Exploratory Paper

Topics: Illegal drug trade, Prohibition, Drug Pages: 6 (956 words) Published: March 8, 2015

How Well Has The ‘War On Drugs’ Worked?
Christopher Warminski
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

This is an exploratory research paper looking to see if the war on drugs has worked. It will cover the topics of the cost of the war on drugs, people incarcerated because of drugs, how much of an illegal substance is seized at the borders, and hard core drugs. Has the war on drugs worked? I personally think that it is a lost cause and that it is costing more than it is gaining.


In our world today you always hear about this so called ‘War on Drugs’. Living in Southern California, close to the Mexican Border I hear about this all the time. With always hearing about this so called war and seeing shows about cartels and drug smuggling, it began to spark my curiosity. What exactly is this so called ‘War on Drugs,’ are we winning, and what exactly is this all about?

I began researching my topic and looking up information to see if the war on drugs is working. The first bit of information that I ran into is all of the costs of this so called war. The war on drugs costs us taxpayers more than I ever imagined. I stumbled upon a book that was about the impact that the budget would have if we ended this war on drugs. This ultimately sparked my interest and in this book Miron and Waldock (2010) stated that “The federal government spends about $500 per second on the war on drug effort”. I did the math, and that is 1,800,000 dollars an hour and 43,200,000 dollars a day. This numbers absolutely made my jaw drop! Now that I know what the cost of this war on drugs is, I need to find out how this is affecting our law system and if we are getting these drug pushers and users off of the streets.

Now I want to see if all of this money is putting drug offenders behind bars. I came across a website that numbers for people that are incarcerated. This web page had nothing but numbers and it reminded me of one of my math books. Some of the numbers I found were astonishing. I learned that at the end of 2011, 94,600 out of 197,050 federal prisoners and 237,000 out of 1,362,028 state prisoners were locked up because of some drug related charge. Another intriguing fact that I learned from this site was that the United States leads the world for the amount of people in prison and that “ 25% of all prisoners in America are incarcerated for some sort of drug related offense” (Drug War Facts. n.d.). Now I see that some of this money is being used to lock up the bad guys, but I need to determine if this is removing drugs from the streets.

To see if this war on drugs has actually worked, one has to determine if it is actually removing drugs from our streets. I began to research more numbers and wanted to see about the drugs we have coming into the country. The numbers I found were older, but it gives an estimate of how much of these illegal substances are making it across our borders. So in 2002 smugglers successfully brought in over 24 million pounds of Marijuana into the United States (Gettman, 2007). That is a large amount of marijuana coming into America! I need to factor in how much is stopped if that much is being brought in. I continued my search and found out that only about ten percent of the drugs that are smuggled into this country are stopped and seized. Once again I did the math, so out of 24 million pounds, 2.4 million pounds would be seized. It sounds like a lot, until you compare it to what is being brought in. Many people’s views on marijuana has changed over the decades and some really do not consider this to be a drug (Sledge, 2013). I need to see if the war on drugs is working on hard core drugs.

I began looking into the hard drugs like crack and heroin. I found some good news articles that factored in hard drugs with the war on drugs. There was one surprising...

References: Gettman J. (2007). Lost taxes and other costs. Retrieved from www.drugscience.org/archive/bcr4/5Supply.html
Martin Bright Home, A. E. (2005, July 3). Secret report says war on drugs has failed. The Observer. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.libproxy.db.erau.edu/docview/250306073?accountid=27203
Miron, J. A., & Waldock, K. (2010). The budgetary impact of ending drug prohibition. Washington DC, USA: Cato Institute.
Prisons & Drug Offenders | Drug War Facts. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.drugwarfacts.org/cms/Prisons_and_Drugs#sthash.T0i4eIA5.dpbs
Sledge, M. (2013, April 8). Is the war on drugs nearing an end?. Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/08/drug-war_n_3030040.html
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