“America’s drug problem so overwhelming that the

“America’s public enemy number one in the United States is drug abuse. In order to fight and defeat this enemy, it is necessary to wage a new, all-out offensive… In order for this program to be effective, it is necessary that it be conducted on a basis in which the American people all join in it” (Nixon). During the 1960s, “recreational drug use became fashionable among… Americans… representative of protest and social rebellion in the era’s atmosphere of political unrest” (Frontline). Over the past forty years, “the United States war on drugs has cost one trillion dollars.” The Justice Department estimated other major consequences of drug abuse in the United States  “— ‘an overburdened justice system, a strained healthcare system, lost productivity, and environmental destruction’ —” to cost $215 billion a year (Associated Press). Forty years of wasted taxpayer money and the results of all the efforts against drug use have been nothing but failures. Even though 46.3 percent of the United States prison population is made up of drug offenders (Federal Bureau of Prisons), the county is still facing a massive drug crisis. “Drug overdose deaths and opioid-involved deaths continue to increase in the United States” (CDC). Drug enforcement and rehabilitation have failed this country and continue to fail. Rates of drug use, overdoses, and prison population increases will continue to rise if proper policy is not developed and enacted soon. Fueled by negligent medical practices by doctors and pharmacists, failing drug policy and enforcement, and remarkably unsuccessful rehabilitation efforts, the government of the United States has created a drug problem so overwhelming that the criminal justice system lacks the capability to enforce the law and work with viable solutions to attempt to fix such an alarming issue. One major problem with the drug crisis facing the United States is the lack of pharmaceutical and medical enforcement on prescription drug use. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, opioid sales have quadrupled since 1999 even though “there has not been an overall change in the amount of pain that Americans reported” (CDC). Because there is no standard for opioid prescriptions, states are on their own to decide how much to prescribe to the public. “In 2012, health care providers in the highest prescribing state wrote almost three times as many opioid prescriptions per person as those in the lowest prescribing state. Health issues that cause people pain do not vary much from place to place, and do not explain this variability in prescribing (CDC).” “An estimated one out of five patients with non-cancer pain or pain-related diagnoses are prescribed opioids in office-based settings” (CDC). “Although prescription opioids can help manage some types of pain, there is not enough evidence that opioids improve chronic pain, function, and quality of life. Moreover, long-term use of opioid pain relievers for chronic pain can be associated with abuse and overdose, particularly at higher dosages” (CDC). America’s opioid epidemic has revealed two interconnected trends: over a fifteen year period, the public has seen increased overdoses due to prescription opioids, and a “recent surge in illicit opioid overdoses driven mainly by heroin and illegally-made fentanyl” (CDC). Aside from marijuana and alcohol, prescription drugs are the most commonly misused and abused drugs in the country. According to the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 12.7 percent of illegal drug users started with prescription drugs (SAMHSA). In 2015, and estimated 7.2 million Americans used prescription drugs non-medically (UBH). The lack of information surrounding the addictive properties of prescription opioids and the misunderstanding of the harm of prescription drugs encourages the significant increase in drug abuse and overdoses the public sees today (NIH). The problem continues to get worse “and, frequently, medical doctors enable their drug addicted patients by frivolously filling prescriptions” (Bonn). Doctors like Dr. Conrad Murray, found guilty in the death of Michael Jackson, rely solely on unethical practices and greed (Bonn) rather than protecting their patients. Without any form of enforced regulation, doctors and pharmacist continue to abuse their power to provide the public with deadly drugs, ultimately encouraging patient drug abuse. According to Dr. Sanjay Gupta, neurosurgeon and CNN contributor, people who nearly overdose of some sort of prescribed opioid, are prescribed the same medication again (BLVD Treatment Centers).In 2015, eight out of the ten leading causes of death, three of them being drug related, went up causing the country’s life expectancy to go down for the first time in twenty years. An increase in prescriptions resulted in patients becoming accustomed to prescribed drugs even though the necessity for the drugs was gone. Instead, the prescription for a condition becomes a necessity for feeling (UBH). America represents five percent of the global population yet, the United States consumes seventy-five percent of the world’s prescription drugs, spending forty percent more on drugs than the next country, Canada, and twice as much as both Germany and France. In the United States, “more people die from prescription drug overdoses than from cocaine or heroin.” In 2008, Vicodin and OxyCodone alone caused more overdoses than heroin and cocaine combined. As this epidemic continues to grow, prescription painkillers become the new gateway drug – more than marijuana and cocaine – into heroin. According to the CDC, prescription painkillers make someone forty percent more likely to use heroin, an easy to obtain and more affordable drug to use during dependency (BLVD Treatment Centers).  