Why "victory" over the "War on Drugs" is a losing scenario for all of society.
My name is Jimbo X. American, and I am a drug addict.
Oh, it’s true. For the last 15 or so years, I have been a slave to that hideous demon, coffee. Every morning, I crave it, and if I go without it for just a few hours, I become physically ill.
Nowadays, I limit myself to two cups a day. About five years ago, however, I was putting away two pots every twenty-four hours. It was a hard process, no doubt, but over time, I was able to downsize my daily intake and at least partially control my cravings for Lord Folgers.
About a month ago, I decided I needed some extra energy, so I made a pot in my mini-brewer around 6 p.m. By 8 p.m., I had finished the entire thing, and by 10 p.m., I was about ready to throw up. The excess caffeine had literally sickened me, and I spent pretty much all night with a horrendous dual headache and tummy-ache.
That morning -- despite feeling like a had contracted malaria -- I woke up pretty happy. You see, that sleepless sickness meant that I had exceeded my own physiological boundaries, which means that I had not built up as high a tolerance for the stuff as I had thought. I may have a dependency for caffeine, but I still had a threshold for how much caffeine I could safely handle.
Another glimmer of hope? When I drink the really hard stuff -- your super-dark roast coffees -- it really, really messes me up. You think I’m joking, but when I down a cup of Black Silk after subsisting off that pussified Maxwell House Morning Blend for a few weeks, it feels like my brain is being jolted by a car battery. I can literally feel the epinephrine rushing through my skull, gang assaulting my neurons. That’s the ingenious trickery of caffeine -- ultimately, it works by limiting the amount of oxygen reaching your brain.
Not to fully exculpate my addiction, but I at least know my limitations, and take great caution to keep from going beyond what I know I can handle. That’s why I never, ever plan on going anywhere near Monster or any of the other high-grade, super-caffeinated energy drinks -- sometimes, the absolute easiest way to surmount dependency is to never even go near what you KNOW is going to cause you trouble. Furthermore, the extent to which the drug impacts both my neurological processes and how I interact with the world around me is pretty muted compared to the internalizing and externalizing effects of other drugs. For example, I can drink a Men in Black-themed Dunkaccino and safely navigate my way through traffic, whereas I doubt hardly anyone would feel A-OK with their kids being chauffeured around by a dude high on PCP. Similarly, as much as I love the occasional Starbucks espresso, I’ve never robbed a liquor store or performed fellatio in order to satiate my jonesing for java.
Without question, I can relate to all of the “real” drug addicts out there on the most basic of levels. Chemical addictions are very much hard to break, and I both sympathize and empathize with all of the hopheads, juicers, stoners, pill poppers, smack junkies and rampaging alcoholics out there to some degree.
Alas, understand is most certainly not the same thing as tolerate.
For years, we’ve heard activists and advocates drone on and on about how the War on Drugs has done nothing but make drug dealers more violent and prevent drug addicts from getting much-needed rehabilitative therapies. The line of thought, of course, is that legalization of drugs will instantly eradicate any and all violence related to the drug trade, while court-ordered treatments will do far more to “straighten out” substance abusers than an infinity amount of time behind bars ever would.
Odds are, you’ve heard some pretty damning statistics about both the War on Drugs and the overall response to drug crimes by the U.S. legal system. For example, you’ve no doubt heard that old chestnut about the United States leading the world in incarceration rates, and that statistic about non-violent drug offenders comprising a majority of the nation’s prison system. Of course, rehabilitative therapy has been proven time and time again to be more successful at reforming drug users instead of incarceration, but although it is less costly, we still find ourselves opting for imprisonment instead. And, as we all know, a disproportionate number of minorities make up the majority of those jailed for drug offenses, with the War on Drugs itself embodying a draconian, almost openly-racist protocol.
Indeed, those numbers are quite startling. Unfortunately, each and every one of them is complete bullshit, misleading propaganda endlessly circulated by pro-legalization stooges, left-wing opportunists and all shades of pro-reform (read: anti-victim) lobbyists.
the United States imprisons about 2.2 million people annually. Keep in mind, that’s ACROSS the entire incarceration spectrum, from county jails (where the average inmates are housed less than six months) all the way up to federal super-maxes. With 313 million people in the nation, that means that, on any given year, the total percentage of the U.S. population behind bars is less than 1 percent (approximately 0.7 percent if you want to be a stickler.) That’s roughly the exact same national percentage of incarcerated individuals posted by St. Kitts and Seychelles, but when was the last time you heard anybody decry any of those nations as prison-industrial complex exemplars?
Furthermore, the overall per capita U.S. incarceration rate tends to look a lot less aberrational when you factor in the number of people sentenced to forced labor and administrative detention throughout Eurasia, the Middle East and Africa. Each year, China alone puts nearly more prisoners than the U.S. has altogether through “re-education through labor” camps -- which is a rather genteel way of saying "they send dissidents to gulags." That’s also discounting the high number of individuals throughout the same regions who are simply executed in lieu of being imprisoned. And as bad as the nation’s prisons and jails may be, I assure you, the experiences of the incarcerated in Honduras, Indonesia and Zimbabwe are far, FAR harsher than even the worst of days at San Quentin or Riker’s Island.
