Using Legislation to Prevent Drug Abuse
Drug abuse is one of the most widespread problems in the United States. America has been struggling against drugs for a whole century but the results leave much to be desired. Prisons, courts, and hospitals are filled with drug abusers. Cruelty and crimes are becoming more and more common in our neighborhoods. Domestic violence, child neglect, and rape are being only an outer shell of the problem that needs to be solved as soon as possible.
The issue of drug abuse and addiction is closely related to the policy of the country being discussed throughout the paper. The government of the United States tends to the narcotics legislation. It implies zero-tolerance to abusers and addicts. Thus, correspondingly, its attitude to them is quite tough and, to some extent, unjust. In comparison with the countries being more tolerant to the addicts, the US has many more problems related to drug abuse. In this way, the research is focused on the history of drug legislation of the United States, its inefficiency in comparison with the results achieved by other countries, and the possible ways based on an attitude change of the country.
Speaking about American laws concerning drug substances, it would be properly to start with a short historical excursus. Such one should be devoted to the first governmental attempts to reduce and eradicate the level of substance abuse; after that, the contrast to other countries and possible solutions should be discussed.
History of Drug Legislation in America
Drugs first settled in the US in the 1800s. Opium was widespread after the American Civil War; and cocaine was used in remedies and health drinks in the 1880s. In 1906, people discovered morphine and used it for medical purposes. Moreover, heroin was applied in treatment for respiratory diseases, cocaine was added to Coca-Cola, and morphine was prescribed to relief pain. 1860 was a beginning of sales’ regulation when special laws implied penalties for mislabeling and mixing with covered narcotics. Cannabis was considered to be a poison and listed as a prohibited component. In 1880, the US and China signed a contract that had prohibited opium shipment between these two countries. 1906 is the year when the Pure Food and Drug Act came in force. Due to the act, alcohol, morphine, cocaine, cannabis, and heroin had to be labeled with dosage and contents indication.
The next step was the Harrison Narcotic Act of 1914 that put a ban on the domestic distribution of the Coca products and opiates. Physicians who prescribed maintaining treatment programs to addicts were strictly punished. Over five thousand of them were fined and jailed in the period within 1915-1938. In the International Opium Convention of 1925, the US supported cannabis regulation; and, by 1930, it had approached the goal. In few years, the Congress enacted Marijuana Tax Law that put a tax on the cannabis sales. The Boggs Act was passed in 1951 during the Cold War. It was a result of the country’s fear that the enemy had used drugs in order to sabotage the youth. In this way, the drug crime penalties had been four times increased. The following Daniel Act increased the penalties eightfold.
In order to understand the seriousness of this crime, the conviction of rape and drug possession in Virginia could be compared. The first one implies a sentence for ten years, while the second one provides a twenty-year verdict. Despite a severe punishment for drug crimes, due to the cultural upheaval, the illegal use of narcotics increased dramatically in the 60s. Marijuana became fashionable at colleges, while others were trying to expand their minds with LSD and other hallucinogens. Returning from the Vietnam War, soldiers continued their heroin and marijuana relaxation. The Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act is considered to be the first law that has reduced drug penalties. In addition, it has classified drugs due to their medical application and potential for misuse.
In 1964, the fear of street crimes was inserted into national politics by the presidential candidate Barry Goldwater. After his loss to Johnson, the message was renewed by Nixon in 1968. He made a background for a get-tough era in the White House. In 1971, Nixon proclaimed that drug abuse was the enemy number one for the US. He tried to eradicate both demand and supply drug issues. This era was culminated by Reagan who also declared a war on drugs in 1982. In 1986, this war was renewed by the same person, i.e. Reagan. He raised funding for enforcement of law, supporting international drug prohibition and various domestic programs, such as a profound drug testing at work or active assigning of the law enforcement officers in order to persecute drug crimes. Reagan expanded criminalization to the casual or private drug usage. According to the statistics, in 1985 – 1995, the number of state prisoners sentenced for the drug crime raised by 478%.
The Chemical Diversion and Trafficking Act empowered the Drug Enforcement Administration to regulate the distribution of drug manufacture equipment and chemicals. The Comprehensive Methamphetamine Control Act increases penalties and regulates the production of equipment and chemicals. The Combat Meth Act of 2005 made amendments to the Controlled Substance Act in order to make pseudophedrine a Schedule 5 drug. In 1995, Clinton funded the rehabilitation and prevention programs but only fifty million dollars out of one billion were assigned for drug prevention, treatment, and education. In this way, the potential of the problem has been never realized.
The research by Winterbourne states that in 1969 sixty-five million dollars were spent by Nixon on the war on drugs; in 1982, Reagan spent approximately 1.65 billion dollars, while, in 2000, Clinton spent nearly 18 billion. Nowadays, the drug control policy spends approximately twenty billion dollars annually; and two thirds are spent for the law enforcement and eradication.
