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)

Please Note: The mission of The Global Conversation website is to generate an ongoing sharing of thoughts, ideas, and opinions at this internet location in an interchange that we hope will produce an ongoing and expanding conversation ultimately generating wider benefit for our world. For this reason, links that draw people away from this site will be removed from our Comments Section, a process which may delay publication of your post. If you wish to include in your Comment the point of view of someone other than yourself, please feel free to report those views in full (and even reprint them) here.
Click here to acknowledge and remove this note: