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The United States is at war and has been fighting a drug war for over a century. At least four heads of state have personally led the drug war. However, the country is losing ground because a large number of opioid addicts and peddlers continue to crowd clinics, trials, and jails. It may be argued that the only legatees in this conflict are the cocaine smugglers, organized crime associates, and every other top official who assists them in running this sector. Children of opioid addicts are often neglected and abused, and the addiction often contributes to violent crime. The war on drugs involves controlled and prohibited substances that people do not use for the intended purpose. The government outlawed the production, supply, and possession of harmful substances that are only used for entertainment purposes except for law and tobacco. However, the federal government has also set out laws for the control and use of such substances.
In the late 20th century, the government discovered that some of the drugs could be used for medicinal purposes. Thus it set up laws to control their usage. Additionally, the state resorted to a method that was popularly known as supply reduction. The method involves reducing the amount of drugs by trying to arrest the kingpins of this illegal trade hence emphasizing on domestic law enforcement. Local law enforcement has led to the illegal drugs being expensive, risky and rare to find. However, the country has faced many challenges such as legalization of marijuana in some states of the U.S, the evolution of synthetic drugs, and finally abuse of prescription drugs.
The Evolution of the United States Drug Policy in the 20th Century
Late 19th Century to Early 20th Century
Drugs such as opium and cocaine were commonly used in the 19th century for both medicinal and recreational purposes. However, the federal government was not involved in any way to regulate their usage and doctors freely prescribed drugs like morphine to reduce pain. As a result, there was an increase in abuse of the drugs and the public got concerned with the menace. One of the reasons for unregulated drug market was the separation of powers between the state and federal governments.
The government began its war on drugs at the beginning of the 20th century. The federal government decided to regulate the use of these drugs through taxation. In 1914, The Harrisons Narcotics Act got enacted. The Act required those dealing with both cocaine and opium to register with the country’s department of treasury and keep a record of every transaction they conducted. Additionally, the dealers were required to pay a special tax and follow other rules as stipulated by the government. Using the drugs beyond medical scope was regarded to as illegal hence many practitioners got arrested, taken to court, and jailed. On the other hand, violators were taken to federal penitentiaries. Finally, physicians stopped giving out these drugs which made the users go to the black market to find them.
Additionally, enforcement of narcotics was related closely to prohibition enforcement in the 1920s. A federal agency known as the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN) was established in 1930 to handle the war against narcotics. During the period of Prohibition, a new drug—marijuana was unpopular with agents of law enforcement. However, it, later on, caught the attention of the FBN and the Congress. The use of the drug was legal until 1937 when one of the commissioners of FBN made a presentation to the Congress saying that the drug causes insanity and violent behaviors. The Marijuana Tax of 1937 led to the government banning marijuana. After a short while, all states outlawed possession and usage of marijuana.
Furthermore, this period led to changes in enforcement. The enforcement exercise was usually done by police officers who were helped by the FBN occasionally. However, the 1930s saw the media joining the war against drug abuse.
Mid-20th Century
During this period the Congress passed laws that criminalized drug abuse and controlled usage of certain drugs. For instance, the Boggs Act was enacted in 1951, and Narcotic Control Act was passed in 1956. The two laws recognized compulsory jail terms for drug offenses and the death penalty for selling heroin to the young people respectively.
This period saw shifting attitudes as many organizations began to speak up against extreme measures that were taken to curb drug abuse. A medical approach was also adopted, for example, using methadone to treat addiction of heroin. A report was issued in 1963 by the Presidential Commission on Narcotic and Drug Abuse. The report recommended for less strict punishments, dismantling the FBN, and adding more money to aid research of narcotics. The Bureau of Drug Abuse Control was also established during this time. The Congress also supported the idea of a medical approach. Later on, the FBN merged with BDAC and got transferred to the Department of Justice (DOJ). President Nixon promised to reduce drug use once he takes office and declared war on drug abuse several years later.
