The War on Drugs: Explained

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Updated: Nov 11, 2022
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The research conducted, was a general view of gathering information on the significance of what drugs consumption and possession has on the general society. Sharing the overall history and importance of drug prevention in America and what are laws and regulations in place in containing drugs in the streets. In addition, sharing what the criminal justice system done to aid those in prevention on recidivism. After thorough research, the number of those who suffer victim to personal encounters in violation of drug laws in America, are significantly high, ranging as a normality in the country.

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From previous administrations, the drug containment in the United States has been proven to be top of the list priority for many elected officials in all branches of government. Overall, the United States has regulations in place to not only contain drugs in the streets of America, also reduce the risk of recidivism.

The War on Drugs

Both federal and state level law enforcement continue the fight today in preventing illegal drug consumption and solicitation from young children and adults all over the country and the world. However, the Criminal Justice System is giving the necessary rehabilitation in preventing the wide redistribution and constant recidivism for offenders of a drug crime. A focus on rehabilitation and recovery for drug offenders will help alleviate recidivism for offenses involving drug addiction.

First, since the early 1900s, the United States has been in pursuit in containing and preventing illegal drug usage in America. As different presidential administrations and government policies have been established and enforced, the country continues to see raging effects of what President Nixon once referred it in his 1971 speech, the War on Drugs. Lack of containment of both individual and outward, have been a constant in reestablishing the high use of drug consumption and redistribution in the United States. The United States foreign policies have also affected the distribution and growth of illegal drug usage in America. Dr. William Marcy describes the policies of Presidents Regan and other administrations after, in combating South and Central American countries involvement in illegal narcotic distribution in North America. Beginning with President George H. Bush’s use of military force in the invasion of Panama, to over throw then Dictator, Manuel Noriega (2010, p. 3). As drug consumption in the United States increases, so did the government involvement to prevent and contain the matter. The fear of allowing narcotics and other inhibitors roam through the country, will allow an influential trend of drug usage in the schools and streets in America. In a study gathered by Lloyd Johnston, he shares that by 1975, 55% of young Americans have used an illicit drug before leaving High School, and rising to 66% in 1981, before declining to 42% in 1992 (2008, p. 10). Based on the data researched, the numbers fluctuate based on the level of high schoolers drug consumption.

The higher the consumption from the senior class, the higher the numbers for the younger classes as well. The level of influence has followed through the years in such cases. The decrease of overall drug use, spreading from the late 1990’s to present day, could be in the result of over the counter prescription drug usage. Prescription drug use in America, such as Opioid usage, has seen a dramatic increase over the years dating back from 2000. According to Dr. Nora Volkow, “The estimated number of emergency department visits involving nonmedical use of opioid analgesics increased from 144,600 in 2004 to 305,900 in 2008.” (p. 3). Overall, illegal drug consumption in America has seen numbers fluctuate since the initial “War on Drugs” epidemic was announced from President Nixon in 1971. Since then, American educational institutions, politicians, and criminal justice departments, have gathered and refined plans on slowing the use and spreading of drugs in America.

Furthermore, this recurring issue surrounding American society, has caused both emotional and financial stress among government institutions at both the Federal and State level. The development of rehabilitation programs for drug users and prevention, has affected the American tax payers and even the criminal justice system. The issue evolving the criminal justice system, is the recidivism that has occurred to a significant volume of those whom either have been, or currently facing drug related charges. If convicted with a Felony, the convicted will be sentenced to prison and/or jail based on the severity of the drug or potential reoccurrence of drug handling. A repeated offender will often serve an increased sentencing with harsher penalty, depending on the state in which the crime has been committed. The increased spending in for the Department of Justice’s containment of narcotics, has seen a dramatic increase in budget spending at the federal level. Editor, Roger Chapman shares,

“Annual budget of the DEA increased from less than $75 million in 1973 to $3 billion in 2012, and its manpower expanded from 1,470 special agents to more than 10,000 during that same period, cocaine, heroin, and other illicit substances continued to be smuggled into the country.” (2013, para. 7).

Moreover, he continues to share that, “increased from 41,000 in 1980 to just under 500,000 in 2011.”. With also an increased federal budget spending of $51 Billion to contain drug convicted prisoners (Chapman, 2013, para. 7). The need for a well-established Drug Court program, was initially created in 1989, in Miami Dade County, Florida. This program was established to “bridge the gap between drug treatment and the Criminal Justice system” (King & Pasquarella, 2009). Since 1989, there has been a high number of Drug Courts created throughout the United States and spread to the international level. In the article, An Integrated Theory of Specialized Court Programs, researchers shared, “the core elements of drug court programs—including a non-adversarial structure, team decision-making, the use of non-incarcerative sanctions and incentives, and judicial involvement and interactions with offenders” (Kaiser & Holtfreter, 2016, p. 46). According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, the national funding towards drug rehabilitation programs have reached over $600 billion, with its purpose of discipling those in need in decreasing the criminal activity and reestablishing them in an occupational and social involvement (2018, para. 2). The institutional development of drug court and related rehabilitation programs have often failed to provide long-term success for those whom are in need. The ability to mentor, develop, and positively lead those in need in the right direction, resulting in a change in the society they exist in. Purposing the developments of drug programs through the nation, could not only change the young hearts and minds of those in need, but potentially shaping the future of American adolescence.

Lastly, the criminal justice system has attempted its approach in assisting those in need of recovery and rehabilitation, prevention of recidivism. The once, one-time offenders of the criminal justice system, often find themselves in the same criminal involvement as before, in a short time released from a state or county level confinement institution. The delinquent adolescent, could often result in a long-term problematic individual to American society as well. However, with effective rehabilitation and drug prevention programs, not only keep individuals educated on the significance on drug consumption, also prevent long-term recidivism. Furthermore, Professors from the School of Public Health shared,

“Although substantial evidence now demonstrates that the national incarceration policies in the United States have had unintended adverse health consequences, we know less about the strategies and policies that can improve the health of individuals involved in the CJS and how criminal justice settings can contribute to national goals of eliminating inequities in health.” (Freudenberg & Heller, 2016, para 3.)

This illustrates the continuing setbacks of the criminal justice system and its ability to provide the health care needed for those incarcerated. Continuing studies have showed the setbacks for those whom possessed a criminal record, negatively reflect from those in the surrounding population. Despite a potential onetime offense, individuals with a criminal record can often experience setback based on the severity of the crime. Researcher, Karl Hanson, shares the common incarceration rate in America, saying, “A third of all Americans have an arrest record (110 million records in 2016 for a population of 323 million” (2018, para. 4). Later sharing that although many have violated a law by committing a crime in some state, they often desisted from that behavior years down the road.

In conclusion, A focus on rehabilitation and recovery for drug offenders will help alleviate recidivism for offenses involving drug addiction. With variations and refinements to criminal justice reform, and the ability to develop effective rehabilitation programs, can result in a positive effort in lowering recidivism. The bases of the criminal justice system, is to provide the necessary results in making the appropriate decisions needed to guide others in the right direction.


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The war on drugs: explained. (2021, Oct 19). Retrieved from