Why the War on Drugs Failed


Daniel Yusefian (12th), Editor

The war on drugs is a very touchy subject. Much like the Vietnam War, the drug war lives in infamy because of the controversy, tragedy, and impact it has had on American culture.


The war on drugs is a failure. That’s the truth, there is no other way of saying it. The war on drugs has led to billion of dollars wasted, lives thrown away, and a growing population of drug users, among other things. 


America has based itself off of other countries since its inception, from the pillars in D.C. meant to resemble ancient Greek architecture, to the democracy we so proudly boast, America is great because we’ve looked at other countries for inspiration.

That isn’t the case here.


Every 25 seconds someone in the United States is arrested for drug possession.

One fifth of the incarcerated population is serving time for drug related offenses.

In the first two weeks after being released from prison, individuals are 13 times more likely to die from an overdose than those in the general population.

The number of Americans arrested for drug use has tripled since 1980.

Black Americans are 4 times more likely to be arrested for drug related offenses, despite making up only 12.5% of substance users.

There is a socioeconomic disparity between those who get arrested, charged, and sent to prison.

The war on drugs has cost the United States over 1 trillion dollars, and it costs 3.3 billion dollars annually to incarcerate people with drug related offenses.


This is only scratching the surface of the problems the drug war created. Why is addiction a crime and not a health issue? Why do we not put the money we use on the drug war toward rehabilitating those suffering from addiction? It’s an awful situation.


An amazing example of drug rehabilitation can be found in Portugal, where in order to combat an HIV/AIDS crisis, they decriminalized all drugs in 2001. This made it easier for drug users to seek rehabilitation because the majority of HIV/AIDS cases came from needle sharing. Drug users can now get new clean needles, and in the process make seeking rehabilitation much easier. 


The United States is more than capable of fixing the drug issue, the racial and class disparity it creates, and the money and lives wasted yearly fighting it, but we choose not to. 


Addiction is a health issue, not a crime. The moment we as a society come to terms with that fact, we’ll already be on track to fixing the problems the drug war created.