War on Drugs and Its Effect on the United States


The United States government enacted measures over the past four decades to fight drug abuse. They included the use of the military to eliminate the trade of illegal drugs in the country, inhibiting the production of narcotics and discouraging its use through education. As such, the government strives to educate society regarding the adverse effects of substance abuse. The war on drug abuse commenced over 45 years ago when President Richard Nixon acknowledged that the norm was an enemy to the nation’s development. In that regard, it prompted him to increase government funding to fight the misuse of drugs (McCoy, 2021). President Ronald Reagan also focused on combating drug abuse; he advocated for punishment rather than treatment for drug abuse offenders.

In 1986, the Anti-Drug Abuse Act was passed by the United States Congress. It facilitated the allocation of 1.7 billion dollars to aid in the fight against substance misuse (McCoy, 2021). The introduction of jail sentences on the offenders also strived to limit the practice. For instance, the possession of 500 grams of powdered cocaine resulted in a five-year jail term, while the same sentence was applicable for possession of 5 grams of crack cocaine. As a result, the number of arrests augmented considerably, precisely 126% (McCoy, 2021). The sentencing was later reduced by the Fair Sentencing Act by President Obama in the year 2010 due to an allegation of racial discrimination. Most members of the African American ethnicity abused crack cocaine while white people used powdered cocaine. An individual with a higher quantity of powdered cocaine received the same punishment as one with a relatively smaller amount of crack cocaine was seen as targeting people of African American ethnicity and was vehemently opposed by many.

The military was used to spearhead operations that prevented the smuggling of illegal drugs into the country under the foreign policy on combatting drug abuse. In 1969, an operation was initiated to prevent the smuggling of illegal drugs from Mexico by conducting a thorough inspection of the America-Mexico border (McCoy, 2021). All the other presidents that preceded Ronald Reagan also continued the war against the drug agenda. When George Bush was the president of the United States of America, he continued the fight against drug abuse by increasing the control of narcotics through the National Drug Control Strategy.

Instead of focusing on the imprisonment of drug offenders as the solution to eliminating drug abuse, treatment for people who have been affected by illegal drugs is employed as an alternative strategy. More rehabilitation centers have been built to offer treatment services to drug addicts; this enables them to quit abusing drugs hence become productive members of society. Drug abuse was found prevalent among teenagers and youths; education and drug abuse campaigns were then seen as the most effective way to enlighten them on the harmful effects of drug abuse. This resulted in a majority of them refraining from drug abuse.

Social Attitudes Towards Drug Abuse

Drug abuse takes up an ambivalent position in contemporary society with increasing debates about its relevance and disapproval. The undecided position about drug abuse has led to different opinions on the way forward. Nonetheless, across Western and non-western societies, investment in various approaches to control drug abuse has yielded different outcomes. Investment in formal and informal social control strategies has led to distinctive practices in drug abuse prevention that require in-depth analysis. Formal and information-based social control measures are critical towards managing drug use in both western and non-western societies. Traditional approaches are based on government initiatives, while information denotes grassroots efforts such as the involvement of families in managing drug use.

Formal approaches are based on political and social ties that define a given society. Across different nations, the need to accept the importance of the underlying political and social relations presents the foundation for drug abuse management. Within the political dimension, the extent to which people have a cultural connection is essential to developing effective policies to mitigate drug abuse. Formal social control can develop from people who appreciate each other or are governed by a specific leadership structure (Krausz & Jang, 2018). The current study presents information on the role of the government policies towards formal social control of drug abuse (Minhee & Calandrillo, 2019). In a strengthened conventional political environment, the development of a comprehensive needs assessment of the population leads to efficiency in the management of drug abuse.

Examining national policies and the organization of different strategies developed is critical to appreciating the formal approaches to drug abuse management. Within the contemporary environment, western societies have been on the front step towards ensuring a collaborative approach to drug abuse management (Minhee & Calandrillo, 2019). The formal social control strategies include the focus on various institutions such as rehabilitation centers, medical facilities, and counseling programs.

Across western societies, investing in an open environment in the drug management process is effective as a social control process for drug abuse. Western societies acknowledge drug abuse’s problems and engage in comprehensive communication and information relay to the public. Debates access to information online and financial resource allocation to manage drug abuse are among the strategies adopted to control the vice. McCoy (2021) emphasizes that western societies deviate from the traditional approaches to managing drug abuse. The involvement of individuals from the national and local avenues plays a critical role as social control strategies. On the other hand, non-western societies take strict and slightly rigid approaches to control drug abuse.

As opposed to the emphasis on open access to information on drug abuse, the vice is rendered a criminal offense in a majority of the regions. Drug abusers in nations like China can be jailed and face harsh treatment for their addiction (McCoy, 2021). The focus on rendering drug abuse taboo instead of appreciating the vice as an ongoing social issue has led to the non-western societies dealing with a heightened level of drug abuse. Ineffective policies, unwillingness to allocate finances, and increasing corruption are implications for non-western societies not adopting comprehensive formal strategies for handling drug abuse.

