Measuring the Success of the War on Drugs

The legitimacy and effectiveness of the War on Drugs is one of the most hotly debated political and moral topics of our time. The are two sides in this War – law enforcement and those involved in producing and distributing drugs. However, both sides are manipulated and entirely controlled by a third group: the Demand group. As long as this third group exists, the war between suppliers and enforcers must necessarily continue. The only way to resolve the issue is to somehow “win” the War on Drugs, but if one begins to determine when this war is considered “won,” there are suddenly more questions than there are clear answers.

To consider the War on Drugs to be successful, there are two sources of data to analyze:

1) War on Drugs Success Measured by Fewer Drug Users and Addicts

If the effectiveness or success of the War on Drugs is measured by a decrease in the numbers of drug users and addicts, then it’s clear that the war is failing:

“Illicit drug use in the United States has risen to its highest level in 8 years, according to the 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH).” (1)

While abuse of some drugs like cocaine and heroin have remained steady for more than a decade, the popularity and abuse of other substances such as marijuana, ecstasy and prescription drugs has skyrocketed. Additionally, the logic that the numbers of addicts will decrease if the WOD is successful is at least partly flawed. This is because as drug supplies dry up, addiction will actually become more apparent as detox and withdrawal symptoms begin to afflict those who were previously staving it off with continuous drug use or drinking.

This initial stage will likely be accompanied by all of the depravity and crime that comes with the drug-seeking behaviors of addicts unable to obtain a fix via normal means. Some would argue that this period would eventually wear off and the success of the war would be seen and accounted for in reduced numbers of addicts. However, if the American Prohibition is any example, the period of depravity would probably never wear off, and thus the War on Drugs would simply shift to fighting addicts directly, instead of drug dealers and traffickers.

2) War on Drugs Success Measured by Increased or Decreased Seizures

The success of the War on Drugs cannot be measured by a dramatic increase in the amount of drugs seized on an annual basis because this figure would almost certainly mean that an equal or greater amount of drugs were still circumventing various control and eradication efforts. And naturally, a higher number of seizures correspond with an increased level of production and transportation, which means that data supporting increased seizures might actually indicate that the WOD is failing.

Conversely, success as measured by fewer seizures isn’t a viable metric either. This is because drug manufacturing and distribution strategies are constantly evolving in response to pressure from law enforcement. An apparent lack of seizures could be attributed to improved concealment methods, new distribution routes, and even the cooperation of a source from within law enforcement.

The most interesting part of the War on Drugs is that in order for it to be over, one of two things must permanently cease:

1) Human consumption of mind-altering substances
2) Violent criminal persecution of humans involved with mind-altering substances

As we’ve seen from thousands of years of world history, addiction is part of the human condition. It’s never going to go away. It may get better, and it may become easier to identify and treat, but it is intrinsic to who we are as people. Consequently, there’s only one way that the War on Drugs will ever be over, and that is to re-examine and redefine exactly who it is we’re fighting against. Join the real battle now by calling us to get help for yourself or someone you love who has a drug problem.

(1) National Institute on Drug Abuse Drug Abuse at Highest Level In Nearly a Decade December 2012

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