The high cost of the war on drugs

Pennsylvania has suffered from a longstanding drug problem. It has torn many families apart, sending some into a life of addiction and others into incarceration. So, when the President announced that he would crack down on drugs and the people who pushed drugs in the U.S., many people cheered.

However, many critics also stepped forward to ask whether America had not yet learned that the war on drugs often cost so much while yielding so little. This is not to say that no type of approach to tackling substance abuse and drug trafficking will serve a purpose in maintaining civil order. It does caution politicians to question what those approaches are.

Forbes estimates that America spends $78.5 billion per year on the war on drugs. This has barely made a dent in drug crimes and the opioid epidemic has now reached crisis levels. The illegal drug trade also remains the most profitable illegal activity in the U.S. Overdose deaths in America tripled over the last 20 years or so. Meanwhile, Mexico’s control of the heroin market in America jumped from less than 10% in 2003 to now over 90%.

CNBC estimates that since the war on drugs took off in 1971, America spent roughly $1 trillion on it and contributes to roughly 1 million annual arrests. The specific article cited also points to the fact that this has had no discernible effect on the demand for narcotics. Because of this, many Americans now support substance abuse treatment over incarceration. Some have even proposed legalization or decriminalization.

Yet, critics find problems there too. They point out that the focus on the legalization of pot makes it easier for teens to get their hands on it. This, in turn, may affect their cognitive development. Weed is also known as “the gateway drug” for good reason. Thus, any solution presented to tackle drug crimes in America may face some friction. However, treating as opposed to criminalization is one solution that still receives bipartisan support.