The War on Drugs
University of Southern California
Nearly half a century has passed since Richard Nixon officially declared a War on Drugs. Several theories exist regarding Nixon’s motives behind the declaration. The most commonly cited theory states that the war on drugs was declared in response to the large number of soldiers returning home from the Vietnam War addicted to heroin. Proponents argue that Nixon actually declared a War on Drugs in fear of the civil rights movements influence on United State’s citizens. Regardless of the reason the laws that the War on Drugs eventually initiated would rob citizens of their constitution rights, oppress minorities, and give the government almost unlimited coercive powers that they would use against United States citizens.
The aim of the war was to eliminate the production, sale, and consumption of illegal drugs, but in actuality the war was waged against the American public, specifically targeting minorities of low socio economic status (Hickman, 2011). Evidence suggests that Nixon was well aware of who the war was targeting and did so in response to the public outcry over proposed welfare reforms (Spitzer, 2012). Black ghettos in major metropolitan areas were growing at an alarming rate in the 1970’s and White voters were threatened, declaring a war on drugs was akin to declaring a war on crime which in many ways pacified citizens (Hilfiker, 2013). For decades the War on Drugs has attacked, punished, and marginalized, hundreds of thousands of persons of color living in poverty. Years from now people will look back on this so called war on drugs and see it for what it really was, a brutal and inhumane response to what was essentially public health concern (Stanley, 2011). Scope of the Issue
According to the DEA “40 million people have used an illegal drug within the last year, 2.7 million of whom are dependent on substances (Library on Drug Policy, 2013). 70 billion dollars a year is spent on incarcerating drug offenders; over sixty percent of federal prisoners are drug offenders (National Institution on Drug Abuse, 2011). Incarcerating these individuals has had no impact on drug abuse, but it has given the US the distinction of having more people incarcerated than any other country in the world. In total substance abuse costs the nation 484 billion dollars every year. Many of those costs are related to policies and procedures that were implemented to fight the War on Drugs (Library on Drug Policy, 2013). Racial Disparities
In 2008 nearly 50% of the total prison population was African American. Blacks are incarcerated for drug related offenses 6 times more often than Whites, despite the fact that Whites use drugs more often than Blacks. According to the NAACP “5 times as many Whites are using drugs as African Americans, yet African Americans are sent to prison for drug offenses at 10 times the rate of Whites” (2008). If Blacks were incarcerated at the same rates of Whites, the populations of jails and prisons would be reduced by an astonishing 50% (NAACP, 2008).
One in every six black males was incarcerated in 2001; one in every three Black males will spend time in prison at some point in their lives if this trend continues (NAACP, 2008). In 2008 58% of the youth who were given adult sentences for their crimes were Black (Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice). On average Blacks serve as much time for a drug related offenses that a White people serve for a violent offenses (NAACP, 2008).
A number of medical issues are directly related to substance abuse. Tobacco is responsible for 10-30 percent of deaths due to cancer and heart disease. Tobacco, cocaine, ecstasy, amphetamines, and steroids contribute to cardiovascular diseases. In the year 2000 around 450,000 deaths were attributed to smoking and the use of illicit drugs. IV drug use was to blame for almost all new cases of hepatitis C and 1/3 of...
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