The War On Drugs: A Losing Battle?

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The War On Drugs: A Losing Battle?

In 1968, when American soldiers came home from the Vietnam War addicted to heroin,
President Richard Nixon initiated the War on Drugs. More than a decade later, President
Ronald Reagan launches the South Florida Drug Task force, headed by then Vice-President
George Bush, in response to the city of Miami's demand for help. In 1981, Miami was the
financial and import central for cocaine and marijuana, and the residents were fed up.

Thanks to the task force, drug arrests went up by 27%, and drug seizures went up by 50%.
With that, the need for prosecutors and judges also rose. Despite these increased arrests
and seizures, marijuana and cocaine still poured into south Florida. At this stage, the
root of the problem, the Colombian Cartels, was not attacked.

The DEA soon realized that they needed to crack down on the cartels. In 1982 the DEA went
to Colombia to eradicate fields of marijuana and coca plants. These fields were located
and burned. The hard part now, was finding the labs used to turn the coca leaves into
cocaine. These labs were in very remote locations, to avoid surveillance. The DEA
suspected that the cocaine labs were very large, but the Colombians kept eluding them.

Finally the DEA was able to track down the chemicals used in the processing of cocaine to
one of the labs, and the DEA scored their first major bust. On March 10, 1984 twelve tons
of cocaine were seized from a very remote lab. The DEA thinks they made an impact, but
amazingly the cocaine availability on American streets remained the same. The DEA is
shocked, and realizes just how big the drug problem in the United States was.

Because the Cartel leaders had money, they also began to acquire power. The dealers run
for political office and win. Drug dollars poured into Colombia, building cities. The
United States respond to the rise in the drug lords' power by pressuring Colombia to
extradite narcotics traffickers to the U.S. The Colombians, who want no Colombians in
American Jails, oppose this. The drug dealers both respected and feared extradition, and
recognized the threat. When the Colombian Justice Minister openly supported extradition,
he was assassinated.

Still, the U.S. pressures the extradition issue. In 1985, anti-Government Guerillas,
mainly composed of the drug dealers, attack the Colombian Supreme Court. The extradition
requests were destroyed, and eleven Supreme Court Justices were killed. In total, over 200
people lost their lives. At this point, the drug lords are using terrorism to force the
Colombian government to back off the extradition issue. During the 1980s, it appeared that
Central America was awash in drugs, and drug money.

The violence continues today, through drug related gang violence, to botched drug raids.
Drug dealers often carry weapons, some illegal, to defend themselves and their drugs. The
drugs themselves do not cause violence; it is the fact that they are illegal that causes
the violence. If two drug dealers have a dispute, they have no legal way for it to be
settled. The only option for them is violence.

At this time, the Parent's Movement is focusing its attentions on marijuana and children.
Nancy Reagan makes her famous "Just say No!" speech and President Reagan makes marijuana a
top priority.

Upon examining the relationship between marijuana use and violent crime, the National
Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse concluded, "Rather than inducing violent or
aggressive behavior through its purported effects of lowering inhibitions, weakening
impulse control and heightening aggressive tendencies, marihuana was usually found to
inhibit the expression of aggressive impulses by pacifying the user, interfering with
muscular coordination, reducing psychomotor activities and generally producing states of
drowsiness lethargy, timidity and passivity."

When also examining the medical affects of marijuana use, the National Commission on
Marihuana and Drug Abuse concluded, "A careful search of the literature and testimony of
the nation's health officials has not revealed a single human fatality in the United
States proven to have resulted solely from ingestion of marihuana. Experiments with the
drug in monkeys demonstrated that the dose required for overdose death was enormous and
for all practical purposes unachievable by humans smoking marihuana. This is in marked
contrast to other substances in common use, most notably alcohol and barbiturate sleeping
pills. The World Health Organization reached the same conclusion in 1995.

The World Health Organization released a study in March 1998 stating: "there are good
reasons for saying that [the risks from cannabis] would be unlikely to seriously [compare
to] the public health risks of alcohol and tobacco even if as many people used cannabis as
now drink alcohol or smoke tobacco."

Marijuana was seen as a gateway to other drugs, giving birth to the Gateway Theory.
Unfortunately, the Gateway Theory is flawed in many ways. In 1937 Harry Anslinger, then
head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics testified before Congress, saying that there was
no connection between the use of marijuana and the use of harder drugs, and in fact, the
users of different drugs typically did not associate with one another. It also does not
seem logical that the use of one drug would cause a craving for another drug, never used
before. Many drug users say that the first drugs they ever used were the two socially
sanctioned drugs, alcohol and tobacco. These drugs are both harmful and legal.

In March 1999, the Institute of Medicine issued a report on various aspects of marijuana,
including the so-called, Gateway Theory (the theory that using marijuana leads people to
use harder drugs like cocaine and heroin). The IOM stated, "There is no conclusive
evidence that the drug effects of marijuana are causally linked to the subsequent abuse of
other illicit drugs."

The Institute of Medicine's 1999 report on marijuana explained that marijuana has been
mistaken for a gateway drug in the past because "Patterns in progression of drug use from
adolescence to adulthood are strikingly regular. Because it is the most widely used
illicit drug, marijuana is predictably the first illicit drug most people encounter. Not
surprisingly, most users of other illicit drugs have used marijuana first. In fact, most
drug users begin with alcohol and nicotine before marijuana, usually before they are of
legal age."

The 1999 federal National Household Survey of Drug Abuse provides an estimate of the age
of first use of drugs. According to the Household Survey, the mean age of first use of
marijuana in the US in 1997 was 17.2 years. The mean age of first use of alcohol in that
year, on the other hand, was 16.1 years, and the mean age of first use of cigarettes was
15.4 years old.

The same survey reports, "The rate of past month illicit drug use among youths was higher
among those that were currently using cigarettes or alcohol, compared with youths not
using cigarettes or alcohol. In 1999, 5.6 percent of youth nonsmokers used illicit drugs,
while among youths who used cigarettes, the rate of past month illicit drug use was 41.1
percent. The rate of illicit drug use was also associated with the level of alcohol use.
Among youths that were heavy drinkers in 1999, 66.7 percent were also current illicit drug
users. Among nondrinkers, only 5.5 percent were current illicit drug users."

Over 72 million Americans have used marijuana, yet for every 120 people who have ever
tried marijuana, there is only one active, regular user of cocaine.

Marijuana is also thought by many people to have medicinal properties, and people do use
it for medicine. However, marijuana is illegal, turning the people who use it as medicine
into criminals. In spite of the established medical value of marijuana, doctors are
presently permitted to prescribe cocaine and morphine - but not marijuana.

In the 1970s, cannabis was "re-discovered" as a medical substance. Controlled studies have
revealed its therapeutic utility in the treatment of cancer chemotherapy side effects,
glaucoma, and spasticity ailments. Federal regulations continue to make research with the
drug very difficult, however, and many promising areas of therapeutic application have
received little or no attention. These include: asthma, AIDS, epilepsy, analgesic action,
tumor retardation, nervous disorders, glaucoma and mental illness.

The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, intended to prohibit marijuana's social use, was most
effective in prohibiting medical use of the drug. Strict regulations governing cultivation
of the plant made its production impractical. New synthetic drugs caught the fancy of
physicians and marijuana was used less frequently, Finally, in 1942, the Federal Bureau of
Narcotics convinced the U. S. Pharmacopeia to remove the drug from its listing.

The Controlled Substances Act of 1970 established five categories, or "schedules," into
which illicit and prescription drugs were placed. Marijuana was placed in Schedule I,
which defines the substance as having a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted
medical use in the United States, and a lack of accepted safety for use under medical
supervision. To contrast, over 90 published reports and studies have shown marijuana has
medical efficacy.

The DEA's Administrative Law Judge, Francis Young concluded: "In strict medical terms
marijuana is far safer than many foods we commonly consume. For example, eating 10 raw
potatoes can result in a toxic response. By comparison, it is physically impossible to eat
enough marijuana to induce death. Marijuana in its natural form is one of the safest
therapeutically active substances known to man. By any measure of rational analysis,
marijuana can be safely used within the supervised routine of medical care."

The most profound activist for marijuana's use as a medicine is Dr. Lester Grinspoon,
author of Marihuana: The Forbidden Medicine. According to Grinspoon, "The only
well-confirmed negative effect of marijuana is caused by the smoke, which contains three
times more tars and five times more carbon monoxide than tobacco. Nevertheless, even the
heaviest marijuana smokers rarely use as much as an average tobacco smoker. And, of
course, many prefer to eat it." His book includes personal accounts of how prescribed
marijuana alleviated epilepsy, weight loss of aids, nausea of chemotherapy, menstrual
pains, and the severe effects of multiple sclerosis. The illness with the most
documentation and harmony among doctors which marijuana has successfully treated is MS.
Grinspoon believes for MS sufferers, "Cannabis is the drug of necessity." One patient of
his, 51 year old Elizabeth MacRory, says "It has completely changed my life...It has
helped with muscle spasms, allowed me to sleep properly, and helped control my bladder."
Marijuana also proved to be effective in the treatment of glaucoma because its use lowers
pressure on the eye.

