy number one in the United States is drug abuse,” he stated in his speech to announce the campaign.

“In order to fight and defeat this enemy, it is necessary to wage a new, all-out offensive.” Law-abiding citizens expected a dramatic downturn in a number of drugs on the street.

Though Nixon’s program managed to alleviate some of the chaos at the time, it didn’t last. According to a chart from the Atlantic, in 1970, at what Nixon believed was the height of drug abuse in the U.S., the country was experiencing an addiction rate of one percent of the population.

Not only has that rate nearly doubled in the 40 years that have passed, but it’s also cost the U.S. government trillions to apprehend drug criminals and keep them in prison. The war on drugs has grown bigger and more challenging than ever, and it’s not had the desired effect.

Most people know someone personally who is exhibiting the signs of drug abuse, and illicit drug use in this country is higher than ever.

The Stats

Drugs vary in their severity. Marijuana was recently declared legal for private use in small amounts in several states, including California and Colorado because it’s come to be regarded as one of the lightest offenders. Marijuana use has increased almost two percent from 10 years ago, according to research from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Opiates are much stronger, and in some forms can be the worst. Heroin and cocaine are the most famous and widely used opiates, and they can have incredibly damaging effects.

Heroin is currently the leader in illegal drug-related deaths. Despite the nation’s best efforts to reduce the activity of drug cartels and the distribution of heroin within our borders, the stats have done little else but climb.

A recent report published by CBS News shows that heroin abuse in the U.S. has reached a 20-year high. As of 2014, there were about one million heroin users in the country, which is almost three times the number known to exist in 2003.

What’s more, deaths have increased five times since 2000. These numbers are the most accurate statistics we have, but analysts predict a steady increase into the near future based on their findings.

Other statistics indicate that illicit drug use is rising and that nearly 10 percent of the population aged 12 or older uses drugs. Workforce drug use has reached an estimated 10-year high.

Though the use of illegal substances is highest among citizens in their late teens and twenties, it’s increasing among people in their fifties and early sixties, primarily in the form of prescription drug abuse.

Is the War on Drugs Working?

The statistics strongly suggest that the war on drugs is pretty ineffective, and it might even be a contributing factor in the increase. The chart published in the Atlantic shows that government spending to combat drugs has topped $1.5 trillion since the war on drugs was declared.

All that spending has evidently not prevented or slowed drug abusers from obtaining illicit substances. The article from CBS News argues that heroin use is considerably higher today because of a recent crackdown on prescription drug use.

They report speculates that because prescribers have tightened the security relating to prescription drugs, more addicts are turning toward strong opiates to get their fix.

There’s also the argument that when the government bans something, it increases significantly in value. Because it’s illegal and strongly enforced, the manufacture and sale of drugs has become a high-value commodity.

There’s a lot of money to be made in drug production, which entices more people to enter the trade. Given the peer pressure, more people become addicted, and the drug epidemic rages on.

It’s an Ethical Decision Too

All these facts have caused many to question whether the war on drugs is worth our time and money. Some politicians and citizens have called to repeal the “war on drugs,” and make more substances legal. This is one reason marijuana use has become legal in many states.

However, there’s an ethical standpoint as well. Even though it’s costing the U.S. trillions to fight the war on drugs, can we really stand by and allow thousands of our fellow citizens to damage their physical health and even occasionally perish from the use (or misuse) of drugs?

The ethics of the matter make the choice to maintain or repeal the war on drugs more complicated. Though the stats seem to show the effort hasn’t been as successful as people would like, the ethics that suggest a resistance to repeal will inevitably clash with the ideology of the dissenters, and thus create a balance that could possibly keep drugs illegal forever.