Peers, media, and popular culture challenge mitigating the vice. Issues such as the need for acceptance, peer pressure, or assuming the widespread nature of drug abuse are facets that heighten the potential to be addicted. Celebrities within the media circle also play a direct role in influencing the potential to use drugs. The different media networks often glamorize the abuse of both alcohol and drugs. Therefore, in a bid to mitigate drug abuse, the involvement of celebrities is essential for the development of effective preventive initiatives. Within the informal strategic approach, recognizing the family, homes, social relationships, and the community is necessary.

The use and trafficking of these drugs are considered a crime in the US due to the harmful effects to the user, including psychological breakdowns, damage to body organs, death, and adverse impact on economic growth. Some of the health issues associated with drug use include heart conditions, lung cancers, damage to the liver, and stroke, to mention but a few (McCoy, 2021). Drug use has also been the cause of criminal activities such as robberies, murder, and other felonies. Research indicates that over 40% of crimes in the state have direct links to drug use and drug trafficking. Drugs impair the user’s judgment, thereby making them more susceptible to criminal activities. Addiction, which is yet the other side effect of drug use, leads to irresponsible behavior among the youths, subsequently affecting their productivity in society.

Movement against Criminalization

In the United States, there are arguments against the criminalization of the use of drugs. One of the reasons presented is that legalization would play a role in eliminating criminal networks in the black markets that specialize in drug trafficking and distribution (Ritter et al., 2019). Other groups of people tend to associate drug distribution and sale as a source of income that can play a considerable part in the country’s economic growth. The restrictions placed on drugs and plants in the state are also considered extreme by several groups of people. Some of the drugs and plants in question, such as marijuana and ketamine, are argued to have little or no effect on the users’ health. Hence the idea to legalize them becomes more and more popular in the United States.

Since a good percentage of crime is linked to drug trafficking, distributes, and its use, the measures placed by the state and implemented by the justice system effectively maintain law and order in the state. The moral implications of drug use can be understood from the devastating effects on the users and society at large. Religion, on its part, urges every person to respect their bodies by minding what they consume. Drug use is harmful to the user’s body hence a violation of religious teaching. Society, especially parents and the elderly, have witnessed the effects the drugs have on young and bright youths by shielding them from achieving their dreams (Ritter et al., 2019). They, therefore, stand by these policies on drugs in the state as they help protect the people from destroying their own lives.

Many families and individual people’s lives have been brought down by drug and substance abuse socially, economically, psychologically, and emotionally. Statistically reported, 18% of Americans struggle economically, socially, and health-wise due to the negative effects of drug and substance abuse. However, continued abuse of drugs and substances, for example, alcohol, often reaches a pivotal point where the addicts, either by themselves or through social support systems, seek out treatment for their situations. Currently, however, the limited research literature is known about drug and substance abusers’ quality of life three months, six months, and nine months after treatment. Drug and substance abuse recovery indicators often come from treatment providers and are usually surrounded by abstinence. Believably, the field has a lack of research surrounding the quality of life of these individuals.

The emphasis on drug use management is necessary for ensuring the wellbeing of individuals. Drug abuse is a potential issue that has led to considerable implications on the health of people. The focus on formal and informal policies in ensuring social control of drug use should prevail in understanding drug abuse. Harmonizing the two initiatives is critical towards ensuring an enabling environment for drug use management. Nonetheless, it is vital to appreciate the disparities between the western and non-western societies in their adoption of the two tactics in drug-use management. Therefore, the focus on social control across the two societies should provide information on the effectiveness of drug use management.

Trends in War on Drugs

Reevaluation of Substances’ Legal Status

Marijuana legalization has become a controversial issue and a topic of discussion in the United States. In some states and most countries in the world, marijuana is illegal, and the debate whether to legalize it for medicinal purposes is advancing to the congress level. This drug has been in use since the 1960s, but more people are currently consuming it globally (Earp et al., 2021). However, many youths are advocating for the legalization of marijuana for recreational reasons rather than for medical use. This natural plant is considered to relieve pain or make users feel high. Marijuana’s effect on the users has prevented the government from legalizing its use for many years, and the speculations on how it can be utilized as a drug should make the federal leaders authorize it for medical purposes.

Cocaine is one of the most dangerous drugs in the world, yet more people are arrested due to the possession and distribution of marijuana than cocaine annually. In Chicago, there were 12,483 and 813 marijuana and cocaine arrests between January and October 2014, respectively. These numbers are alarming since cocaine causes more deaths than marijuana globally. In 2015, at least 6,800 people died from cocaine-related effects (Krausz & Jang, 2018). In Europe, cocaine ranks second among the most abused illicit drugs after marijuana.

The most common implication of cocaine use is a heart attack (myocardial infarction). Occasional, regular, short-term, and long-term use of the drug trigger acute, non-ischaemic myocardial infarction. Chronic cocaine abuse may also lead to arteriosclerosis, which is a condition characterized by an accumulation of cholesterol on the walls of the artery and may lead to blockage of the arteries. The drug is also responsible for vascular endothelial cell barrier defects that raise the permeability of lipoproteins with low density and peroxidase. The most notorious cardiovascular diseases associated with cocaine are acute coronary syndrome and ischemia; these occur on the administration routes of the drug. Others are cardiomyopathy, myocarditis, and arrhythmias. Hence, cocaine users experience adverse effects on their health, which makes powder cocaine a much more dangerous drug.