Although negligent prescription practices causing dangerously exponential increases in drug use and overdose, current policy and enforcement lacks the ability the combat such an extensive issue. Current drug policy does not allow for proper enforcement resulting in more problems surrounding drug abuse. The Controlled Substances Act of 1971 “contains 3 different titles. Title I deals with the establishment of rehabilitation programs for drug abusers, Title II addresses the registration and distribution of controlled substances, and Title III discusses issues related to the importation and exportation of controlled substances” (NCBI). Title II of the Controlled Substances Act gives the Drug Enforcement Administration full authority to establishes guidelines for classifying drugs into categories known as schedules based on abuse risks and medical use. The problem is not that drugs are deemed illicit or beneficial, but that drugs are misclassified. Schedule I drugs currently have no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Schedule II drugs are also considered dangerous and have high potentials for abuse potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence. Schedule III drugs possess moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence. Schedule III drugs have lower abuse risk than schedule I and II but higher than schedule IV. Schedule IV drugs have low potential for abuse and low risk of dependence. Schedule V drugs have lower potential for abuse than Schedule IV, consisting limited quantities of certain narcotics used for antidiarrheal, antitussive, and analgesic purposes (DEA). These classifications create drug disparities, making enforcement extremely difficult and confusing. Over the past fifteen years, the United States has seen shocking increases in opioid abuse and overdoses, yet; many of the major prescribed opioids are only classified as schedule IV, whereas marijuana is classified as schedule I, and cocaine and meth are classified as schedule II. Fentanyl is a schedule II drug but is considered the most deadly opioid on the market. It is twenty-five to forty times more potent than heroin and fifty to one hundred times more potent than morphine. It is commonly used for pain caused by cancer yet, this synthetic opioid has one the highest overdose rates out of any opioid (Finklea). These disparities make it difficult to combat the drug problem because the country does not follow a standard protocol. States are left to decide whether or not to enforce already enacted drug policy. As more states begin to disregard federal law and legalize drugs, enforcement become difficult and even near impossible. In 2014 the DEA reported increases in arrests for both meth and heroin. In 2015 heroin seizures increased by about eighty percent since 2011 relating to drug traffickers increasing their contraband across the bounder. Between 2006 and 2015, the amount of heroin seized went from about 2,100 kilograms to about 6,800 kilograms (Finklea). Mexican transnational criminal organizations have remained the largest criminal drug threat to the United States producing and supplying the majority of the country’s illegal drugs. They have been increasing their involvement in the country’s drug market and have been expanding rapidly into heroin production and supply. Mexican transnational criminal organizations have introduced themselves into the United States gang population, relying on gangs to support the illegal drug trade over the Southern border; as a result, U.S. gangs have developed stronger retail level distribution as well as more involvement at the wholesale level (Finklea). Increases in drug trafficking has led to “hundreds of thousands of counterfeit prescription pills, some contain deadly amounts of fentanyl” (DEA), a schedule II drug. Drug traffickers have the ability to abuse the prescription pill market because of high consumer demand and low cost production of counterfeit pills. These increases in contraband have lead to decreases in market prices for heroin and other drugs. With so many different drugs on the market and so many people addicted to thee drugs, basic economics drive the system. As more people buy drugs, the prices for drugs go down. Better transportation, increases in supply smuggled across the border, and purity increases have all lead to a bigger drug problem in the United States. In 1986 ten grams or less of heroin was sold for 2,283 dollars per gram with a purity of twenty-four percent; ten grams or less of meth was sold for 575 dollars per gram with a fifty-two percent purity; and ten grams or less of cocaine was sold for 402 dollars per gram with a sixty-five percent purity. In 2012 ten grams or less of heroin sold for 465 dollars per gram with a thirty-one percent purity; ten grams or less of meth was sold for 184 dollars per gram with an eighty-nine percent purity; and ten grams or less of cocaine sold for 186 dollars per gram with a forty-four percent purity (Bronshtein). Cheaper and better product provides suppliers with enough incentive to keep manufacturing and selling. In 1986, President Richard Nixon, signed into law the Anti-Drug Abuse Act. The Act reinstated mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses and created the one hundred to one cocaine/crack ratio. The bill imposed harsh sentences and an increased ratio for what is the same drug increasing the prison population because of small amounts of drugs. The legislation focused on very specific drugs rather than attacking the drug problem as a whole. According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, between 1980 and 2013, the country saw massive spikes in prison population across the country. After the Smarter Sentencing Act of 2013 was passed, prison population began to decline due to reduced sentencing of certain crimes (BOP). The problem these reduction sin prison population is crimes were still being committed. Instead of enforcing the law, drug offenses were written off as misdemeanors and citations. Prison population went down because new laws prevented law enforcement from enforcing the law.In 2014 California passed Proposition 47, reducing certain drug possessions from felonies to misdemeanors. The theory behind reducing drug enforcement was that drug addicts who steal to supply their drug habits would not be punished for their crimes reducing incarceration rates and state spending. Instead, between 2014 and 2015, California saw an increase in spending and crime. Proposition 47 cost San Francisco more than 120 million dollars and Los Angeles more than 250 million dollars. Of the sixty-six cities with populations of over one hundred thousand surveyed, five cities including San Francisco were included in the Top Ten property crime increases; forty-nine cities experienced overall increases; and twenty-four cities experienced