Losing The War On Drugs

America is losing another war … the war on drugs. Semantics might have contributed to the losing battles that rage on, seemingly violent end. Yes, heavy street drugs are an epidemic that’s ubiquitous in our vast nation. As is our wont to point fingers and to blame others, we are in fact, all responsible for the introduction of drugs into our collective consciousness. Even the infamous Sigmund Freud experimented along with a physician-research colleague –read “The Cocaine Papers.” The military has surreptitiously experimented with drugs on its own soldiers for reasons not all too clear.

Race plays a role in the role in the world of drugs. While opium and cocaine found its way in socioeconomically poor neighborhoods in the early part of the 1900’s, suffering abounded yet was hugely ignored. Only when those drugs permeated more affluent economic groups did we pay attention. By then, the infestation was rampant and progressing at remarkable speeds. Attempts to curtail the momentum were frequently met with futility. When former First Lady Nancy Reagan minimized the depth of this universal problem with her famous words of hope, “Just say no,” we knew we were in trouble. Our nation was at a time of desperation.

Throughout history, folks have experimented with drugs for recreational, spiritual quests and to alleviate the boredom of mental and emotional distress. Family doctors of the 50’s prescribed “Mother’s Little Helpers,” an anti-anxiety medication for homemakers largely from families of means.

Only recently and still with controversy is marijuana becoming legalized in many states. Because each state legislates its own laws, prisons and jails have become swelled with people arrested for use and/or sale. Some states punish offenders who have been caught with a mere few grams for personal use. Marijuana has been referred to as the gateway drug. Yes indeed, some say if you use marijuana you’ll eventually move into the realm of heavy drugs. Statistics vary as to the numbers of folks where this applies. Many who adamantly oppose any marijuana use will object to the notion that the vast majority of users do so in a responsible manner. Unless an individual holds down a job that mandates drug testing, you’ll be surprised who uses marijuana recreationally.

Our prisons are, again, swollen with numbers that exceed most countries on our planet. The cost to maintain correctional standards is astonishing. The system’s burden can be reduced by assessing the numbers who are incarcerated for small time marijuana use. Releasing prisoners to a drug program if needed will be less costly. There are also countless numbers who arguably don’t need treatment. Releasing them from prison and from the weight of legal repercussions and consequences for gainful employment might be more sensible and suitable. Each case is different. Depending upon how laws are written will determine (we hope fairly and equitably) who gets released, who gets treatment of what kind and of what duration and lastly, who goes home and gets on with their life. Mistakes will be made. For those bogged down in fiscal responsibility matters, drawing up new legislation to minimize legal consequences of using marijuana makes good sense. Then perhaps we can focus greater attention to treatment for more serious drug use.

Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.