US Legislation and Other Countries
In general, the federal policy of the United States implicates the following system of drug control: banning of harmful drugs and criminal charge for possession and trafficking. The US tries to contain a drug flow from South America and Afghanistan to North America and Europe by enforcing the policy. The country pays much attention to the criminal punishment instead of focusing on educational and treatment programs. The situation in the US is complicated with the state policy. Thirteen states have already decriminalized cannabis consumption for treatment purposes. However, in several cases, the law contradicts to the federal policy of the United States. The US government refuses from marijuana legalization in fear of an increase of its use due to the drug availability and reduced price (production and sales risks are removed in this case).
In addition, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has made up a Drug Schedule that distributes the substances into five groups. The Schedule 1 includes substances that have no medical application and carry a high addiction level (marijuana, LSD, heroin, etc.). The Schedule 2 presents the chemicals that have some medical purposes but, at the same time, are highly addictive (cocaine, opium, morphine, etc.). The Schedules 3 (anabolic steroids, xyrem, etc.), 4 (benzodiazepines, chloral hydrate, tramadol, etc.) and 5 (pyrovalerone, atropine, etc.) have medical purposes. However, they are of the lowest level of abuse and addiction.
In contrast to the USA, the Netherlands that came to the decriminalization policy experience fewer drug-related problems. It is explained by a tolerance-based attitude to the drug abuse and addiction unlike the US that implies Just say no policy with zero tolerance. Winterbourne claims that by contrast to the US current costs up to 58 billion dollars that cover enforcement and educational programs, the Netherlands and some other European countries use government-sanctioned taxation and cannabis distribution. It, in its turn, results in the tax revenue used for education and treatment facilities.
Returning to the Netherlands, the first thought that comes to one’s mind is that it is a country where some drugs are legal. Still, the reality differs from such a belief: there are the so called coffee shops where people can buy a small amount of cannabis for their personal use. Sale and trafficking of drugs is considered to be illegal here. Colombia has become the US target number one in the international drug struggle. In 1994, it described the punishment for small drug amounts possession as an unconstitutional act. Alvaro Uribe has changed the Constitution; and now the new legislature implies forced treatment of addicts instead of imprisonment. In the same way, some American states have the policy of family’s force actions also applied; still, it is much lighter.
The British legislation distributes drugs into A, B, and C classes similarly to the US Schedule separations. The Group A includes the most harmful drugs, i.e. cocaine and heroin; the group B involves cannabis; the group C is related to tranquilizers and steroids. The classified drugs are illegal both for consumption and sale. In this way, the drug policies of the United States and Great Britain have much in common. However, during the recent years, Britain pays more attention to the legal highs as a progressing drug problem.
Portugal legislation was changed in 2001. If somebody is found carrying a small dose of drugs, the police will confiscate the substance and pass this person to the Discussion commission, where the addiction level is assessed and treatment or education procedures are applied. Unlike the US attitude to a drug user, in Portugal, the one is treated more like a patient, rather than a criminal. In opposition to the US quantity of jailed and death incidents, Portugal policy has decreased the death rates in the country and increased the number of people passing the treatment.
Unlike the United States, the Czech Republic punishes people for drug possession with a fine. Similarly to the US, the level of cannabis use here is one of the highest ones. Still, before 2010, when the drug possession had been criminalized, the level of health problems was much higher. Uruguay is the first country that has fully legalized marijuana, breaking the International Convection on Drug Control and legislation for the cannabis consumption, production, and sale. Unlike the US attitude to the cannabis abuse, the Uruguayan government separates marijuana market from a more problematic use of drugs, such as pasta base.
In a like manner of the American drug policy, the Pharmaceutical Affairs Law of Japan prohibits sale and production of over sixty-eight drug types and does not have a tolerance policy towards drug abusers. Its laws imply tough criminal sanctions, while the treatment is not so widespread due to Graham. Just as the US, Sweden is another zero-tolerance country. Here both possession and use of drugs is illegal. In this way, even a small dose can result in a 6-months’ sentence. In opposition to America, it is the country with the lowest rates of drug abuse in the Western world. Strict laws, prevention programs and treatment investments are the key reasons for such a success.
Possible Ways Out
Unfortunately, the US fights a losing war against drugs. Nixon’s and Reagan’s War on drugs has become a real disaster. According to Dolin, the laws implemented in the 1980s resulted in a full pack of prisons by drug abusers. For the last two decades, the budgets have increased dramatically and the level of prison placements as well; still, the drug-related problems are worsening. According to the statistics, the youth’s drug abuse has raised; overdose cases have reached their peak; cocaine and heroine have become cheaper. It means the better availability for the potential buyers; health-related accidents, especially HIV/AIDS, are coming up.
The inefficient and expensive international drug policy causes mounting environmental and human rights’ costs. The research by Dolin illustrates that the problem and the high costs will improve only if the US government changes its course and adopts the strategies that are really helpful. While the American budget is limited, all the programs should be reevaluated. The fresh ideas of how to manage the situation and take other countries for a model can become an only way out. The following paragraphs will describe the basic steps that could help to overcome the hardship.