Interestingly enough, the U.S. has twice as many people on parole and probation than it has individuals who are actually locked up. That means that even if the United States is deemed the world-wide leader in incarceration, it's also the world-wide leader in community-based alternatives to incarceration ... which, of course, is a little tidbit you NEVER hear anyone touting.
Per Federal Bureau of Prison statistics, about 48 percent of the U.S. incarcerated population is made up of drug offenders. However, per BJS statistics, the number of crimes actually committed by illicit drug users is rather startling: they make up two thirds of all burglary, robbery and larceny offenders, a half of all homicide perpatrators and about a third of all those arrested for sex crimes. And in case you were wondering? Why, yes, there are indeed four times as many Americans with drug convictions on parole or probation than there are those imprisoned for said offenses -- meaning just one-fifth of those convicted of drug offenses are actually given jail-time as a state-sanctioned punishment.
Per the National Institute on Drug Abuse, general population rehabilitation programs fail for as many as two-thirds of all patients. Elsewhere, a University of Missouri-St. Louis study came to the rather unexpected conclusion that probates who entered, but did not complete, drug treatments were actually likelier to recidivate than substance abusers who did not have ANY kind of rehabilitative services. Granted, I haven't exactly been scouring the Internet night and day trying to find the concrete data, but as far as I know, there simply aren't any reliable, longitudinal numbers out there from an unbiased, third party demonstrating that any form of taxpayer subsidized drug treatment really has that much more of an impact on reducing recidivism than standard prison sentences.
In terms of racial discrepancies, even in trying to address the problem, groups like Human Rights Watch wind up disproving their own point. In 2009, the group released a suspect-at-best document demonstrating irrefutable proof of disproportionate minority arrests. Using Seattle as a case study, the report states that although a majority of drug users in the city are Caucasian, approximately two-thirds of those arrested within the city for drug offenders are black. However, trotting out some national Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration data, the same report lets us know that a statistically larger percentage of the African-American populace uses illegal drugs on a monthly basis than whites, with the total percentage of African-Americans admitting to selling drugs over a given year TWICE that of Caucasians. With that little data nugget in mind, it's pretty obvious why a greater percentage of blacks get arrested for drug offenses compared to whites ... because there's simply a greater overall percentage of drug dealers and drug users within the black national population compared to the overall percentage of drug dealers and drug users in the white national population.
And as far as the War On Drugs being an inherently racist initiative, it's not doing a very good job of it, seeing as how whites today represent nearly 70 percent of all those arrested on drug offenses in the United States. Even during the zenith of the crack cocaine crackdown, whites remained a majority of those cuffed for illicit substance violations -- is it crazy to think that, instead of merely targeting people of color, the War on Drugs simply targeted those who were using and selling drugs?
Quite frankly, the $25 billion a year the federal government spends fighting the War on Drugs is a rather paltry amount considering the total economic impact substance abuse and the drug trade has on the nation. According to NIDA, the financial toll of illegal drug addiction on U.S. taxpayers is about $181 billion a year while one report estimated the societal cost of drug trafficking in 1999 alone to tally up about $200 billion.
For all the highfalutin jibber-jabber we hear from civil libertarians about the inherent evilness of the War on Drugs, we never really hear them say anything the inherent evilness of the drugs themselves. Punching that whole "non-aggression principle" claptrap directly in the balls, damn near a fifth of all state and federal inmates said they committed the crimes that put them behind bars just to purchase more drugs. And per the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 41 percent of ALL violent attacks against college students (including two-fifths of all reported rapes) were perpetrated by individuals high at the time of the offense. Along those same lines, the BJS similarly chalks up anywhere from a third to half of all workplace violence incidents to the handiwork of individuals under the influence.
And add to that the growing body of emerging research indicating that prolonged drug use is linked to long-term mental and behavioral health issues. It's a lose-lose scenario; if they turn to crime, they suck up our tax dollars in the form of jail cells, and even if they remain non-violent, we still wind up footing their Medicaid bills.
The nonsense about illicit drug use being a conscious, individual choice with no external ramifications is an utter load of it -- if you honestly believe substance abuse is a victimless crime, try telling that to the family of any drug addict.
Alas, our is a hedonistic, narcissistic culture, where people want all the freedom in the world to do whatever they want without having to take any of the responsibility for their own actions. The whole "treatment trumps incarceration" argument itself is a tautological failure, an attempt to exonerate the conscious wrongdoings of others based on some sort of immutable, ungovernable "sickness."
If the only punishment you are going to mete out for drug offenses is tax-payer subsidized physician visits and sessions with guidance counselors (in which, irony of ironies, the final treatment ordered is almost always some different kind of drug than the ones the arrestee is already hooked on) than what the hell is the incentive to stop using the damn drugs at all?