double digit increases (Debbaudt). This legislation drastically hurt California and its criminal justice system, achieving the complete opposite of what it intended to do. Proposition creates massive difficulty in enforcing the law. Felony charges are now written off as misdemeanors or citations. These are not deterrents for crime. This is encouragement for crime. Crime rates went down because Proposition 47 reduced the sentencing and enforcement of certain laws. Drug and theft laws were reduced causing little to no enforcement. The legislation prevented police and District Attorneys from doing their job. On top of failed legislation and enforcement, rehab centers and programs have seen a significant rates of failure. Success rates shown by different programs and centers are misleading because they do not provide accurate information. Rehab centers and programs are left with an ambiguous standard in determining client success. Treatment centers either blame the clients for their own personal failures, avoiding any affiliation with the failures, or never follow up with patients who may have relapsed. Success rates are derived from immediate completion of a particular program instead of follow ups with clients months and years later (AAC). Rehab centers working at high capacity with little to no employees are reduced to requiring short and useless counseling hours. Many of these programs are disappointing, embarrassing, and shameful. Clients are told they broken people who need help. Rehab centers do not provide the necessary support to clients. Many clients are also surrounded by people who refuse to accept treatment, pushing discouraging narrative for many clients wanting help (McGraw). According to a source from the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department rehab centers are known for providing drugs to clients who are in rehab, keeping clients relaxed and easily controlled. They ignore the problem and diminish the purpose of rehabilitation.The United States government has spent billions of dollars on drug control and none of it seems to be working. More drug policy hurts the effort, increased spending the hurts the effort, and increased trade trading hurts the effort. The lacking federal enforcement of drug policy continues the accelerate the national drug problem. The Tenth Amendment provides states with the ability to enact and enforce laws that are not specified by the Constitution. To solve this problem state governments must be willing to work with the federal government to enforce laws and provide effective solutions to the massive nationwide epidemic. Legislation must be passed to enforce limitations of prescriptions provided by doctors and pharmacists. Medical professionals who are caught providing patients with unnecessarily dangerous amounts of prescription drugs must be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. The DEA must reschedule their drugs, reducing disparities and allowing for proper enforcement. Reclassifying drug scheduling should include abolishing schedules IV and V, reducing the chances for poor enforcement of drug policy. All opioids must reclassified as schedule II due to their high risk of abuse but are solely used for their medical properties. Cocaine and crack, methamphetamine, and fentanyl must be reclassified as schedule I due to the increased rates of trade over the border and increased purity levels. Marijuana should be reclassified as schedule II or III due to its increasing medical advantages and social acceptability but must be highly regulated for recreational use. On the southern border, Immigration and Custom Enforcement agents must be allowed to work diligently to regulating the flow of people and contraband coming into the country. Illegal drug trafficking must be taken care of on site without hesitation due to legal restrictions. Drug traffickers must be apprehended as soon as illegal drugs are found in their possession regardless of amount and must be prosecuted immediately. Our criminal justice system needs a separate court system under the direction of the Department of Health and Human Services to prosecute drug traffickers when they are apprehended. Legislation cannot restrict law enforcement from enforcing the law. Laws such as the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, California’s Proposition 47, and the Smarter Sentencing Act must be redirected to enforce the law to all criminals. Drugs cannot be treated as nonviolent crimes. Crimes should be treated as crime. Illegal drug possession and abuse must require more lenient mandatory minimums starting at two years, while also requiring that the convicted attend some form a regulated rehabilitation that does not  compromise their successful rehabilitation. Repeat offenders and violent offenders should not be given the same leniency in the system. Required rehabilitation should include both isolated therapy and communal therapy to guarantee all aspect of rehabilitation are covered. Inmates and employees who undermine the ability and the chance to rehabilitate must be removed from the rehabilitation process and kept in prison until they accept and commit to the program. The drug problem in the United States will not be solved soon. There are too many aspects to regulate and control to completely shut down the drug problem. The public must be willing to work with the government and vice versa. State governments must be willing to work with the federal government to solve this problem whether it be by enforcing federal law or using resources to improve and expand already successful tactics to solving the drug crisis. The solution does not revolve harsh sentencing and enforcement nor does it revolve around no sentencing and enforcement. This is a problem where the solution can be found in the middle, where the tactics are open to change and evolve with time. With so many problems within this issue, it is difficult to measure success. Some positives of the already established effort he use of hard drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine are slowly declining and prisons are starting to adopt responsive programs to help better their inmates. The drug crisis must be stopped but it takes the country as a whole to get the effort in full motion.


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