In addition to this, the use of methamphetamines (meth/ ice) is becoming popular among the youth despite its detrimental impacts. Methamphetamines refer to sympathomimetic amines, which are inhaled, ingested, injected, or smoked. Meth has detrimental health effects on the cardiovascular system, such as aortic dissection, malignant hypertension, and pulmonary hypertension. In 371 coronial cases of deaths associated with the consumption of toxic levels or overdose of meth, cardiovascular complications were the leading cause of death (14%) (Minhee & Calandrillo, 2019). Autopsies in 54% of the victims indicated cardiovascular diseases. Most users of the drug are males with an average age of thirty-two; they accounted for 67% of the total number of bodies (Minhee & Calandrillo, 2019). In the USA, the abuse of methamphetamine has been pointed out as the most common factor that increases the likelihood of developing acute aortic dissection after hypertension.

There are suggestions that all patients under the age of fifty that have been diagnosed with aortic dissection should undergo frequent urine screening to determine the presence of methamphetamines in the bloodstream (Minhee & Calandrillo, 2019). Hence, with studies of statistics, and scientific evidence, an informed opinion on various drugs and risks associated more opportunities form with them.

Opioid Crisis

The opioid crisis has been an issue in the US since the 19th century and continues to pose a threat to modern society. It affects individuals from all races, cultures, and gender. The health, social, and economic welfare are all affected by this crisis. The CDC estimates that “the total economic burden of prescription opioid misuse alone in the United States is $78.5 billion a year” (Kuzmanov, 2021). Annually, the opioid epidemic claims over 30,000 lives in the US (Earp et al., 2021). Moreover, the number of disabilities as a result of opioid use has increased. The US government spends millions of dollars in managing opioid use. The Trump administration spent over $11 billion in the 2017-18 financial year to salvage the opioid crisis (Earp et al., 2021). The burden is also felt by households seeking to spend a lot of money in seeking health services.

Reports suggest an increase in the number of opioid overdoses each year. However, there exist several preventive measures in which medical experts could employ to curb this menace. Educating patients and families of opioid abusers may reduce the drug demand and use in the country. The educative programs should focus on making opioid users understand the effects of the drugs on their health (McCoy, 2021). Families, on the other hand, should be more supportive of the prevention programs and counseling. For the tertiary measure, initiating rehabilitation programs for opioid users could work effectively. Hospital-based treatments, for instance, offer intensive behavioral therapies that correct addiction. Similarly, the implementation of legislative acts could also help curb opioid overdoses. An example of this secondary preventive approach is the current Californian law (Shah et al., 2018). The legislation allows pharmacists to dispense Narcan, an opioid-effect suppressing drug, without prescription.

The use of opioids has both short-term and long-term effects. The short-term effects are drowsiness, increased heartbeat, high blood pressure, and high body temperatures. The long-term use of opioids causes chronic illnesses such as respiratory complications. In severe cases, patients have developed opioid use disorder where they cannot control the use of the drug. Further, they are unable to perform their daily activities. This will affect performance at workplaces and education centers hence putting the nation’s economy at risk.

Considering the medicinal value of both drugs, marijuana by far outshines opioids. While this category of drugs, opioids, are used only as pain relievers, the cannabis plant can multi-task. Apart from relieving pain, it soothes inflammation to decrease. Also, pure extracts of CBD and THC, according to scientific studies, play a significant role in killing cancer cells as well as shrinking tumors by a certain percentage (Shah et al., 2018). If marijuana is opted for as a pain reliever, it is going to bring multiple benefits to the medical field. Illnesses such as cancer are life-threatening yet very expensive to treat.

The cannabis plant is widely grown in some countries and readily available. If recognized as medicine, the cannabis plant could save families from the agony of seeing their loved ones suffer and die due to lack of treatment. Marijuana also cures nausea caused by chemotherapy sessions (Shah et al., 2018). This is another of its roles in the medical field if allowed to thrive. The government has used a great deal amount of money to set up cancer centers as well as train personnel to treat the possible causes of cancer. Although cannabis may not stop the disease, it will cut the cost of a treatment since it is readily available. Serving more than one purpose will also be an added advantage to the cancer centers.


The war on drugs has been unsuccessful even though the government spent a lot of money on the arrest and imprisonment of drug abuse offenders. The drugs are still easily accessible to teenagers and college students. According to a study conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration, drug abuse was most prevalent among campus students. The study showed that even though the prices of the drugs dropped from 1991- 2007, their purity increased. The fact that there has been an increase in deaths because of illicit drug overdose shows that the war on drugs has failed. New policies should be enacted that prohibit the smuggling of illegal and the production of illegal drugs in the United States; this would be the first step in eliminating illicit drugs. The war against drugs should be a nationwide agenda to ensure its success in eliminating illegal drugs in the country; a result of this would be a more productive nation.


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DemoEssays. "War on Drugs and Its Effect on the United States." November 13, 2022. https://demoessays.com/war-on-drugs-and-its-effect-on-the-united-states/.