Effects of the United States Failed War on Drugs Policy

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Effects of the United States Failed War on Drugs Policy

Hector Arreola

SSCI 306 MWF 10:40-11:50 AM

March 14, 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Abstract

The “War on Drugs” policy has been the approach by the United States to protect citizens from the harmful effects of illegal drugs. The article examines the failures of the war on drug policy has had on society, such as, increasing violence, increasing the prison population, increased spending of billions of taxpayer funds, and being racially biased against minorities. The war on drugs policy reflects a deeper political agenda and is diverting attention away from the real issue by continuing to wage a war of failure. 

 

 

 

 

 

In 1972, the “war on drugs” was declared by then, United States President, Nixon, and has since grown into a billion dollar national security issue. The war on drugs policy focused on the reduction of drugs in society by the enforcement of tough laws and increased law enforcement to minimize drug consumption. The United States government claims that a war against drugs is needed to protect its citizens from harm, and to control the negative effects drugs have on society. However, after forty-years, the American society is witnessing firsthand the failure of the war on drugs, which has had a minimal impact on consumption of drugs in society. Most of society’s problems are not the result of drug use, but result from the prohibition of drugs. The nation is starting to see the detrimental effects of the failed and costly war on drugs. Numerous critics, who oppose drug prohibition, contend that prohibition only causes more social problems and the war on drugs policy has been a failure. The war on drugs policy is not a “war” against drugs, but against the citizens of the United States. The drug policy is detrimental to society by fueling violence, targeting minorities, increasing the prison population, spending billions of taxpayer dollars, and indirectly increasing the demand. This paper examines the negative effects the war on drugs policy is having on the American society to see if a change needs to be made.

When President, Ronald Reagan was broadcasted live on television and declared a war on drugs in 1986, he persuaded the American public into a national crusade against illegal drugs. As the nation’s chief spokesperson, a President has substantial influence the way citizens perceive problems, issues, and themselves (Elwood, 1995). President Reagan’s speech was sold to the American public to gain support for the war on drugs policy. Politicians and law enforcement claim a war on drugs policy is needed to protect citizens from harm. According to Elwood (1995), the war on drugs speech used metaphors to focus the attention on drugs and make the problem a political issue. Presently, presidents are still using metaphors to describe the war on drugs policy to gain support from American citizens in this failed policy. Both Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush (1989-1993) used “war” and “illness” metaphors to declare a war that asks all citizens to be intolerant of drugs and referred to drug users as “criminals” and “the enemies” (Elwood, 1995 p. 97). The rhetoric used to misinform the citizens is a misuse of propaganda, which keeps the costly war on drugs as a political issue. George H. W. Bush (1989) took the war metaphor literally and declared a war on drugs and on groups of American people. In Bush’s first address to the nation, he said, “Drugs are a real and terribly dangerous threat to our neighborhoods, our friends, and our families” (cited in Elwood, 1995 p. 97). The words were carefully selected to persuade citizens to support the drug policy out of fear and intimidation. When a president labels a drug addict or individuals associated with illegal...
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