Increased addiction rates and rampant trafficking crime have led many to say the War on Drugs failed in the United States. Now, a new global health report has distilled those concerns into tangible data that researchers say starkly shows that the War on Drugs failed.
The report, carried out by Johns Hopkins-Lancet Commission on Public Health and International Drug Policy, indicates the War on Drugs was not successful in addressing the social side effects associated with drug use, and even exacerbated them in some contexts. Dr. Chris Beyrer, the report’s senior author, said that the evidence was undeniable.
“We’ve had three decades of the war on drugs, we’ve had decades of zero-tolerance policy. It has had no measurable impact on supply or use, and so as a policy to control substance use it has arguably failed. It has evidently failed.”
Researchers had several criteria for the success or failure of a country’s drug policies, most of which were negative in the places with the most aggressive governmental response. Russia, for instances, offers no needle exchange programs or alternative opioid treatments, which allow users to ease off heroin with clinical drugs like methadone. In turn, its HIV infection rates have skyrocketed. The population of Russians living with HIV nearly doubled between 2010 and 2014, and as many as 57 percent of those were related to intravenous drug use.
Portugal, on the other hand, often cited as a model for the end of the War on Drugs, saw a decrease in HIV and Hepatitis C infections during the same time period. Simultaneously, its youth addiction rates dropped 15 percent. Incarcerations are also down.
The report grading the War on Drugs as a failure wasn’t the only controversial piece of news to emerge about the initiative this week. In a piece speaking out against the War on Drugs in Harper‘s magazine, a senior Nixon adviser was quoted as saying that the maneuver was a guise to go after blacks and anti-war protesters. The administration, he said, sought to undermine these interests by linking them to controlled substances, according to a previous report by the Inquisitr.
“You want to know what this was really all about? The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the anti-war left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”
The implications of both of these revelations about the War on Drugs are strong evidence that it failed, especially for African-Americans. Black men are more likely to be jailed for drugs than any other group. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, a majority of 38.4 percent of men in prison for drug violations are black. That’s of a total of 208,000, or 15 percent of the entire prison population of more than 1.2 million.
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