Glaucoma is an eye disease that afflicts more than four million Americans and is the
leading cause of blindness in the United States. According to the National Society for
Prevention of Blindness, there are 178,000 new cases of glaucoma diagnosed each year.

Glaucoma can strike people of all ages but is most often found among those over 65. The
most common form of glaucoma is chronic or open-angle glaucoma. It is characterized by
increased pressure within the eye (intraocular pressure or IOP) which can cause damage to
the optic nerve if not controlled effectively. Other types of glaucoma include
narrow-angle and secondary. Treatment of narrow-angle glaucoma is primarily surgical. In
approximately 90% of the open-angle and secondary glaucoma topical (eyedrop), preparations
along with some oral medications can effectively control the disease, but at least 10% of
all cases fail to be completely controlled by available prescriptive drugs. In some
instances, available glaucoma medications can cause side effects such as headaches, kidney
stones, burning of the eyes, blurred vision, cardiac arrhythmias, insomnia, and nervous
anxiety. These side effects may become so severe that the patient must discontinue use.

Scientists have been working to develop a marijuana eyedrop for several years. Until
recently, they concentrated on delta-9-THC, marijuana's psychoactive ingredient. Some
researchers, however, have begun to wonder if other constituents in the cannabis plant
might be more effective in reducing IOP. The few glaucoma patients who have continued,
legal access to marijuana bolster this theory. In these cases, synthetic THC is only
effective for a short period of time. Natural marijuana, however, consistently lowers IOP.

Marijuana is the best natural expectorant to clear the human lungs of smog, dust and the
phlegm associated with tobacco use.

Marijuana smoke is a natural bronchial dilator, effectively dilating the airways of the
lungs, the bronchi, opening them to allow more oxygen into the lungs. That makes marijuana
the best overall bronchial dilator for 80% of the population (the remaining 20% sometimes
show minor negative reactions.)

Statistical evidence - showing up consistently as anomalies in matched populations -
indicates that people who smoke tobacco cigarettes are usually better off and will live
longer if they smoke cannabis moderately, too.

Dr. Donald Tashkin, UCLA Pulmonary Studies, stated, "Taking a hit of marijuana has been
known to stop a full blown asthma attack."

On September 6, 1988, the Drug Enforcement Administration's Chief Administrative Law
Judge, Francis L. Young, ruled: "Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest
therapeutically active substances known....[T]he provisions of the [Controlled Substances]
Act permit and require the transfer of marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule II. It would
be unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious for the DEA to continue to stand between those
sufferers and the benefits of this substance."

The Institute of Medicine's 1999 report on medical marijuana summarized the medical value of marijuana saying:
"The accumulated data suggest a variety of indications, particularly for pain relief,
antiemesis, and appetite stimulation. For patients, such as those with AIDS or undergoing
chemotherapy, who suffer simultaneously from severe pain, nausea, and appetite loss,
cannabinoid drugs might thus offer broad spectrum relief not found in any other single
medication. The data are weaker for muscle spasticity, but moderately promising. The least
promising categories are movement disorders, epilepsy, and glaucoma. Animal data are
moderately supportive of a potential for cannabinoids in the treatment of movement
disorders and might eventually yield stronger encouragement."

Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey's assertion in his Scripps-Howard News Service column that no
clinical evidence demonstrates that smoked marijuana is good medicine, is inconsistent
with the facts. Whether this is an intentional deception, as part of the federal
government's stated public relations offensive against medical marijuana, or whether it is
based on ignorance does not matter. The reality is General McCaffrey's statements are not
consistent with the facts.

In the early 1980s the DEA focus was mainly cocaine and marijuana. However, a new problem was on the rise, crack.
Crack was distributed to the U.S. through the Bahamas. The Bahamas were ideal because of
the islands and waterways, and the fact that Florida was only 90 minutes by air. At this
point the drug smugglers have the advantage over the DEA. The smugglers were always just a
few steps ahead of the law. The DEA tried using helicopters to catch the smugglers' boats,
but by the time the helicopters got close enough to make the grab; they would have to turn
back because they were close to running out of gas. The DEA was seen as a dog trying to
catch rabbits; the dog would catch one or two, but most of the time the rabbits get away.