In the 1970s
The 1970s led to a lot of emphasis being put on law enforcement. President Nixon took his fight against drug abuse to the international level when he helped to curb the production of opium in Turkey. During this period, two Acts got enacted: the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act. The two acts led to selected plants and chemicals being put under federal jurisdiction. The CSA formed a legal framework for handling controlled substances. The substances were divided into five categories basing on how dangerous they are if they can be genuinely used for medical purposes, and finally on the degree of how someone can get addicted to them. Additionally, this period led to the formation of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). DEA started its operations with over 1400 agents and with a budget of over 70 million dollars.
In the 1980s
This period saw a new drug gaining popularity in the market. The drug was cocaine and its new form called “crack.” By 1989 almost a third of the Americans agreed that the main problem that they were facing is drug abuse. At this time President Reagan was also trying to fight the drug menace in his country. Additionally, there was a rise in a number of federal drug convictions.
In 1984, the Comprehensive Crime Control Act was put in place. The primary function of this Act was to enhance punishments for violation of CSA. The amendment led to the Attorney General being more powerful to help in the control of narcotics. Other acts introduced during this period included the Anti-Drug Abuse Acts of 1986 and 1988. The two laws were supposed to help curb the illegal synthesized drug trade. Additionally, it helped the CSA to regulate controlled substances.
The 1990s up to date
Majority of the legislations created for the last thirty or so years have addressed the issue of synthetic drugs. It should be noted that synthetic compounds have been created among various groups of drugs. Additionally, various synthetic drugs have either gained or lost popularity as time passed by. The Congress has responded to the production of such drugs in many ways. However, the concern that is currently facing the federal government is the legalization of marijuana in some states and the addiction of both heroin and other prescriptive drugs.
How the War on Drugs Both HHHHHHhhhhhhypocritical and a Failure
The war on drugs is both hypocritical and a failure because it has led to the growth of drug lords who collaborate with the local authorities to do their business. Additionally, there is no concrete evidence to show that the war is bearing fruits. Finally, what makes the war hypocritical is that some states have legalized the use of drugs like marijuana while in other states it is illegal and the government is also spending a lot of money on a losing war. However, the government is not willing to admit its failures.
Unintended Consequences from the US Drug Policies to Thwart Drug Use in America
The enforcement and outlawing of drugs aim at decreasing usage and consequences associated with the drugs. However, their success rate is highly disputed, and it is very clear that the fight has led to other effects other than the ones intended. The following are some of the unintended effects:
First, the fight has led to the establishment of large black markets which provide a breeding ground for corruption. Additionally, another effect was an adaptation of technology. Drugs such as methamphetamine which was commonly used in the U.S but produced in large scale in Mexican laboratories is among those that changed production technology. Due to the war against it in Mexico, it is now produced in the United States using local ingredients bought in the chemists. This production has led to the destruction of the environment because there are few competent pharmacists to produce hence the ones that are not competent enough do not observe safety measures. Lastly, a method like spraying coca or poppies has a serious environment effect, and sometimes good farmers can lose their crops because of factors such as change of wind direction.
Conclusively, the war against drug abuse has evolved over the 20th century as that was a period where several laws got enacted and various bodies formed. Additionally, there was change in tactics of combating this menace. However, the fight is both hypocritical and a failure as it has not achieved the intended purpose and has led to other undesired effects.

Collett, Merril. The Cocaine Connection: Drug Trafficking, and Inter-American
Relations. New York, NY: Foreign Policy Assoc. Series, 1989.

Reuter, Peter H. The Unintended Consequences of Drug Policies: Report 5. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2009.

Rosenberger, Leif R. America’s Drug War Debacle. Brookfield, VT: Ashgate Publishing Co.,

Sacco, Lisa N. Drug Enforcement in the United States: History, Policy, and Trends. CRS Report: Congressional Research Service. Last modified October 2, 2014. accessed November 14, 2017
Stanford. “The United States War on Drugs.” Stanford University. Accessed
November 14, 2017.

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