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Research Papers on the War on Drugs

Despite the large amount of publicity to decrease drug use in America, the war on drugs has been a failure.  Campaigns like “Just Say No” and D.A.R.E. have tried to reach young people to prevent them from starting to take drugs.  Drug treatment programs have targeted drug users to treat their addictions and stop their future drug use.  But have any of these movements made a difference in the amount of drug use in America?  Unfortunately, the answer is no.

War on Drugs

Nixon and the War on Drugs

The “war on drugs” became official in the 1970s when President Richard Nixon decided to aggressively address the drug problem in America.  Since then, a tremendous amount of money has been spent to promote education and reduce drug use, increase drug enforcement and convictions, and decrease illegal drug trafficking into the United States.  Although the United States has invested billions of dollars in the last three decades to reduce the amount of drugs and drug abuse in the U.S., there is little evidence that this was a wise investment. 

First, how effective have drug awareness campaigns been in fighting the war on drugs?  In a study comparing attitudes from 1999 to 2000 conducted by the The Office of National Drug Control Policy, “nearly half (45 percent) of the 73 responding sources describe their community's drug problem as "unchanged." About one-third (36 percent) consider the situation to have worsened somewhat, and 16 percent feel the problem has gotten much worse. Only two sources (in Memphis and New York) perceive that their community's drug problem has become less serious” . This result indicates that although the government has continued to fund anti-drug media campaigns, it appears to be having very little impact on improving the drug problems in America.

Government Spending has had Little Effect

Government spending to reduce has apparently had very little effect. 

  • In 1981, United States government spent approximately $1.5 billion on fighting the war against drugs.
  • Now spending has increased to almost $20 billion a year. 
  • In addition, the states are spending at least that much.
  • As another point of comparison, in 1980, the U.S. government arrested only a few hundred thousand people on drug charges. 
  • Today we arrest 1.6 million people a year for drug-related crimes.

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