War on drugs is just another war on people

The United States spends fifty one billion ($51,000,000,000.00) annually (per year) on the war on drugs. Where is that getting us?  Who is the beneficiary of this ginormous amount of money?  Has anyone asked if the money could be spent in a more humanitarian effort such as programs and funding for those who wish to get out of the vicious cycle of addiction?

The war on drugs began during the Nixon presidency when President Nixon, rightly so, called drugs “public enemy number one.”  Alcohol and other drugs account for the majority of people now being held in our prison system.  Has anyone considered that it costs over $50,000 per year to house one person in a correctional facility? That money couldn’t be better spent trying to help people overcome addiction?

Don’t even get me started on the term “correctional facility.”  The rate of recidivism is a steady forty percent.  There are approximately two million people incarcerated in the United States alone.   Of those people roughly one million are in jail on drug related offenses.  This includes people arrested for marijuana offenses in states where pot is now completely legal!

The war on drugs is a very healthy economy for some.  Many people have become uber rich thanks to this war. Some of these people are the most ruthless people on the planet.  Mexican drug cartels, Afghanistan drug lords, Governments of third world countries to name just a few.  Our war on drugs hasn’t saved any lives it has maimed and slaughtered countless innocent lives though.

There are some rumblings from Washington that they are going to take a look at the clemency issue for a few thousand prisoners who are in jails for drug related crimes. A few thousand is a drop in the bucket of the larger problem at hand.  How do we get help to those who need it and want it?

As recovery advocates, myself and my peers struggle daily to find suitable help for those with their hand stretched out looking for assistance. I have to tell, if your wallet is empty, it isn’t going to be easy to get treatment.  The good news is; it isn’t impossible.  The sad part is; it isn’t getting any easier right now.

Currently only the best and most expensive insurance policies cover addiction treatment.  Even in those cases the insurer usually dictates what that treatment is going to look like.  Typically they will give the green light to outpatient treatment.  This means you get to go see a counselor a few times a week for therapy.  This is rarely sufficient to get a person off of addictive substances.

For addicts, the window of willingness to get help is very small.  It may literally be only a matter of minutes that a person remains willing to be treated.  An hour spent in therapy is merely a delay in the inevitable.  Addicts recover best when they are in a group environment away from those people, places and substances that keep them in the vicious cycle of addiction.

Some insurers will agree to inpatient treatment, typically only 28 days however.  Statistics show a greater success rate when patients remain in treatment for 90 days. Why wouldn’t we see those statistics and do what is best for the individual and society by giving treatment that is clearly better?  If money is the sole answer, I know where there is $51,000,000,000.00 available to help!

I see the illusion of ignorance at work here.  We have almost 45 years of data showing that the war on drugs has done nothing to stem drug use.  The number of high school students that have admitted to using heroine is through the roof.  Alcohol has its same foothold on our youth is it always has. Now that pot is becoming legal for recreational use the stigma will subside possibly leading to more widespread misuse.  Of those who try it just because it is legal, some will switch on their addiction gene and move into full blown addiction.

Stopping people from using cannot be achieved by locking them up after they have already begun using.  We need to do a better job of informing our population of the facts about addiction not propaganda.  I never experienced “Refer Madness” nor did anyone else. It was just a lie and lies don’t work.  What is the first thing we ask our kids when we suspect them of drug use?  “Don’t lie to me, have you been using?”  Not real helpful.

I wonder why the majority of politicians don’t see the impotence of the war on drugs and make an attempt to overhaul it.  Just about everyone has been impacted by a loved one’s addiction.   With just a little bit of understanding it is plain to see that it is a sickness not a moral issue.

Legislating morality hasn’t worked really well for our country and it is about time to stop and take inventory of what works and what doesn’t.  Prisons can be the trigger that some need to become sober.  I am pretty clear that in most cases people return from prison with deeper emotional issues and less coping mechanisms making addiction the easy way out.  This begins the vicious cycle all over again.

I say stop the war on drugs and start a new campaigned.  Maybe we can call the “light on addiction.”  We all know that what we look at disappears and what we resist persists.  I am not resisting any longer.  I am now assisting, and that is what I encourage you to do. Instead of saying things like “shame on you,” maybe we can start saying things like “I understand you, and I want to help.”

Help me shine the light will you?

(Kevin McCormack, C.A.d ,is a certified addictions professional and Recovery Advocate.  He is a recovering addict with 26 years of sobriety. Kevin is a practicing auriculotherapist, recovery coach, and interventionist specializing in individual and family recovery.  Kevin has a passion for holistic living, personal awareness training, and physical meditation. You can visit his website Life After Addicton for more information. To connect with Kevin, please email him at Kevin@TheGlobalConversation.com)

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  • hempwise

    Great post Kevan you see exactly where the problems lie and inform us what cwg observes as the solution.

  • Wienke Ursula Schulenburg

    Dear Kevin! I love your article! Especially the “light on”. I agree on this, the more light and positive attention an issue and subject gets, the easier it can heal and transform. And become “iluminated” and ultimately “enlightened”. I saw this miracle happen in my own life and those I helped with violence and abuse.
    Lets shine the light and create awareness!

  • Win McCormack

    Very well said, and written.