Crack really began as a problem in Harlem, New York. The spread of crack moved like fire
through dry brush in the New York Tri-State area. This drug hit the Black and Latino
communities the hardest.

Crack became more popular in inner cities because it was cheap compared to cocaine.
Cocaine was seen as a drug for the rich, and crack was for the poor. Crack was also more
addictive than cocaine, since smoking it made it more concentrated. Before the onset of
crack, women were not statistically addicts. When women started using crack, it brought
about a total disintegration of the family. Babies born to mothers who used crack were
addicted themselves.

Heroin has been an abused drug since it's conception in the late nineteenth century as a
patent medicine. Today there are treatments available to heroin addicts, however users are
still stigmatized and because of that stigma of being a "junkie", many do not seek help.

The health problems brought on by using heroin are usually associated with the use of
needles. Hepatitis C and HIV are two of the biggest heath problems that IV heroin users
face. Users that snort heroin or smoke it (referred to as "chasing the dragon") have very
few of these problems.

There are different opinions on how to stop America's drug problem. Two of those opinions
are education and treatment, and prison.

D.A.R.E. is a popular education tool for teaching children how to avoid the subtle
pressure to do drugs, and how to manage stress and conflict without drugs and violence.
D.A.R.E. is very popular, and one of the reasons is because it puts the local police in
the "good guy" position. Having a policeman come into a classroom can be an effective way
to teach important survival skills, such as traffic rules, and bicycle safely, and
resisting predatory strangers. In recent years, newspapers have published several accounts
where children credited D.A.R.E. with helping them thwart an improper approach by a
stranger. D.A.R.E. is especially popular among the children themselves. Most D.A.R.E.
officers are friendly, affable officers, and develop good rapport with the kids, who are
charmed by tales of adventure in law enforcement. Police departments like D.A.R.E. because
it provides additional revenue and a useful opportunity to engage in community relations.
D.A.R.E. officers are frequently personable, attractive officers who make an excellent
impression on children and present a positive image of police in general.

However, informal surveys have found that D.A.R.E. is no more effective than any other
drug education program. "The D.A.R.E. program's limited effect on adolescent drug use
contrasts with the program's popularity and prevalence. An important implication is that
D.A.R.E. could be taking the place of other, more beneficial drug education programs that
kids could be receiving."

Because of attempting to prevent all drug experimentation and/or use, D.A.R.E.'s
objectives are not only unrealistic but also possible counter-productive because they are
obviously unattainable. As an example, some studies have shown that adolescents who have
experimented with illicit drugs (especially marijuana) are better adjusted than either
abstainers or frequent users and were more socially skilled with higher levels of
self-esteem than abstainers.

Some people say that drug addiction is a disease, and addicts should be treated as people
needing medical help. "Whatever conditions may lead to opiate exposure, opiate dependence
is a brain-related disorder with the requisite characteristics of a medical illness."

There are a few different methods of treatment, but for the sake of simplicity, this paper
will cover methadone and narcotic antagonists.

Methadone is a synthetic narcotic analgesic that was developed in Germany during World War
II due to the lack of opiate based pain medication. Methadone prevents often-excruciating
withdrawal symptoms, yet blocks the pleasurable effects of heroin. For a heroin addict, he
is either "straight" (feeling normal), "high", or "sick". He wakes up sick, shoots up, and
gets high. That lasts for a few hours maybe, and he shoots up again if he can, to avoid
getting sick. In this viscous cycle, it is easy to see how holding a job or living
normally is out of the question. "Although a drug-free state represents an optimal
treatment goal, research has demonstrated that this goal cannot be achieved or sustained
by the majority of opiate-dependent people."

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), "Methadone maintenance treatment is
effective in reducing illicit opiate drug use, in reducing crime, in enhancing social
productivity, and in reducing the spread of viral diseases such as AIDS and hepatitis."
"All opiate-dependent persons under legal supervision should have access to methadone
maintenance therapy..."

Methadone maintenance is long-term, if not permanent. However, the methadone is given in a
controlled environment; patients must come to the clinic once or twice a day for their
dose. This way the patients were not given a narcotic that they could sell on the street.
A daily appearance at the clinics and the opportunities for counseling is cited as one of
the major reasons for the success of the methadone program.

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