The government must fund only effective programs. The solution implies an approach to the public health, focusing on abusers and addicts (not all users), as well as social services in order to decrease the key reasons for abuse. In addition, the policy should develop economic strategies that would contribute to the drug market control. The attention and the budget should be mainly concentrated on the prevention, treatment, and education.
Dolin also states that the treatment must become available like any other health service. If it becomes more available, the drug market will be blown up. This process, in its turn, will reduce harm from drugs. The treatment must include not only abstinence issues, but also an access to such maintenance drugs as methadone. Moreover, mental health therapy must be provided, as well as spousal, sexual, and child abuse services in order to eradicate the causes of drug addiction. The treatment must take into account the needs of special groups of population, such as children, women, and minorities. It should be concentrated on addicts and abusers instead of the focus on all drug users. This method implies some treatment for people who need it and choose themselves, rather than various law enforcements selecting therapy for the ones who are caught.
The American youth must be provided with information and funding. In my opinion, it is the most efficient way that can help to prevent the youngsters’ drug abuse. The US government should increase funding for mentor, after school, job training, and summer programs. The conditions of the Higher Education Act that deny college support of students accused of drug offences must be cancelled as they go contrary to the drug abuse prevention. Children must be taught by skilled educators and health professionals. Instead of the DARE and ONDCP funding, it would be better to support profound researches that will help to develop efficient drug education and multiple active programs for the youth.
The law enforcement should be focused on the most dangerous criminals. Unfortunately, the US just wastes the time for tracking, arresting, and trying in the courts the non-violent drug users. Over half of drug-related arrests in the United States are the ones that deal with marijuana possession and offences. As you know, the drug war is a major reason for the highest jailing rate in the world. Hence, these arrests and imprisonment cases cause a destructive impact on the families and individuals. The federal government should focus on large cases, crossing state and international boundaries. Intra state cases must be left to the states. Dealers who sell drugs in order to support a habit must be given a chance to pass treatment instead of jail.
Dolin emphasizes that possession cases as well as marijuana offenders should be paid less attention to. Meanwhile the violent drug criminals should be placed in a priority list. The US correctional systems must be less restrictive in giving a conditional release to nonviolent bona fide, less restrictive in giving compassionate release and less restrictive in giving family visit permissions. These changes will give a stimulus for good behavior to prisoners. Therefore, they could get free from jail and return to their families and work.
The international drug control policy must be demilitarized and focused on the economic development. Efforts of the international drug control should be focused on the economic development in order to disrupt stimuli for drug producing and to bank on civilian institutions for prohibition and eradication. Moreover, the justice must be renewed. The enforcement policy towards drug abusers and addicts is racially unfair at all stages of the justice system. It is a well-known fact that police profiling of individuals and the community favors the whites. Winterbourne states that there is some evidence of discriminative policy towards Hispanic Americans and African Americans who make up approximately 85 percent of all arrestees in several states. This category of drug offenders comes to 75 percent in the US jails. Thus, the racial unfairness must be acknowledged and documented.
The states’ rights must be respected while the new approaches allowed. There are several issues of the federal and state policies that contradict each other. In order to eliminate the problem, the government and states should work together. For example, some state reforms have implied some treatment of an abuser instead of being jailed, decriminalization of marijuana and its medical use. Meanwhile the federal government did not accept a lot of them and made everything possible so that they were not implemented. In this way, the states are like the laboratories that are waiting for their approach to be applied.
Dolin underlines that the government must put HIV/AIDS diseases into the priority list of problems. HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C are easily spread through the syringes used by addicts. Syringe deregulation and needle exchange programs have shown the efficiency in a struggle with these diseases. Furthermore, increasing of the drug abuse is not fixed. In addition, such services contribute to the reduction of drug abuse by getting profound addicts into treatment.
Conclusions and Future Study
In conclusion, it is important to mention that drug abuse is a problem that influences both social, economic, and health areas. It takes the lives of millions of people; it leaves children neglected; and it turns free people into slaves.
Being faced by each country, various approaches to this issue have been developed. A lot of them practice a zero-tolerance policy, while other states prefer treatment to imprisonment. Moreover, they leave the use of some drugs unpunished. It should be emphasized that the United States is the country with the highest level of the drug-related arresting and imprisonment. Its history of the war on drugs is quite long but completely inefficient due to the number of reasons.
The research paper shows that some of the US states gradually approach the decriminalization policy like many other countries. However, it only complicates the situation, contradicting to the governmental legislation and weakening its power. Still, the US tries to repress such attempts of the state legislation. It keeps on enforcing the governmental laws, while the problem is becoming more and more profound.
America spends the budget for the programs that, in fact, are totally ineffective, focusing on tracking and arresting of drug users instead of paying attention to educational programs and the treatment of addicts. A lot of countries mentioned in the paper have succeeded in the problem solution by shifting to the tolerance policy. In this way, the USA should revise its legislation and change its approaches to the issue of drug addiction and abuse in order to solve the problem. The future studies in the mentioned issue are necessary in order to extend human awareness of the problem and to help the government to understand the importance of shifting to another kind of policy.