  • Luz

    La lucha contra las drogas y/o el alcohol, me parece que ha sido mal encaminada, es obvio que no esta funcionando pues en vez de disminuir el numero de adictos, este es mayor cada dia, no podemos luchar contra una mala hierva si no arrancamos de raíz la problemática y esta se origina en la falta de conciencia.
    Mientras no haya vida espiritual en el individuo, no podrá haberla en la familia, por ende.. nuestros hijos buscaran “algo” que les de (engañosamente) eso que no encuentran para sentirse parte de un grupo.. es decir unidad… mientras no se sientan unidos a sus seres amados, (padres hermanos etc.) seguirán siendo presa fácil de las adicciones (no solo droga y alcohol).
    He trabajado apoyando a adictos con el programa de 12 pasos, un programa que su 3 legados en donde se apoya la recuperación total del individuo son: Unidad, Servicio y Recuperación..
    La Unidad de la que habla Neale D. en su libro, Unidad con un Poder superior, y el servicio que es darnos al otro de la misma medida que Jesús se dio.. olvidándonos de nosotros mismos y ser compasivos guiando al otro ser en el maravilloso programa de 12 pasos… en el cual el paso 12 dice: habiendo Obtenido un “Despertar Espiritual” llevamos el mensaje a quien aun sufre y aplicamos TODOS los principios en cada aspecto de nuestras vidas.. Como puede verse… el paso 12 es el modo de vida en el cual la transformación del individuo no solo toca su ser sino a todo cuanto le rodea..
    En resumen: cambiando el mundo iniciando el cambio desde el interior, llenando todo ese vacío espiritual que se tiene al no cultivar el espíritu en Unidad con Dios…
    Logrando esto o trabajando en esto lograremos la diminución de los adictos, reduciendo la demanda y terminando con la mafia y los carteles que someten a la población.

    • Gracias Luz, voy a utilizar el traductor de Google y volver a publicar lo que escribiste. Gracias por su llave de entrada y por favor continúe a traer su sabiduría aquí.

      This is the google translation of what Luz wrote:

      The fight against drugs and / or alcohol , I think it was misguided , obviously it is not working because instead of reducing the number of addicts , this is growing every day , we can not fight a weed, if not we start the real problem and this originates from the lack of awareness.

      While there is no spiritual life in the individual , it may not be one in the family .. our children thus seek ” something” to them ( falsely ) that they are not to feel part of a group .. ie unit … while not feel close to their loved ones ( parents siblings etc . ) will remain prey to addictions (not just drugs and alcohol).

      I have worked with addicts supporting 12-step program , a program that the three legacies where full recovery of the individual supports are: Unity, Service and Recovery ..

      The Unity of the talking Neale D. in his book, unit with a higher power, and the service is giving us another of the same size that Jesus gave .. forgetting ourselves and be compassionate guiding the other being in the wonderful 12 step program … where step 12 says: having had a ” Spiritual Awakening” carry the message and who still suffers aLL apply the principles in every aspect of our lives .. As you can see … the step 12 is the way of life in which the transformation of the individual not only be touching her but everything around him ..

      In short, changing the world by initiating change from within , filling the spiritual vacuum that has to cultivate the spirit not in Unity with God …

      Achieving this or working on this will achieve the decrease of addicts , reducing demand and ending with the mafia and cartels that subject population .

  • This just posted on the Huffington post website:

    The decades-long global war on drugs has failed and it’s time to shift the focus from mass incarceration to public health and human rights, according to a new report endorsed by five Nobel Prize-winning economists.

    The report, titled “Ending the Drug Wars” and put together by the London School of Economics’ IDEAS center, looks at the high costs and unintended consequences of drug prohibitions on public health and safety, national security and law enforcement.

    “The pursuit of a militarized and enforcement-led global ‘war on drugs’ strategy has produced enormous negative outcomes and collateral damage,” says the 82-page report. “These include mass incarceration in the US, highly repressive policies in Asia, vast corruption and political destabilization in Afghanistan and West Africa, immense violence in Latin America, an HIV epidemic in Russia, an acute global shortage of pain medication and the propagation of systematic human rights abuses around the world.”

    The report urges the world’s governments to reframe their drug policies around treatment and harm reduction rather than prosecution and prison.

    It is also aimed at the United Nations General Assembly, which is preparing to convene a special session on drug policy in 2016. The hope is to push the U.N. to encourage countries to develop their own policies, because the report declares the current one-size-fits-all approach has not proved to be effective.

    “The UN must recognize its role is to assist states as they pursue best-practice policies based on scientific evidence, not undermine or counteract them,” said Danny Quah, a professor of economics at LSE and a contributor to the report. “If this alignment occurs, a new and effective international regime can emerge that effectively tackles the global drug problem.”

    In addition to contributions from Quah and a dozen other foreign and drug policy experts, the report has been endorsed by five past winners of the Nobel Prize in Economics: Kenneth Arrow (1972), Sir Christopher Pissarides (2010), Thomas Schelling (2005), Vernon Smith (2002) and Oliver Williamson (2009). Also signing on to the report’s foreword are a number of current and former international leaders, including George Shultz, secretary of state under President Ronald Reagan; Nick Clegg, British deputy prime minister; and Javier Solana, the former EU high representative for common foreign and security policy.

    Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina, who has announced that his government may present a plan to legalize production of marijuana and opium poppies by the end of 2014, has also publicly backed the report. Molina plans to discuss the report at the U.N.

    A recent Pew survey suggests that Americans may be ready to refocus the U.S. end of the drug war, with 67 percent favoring policies that would provide drug treatment.

    “The drug war’s failure has been recognized by public health professionals, security experts, human rights authorities and now some of the world’s most respected economists,” said John Collins, the International Drug Policy Project coordinator at LSE IDEAS. “Leaders need to recognize that toeing the line on current drug control strategies comes with extraordinary human and financial costs to their citizens and economies.”