We can bicker about the philosophical right to use drugs until the cows come home, but unfortunately, the United States legal system isn't beholden to metaphysical natural rights, it's beholden to the U.S. legal code -- which explicitly says drugs have a negative social impact, and are worth combating as a service to the U.S. citizenry. With well over 17,000 people being murdered in drug-related crimes since 1987, only a truly corrupt federal system would take a laissez-faire approach to the matter; if you want to see what "victory" over the "War on Drugs" resembles, all you have to do is take a glimpse at what's happening south of the border.
If anything, the narrative should be that the "War on Drugs" hasn't been intensified enough. Frankly, compared to the super-harsh policies in places like Singapore (interestingly enough, a country that is oft-considered a free-market utopia among neo-cons), the U.S. is taking a rather lackadaisical stance against substance abuse. Several states have already decided that it's just easier to let people toke up than it is to obey federal law, with such favorable outcomes as more homeless migrants, an uptick in vehicular deaths and a mass influx of readily available Mexican-made heroin and meth flooding the market. Keep in mind folks, those are just the social consequences of legalized weed ... I can only dare fathom the culturally corrosive ramifications of free-to-all opiates or narcotics dispensaries.
Honestly, I don't think all of these much-celebrated "recovery" techniques are all that effective -- in fact, the most popular system of them all, the '12 steps' approach, has all but been verified as a scam. While drugs no doubt have a profound physiological affect on an individual, the only way for a person to successfully wean him or herself off the stuff is to actually want to stop using the shit. That's why incarceration tends to be a much better overall solution (in theory, at least) to rehabilitation -- if a dope addict is locked inside a box he or she can't escape from for a couple of months, that at least gives him or her a biological shot to actually get the junk out of his or her body. As simplistic as it is, stimulating the neural reward system is no doubt a successful strategy -- if the auger of having all of your freedoms stripped from you in exchange for giving up that one theoretical freedom of drug abuse isn't enough to get you to reconsider your habit, than odds are, you probably don't deserve that fundamental freedom in the first place.
Of course, I know many jail administrations are corrupt in and of themselves, but maybe that's the real problem of the "War on Drugs" -- that our federal and state stakeholders just aren't taking the initiative seriously enough. Making state and federal prisons absolutely drug-free zones may in fact be the single most important policy decision our legislators could make today in terms of actually reforming drug criminals, but instead, we are continuing to see a push for "community treatment" alternatives that, at the absolute best, are unproven, and at worst, more likely to facilitate drug abuse than solve it.
The easiest way in the world to prevent drug crimes is to convince people to not use them in the first place. Unfortunately, our pop cultural Wehrmacht all but screams to kids that smoking weed and getting drunk is the cool, adult thing to do, while a new wave of drug-apologist propaganda -- cable programs such as "Intervention" and "Nurse Jackie" -- are now taking great stride to normalize pill popping and drug manufacturing as understandable, if not even wholly acceptable, ways of life. With products like "Breaking Bad" and "The Wolf of Wall Street," today's Hollywood entertainment leviathan is going out its way to glamorize substance abuse and the drug trade. At the same time, the far-left media perpetually pounds us over the head with accusations that the drug policies are "draconian" and racially-biased, despite the aforementioned statistics revealing neither to be the case.
The end result, I fear, is an entire generation of youths (already doped up to the gills on psychiatric medications) who believe things like "dirty Sprite," "robotripping" and "fishbowl parties" are not only harmless fun, but required rites of passage. Through endless indoctrination, they will come to celebrate drug use as some sort of anti-statist protest, completely oblivious to the myriad physical, neurological and social havoc indisputably correlated to such irresponsible excesses.
That's not to say that the War on Drugs hasn't had its regrettable miscues. Alas, for every baby who has his face melted off by a flash grenade or for every old white dude in middle Georgia who gets capped by the DEA, I assure you there's about 1,000 times as many babies out there who are experiencing extreme neglect due to drug-addicted parents and 1,000 times as many innocent people living in crime-soaked hellholes directly because of the drug trade. Whatever ills of the supposed "militarization" of the police you can rattle off are downright microscopic compared to to the death, destruction, misery and madness that drugs have brought to the nation's urban epicenters, an undeniable plague that has transformed once thriving cities like Detroit, Newark and Baltimore into more or less third world countries.
However, the cultural barometer seems to be moving against the War on Drugs. A large throng, perhaps even the majority, of young people today consider the police to be the real bad guys, and drugs the last great unmet natural need verboten by the government. The amount of money spent on fighting the drug trade will almost certainly decrease over the next few years; with national policy becoming more and more liberal, a good twenty or thirty years down the line, we may not even have a formal War on Drugs budgeted anymore.
As a nation, we may very well be on the verge of the end of the War on Drugs. And if that's truly the case, it's only a matter of time until we all realize that the far greater of two evils emerged victorious.