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America Needs a New Approach to Combat Illegal Drug Use

Posted on Wednesday, February 8, 2023
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by Andrew Abbott
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AMAC Exclusive – By Andrew Abbott

Drug

In a shocking report released late last year, the Drug Enforcement Administration announced that it had intercepted 10,000 pounds of fentanyl in 2022 – enough to kill every American, and more than double what the agency had seized in 2021, a year that saw a record number of overdoses. The problem looks to be only getting worse so far this year.

The scourge of drug-related deaths currently plaguing the country draws immediate parallels to the drug crisis of the 1960s and 1970s, which at the time was considered the “high point” of drug proliferation in the United States. Throughout those two decades, between two and five of every 100,000 deaths in the United States were attributed to drugs, prompting President Nixon to declare a “War on Drugs” in 1971.

As a result, various federal law enforcement agencies charged with combatting illegal drug use saw a drastic expansion in size and power. Drugs like marijuana were re-categorized as a Schedule One banned substance. The government also implemented various public awareness campaigns to warn about the dangers of illegal drug use and imposed harsher penalties for users and dealers. Law enforcement cracked down hard on traffickers bringing drugs like cocaine into the country. Slowly, the overall rate of drug use and drug-related deaths began to decline.

However, this trend saw a sharp reversal beginning in the late 1990s and early 2000s. What had been a crisis largely driven by cocaine and heroin in the 20th century suddenly became a crisis driven by prescription opioids. These drugs didn’t originate in Latin American black markets, but rather in Big Pharma board rooms.

One of the first prescription opioids that decimated American communities was the drug OxyContin, developed by Purdue Pharma in the mid-1990s and approved by the FDA. Millions of Americans were prescribed the drug by a doctor and told it was as safe as penicillin, only to become severely addicted. Evidence has emerged in recent years showing that Purdue knew Americans were becoming addicted to the drug, but continued to tout its safety and effectiveness.

Other pharmaceutical companies also cashed in on the addiction craze, introducing prescription opioids of their own that destroyed lives and shattered communities. Rising awareness about the dangers of prescription opioids in the late 2000s finally led to enough public pressure to force Big Pharma to make their drugs less addictive and more difficult to obtain. But the damage had already been done – millions of Americans were hooked, and turned to other illegal sources for their fix, including heroin laced with fentanyl.

Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid, about 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine. The key ingredients for the drug are primarily produced in China, and fentanyl commonly enters the country via the U.S.-Mexico border. Just two milligrams of the stuff – barely enough to even see with the naked eye – can be deadly.

In 2021, there were 25% more fentanyl-related deaths than in 2020, and 50% more than 2019. While official 2022 figures have not yet been released, the drastic surge in fentanyl trafficking across the U.S.-Mexico border suggests that the figures for last year will likely be much worse.

At the same time, government agencies charged with combatting the overdose epidemic continue to request and receive ever-larger budgets – DEA requested $2.4 billion in FY2022. President Joe Biden has also promised billions in funding for overdose prevention programs.

While more funding to fight addiction is always welcome, the worsening trend lines on the number of users and overdose deaths suggest that a change in strategy is needed as well.

The most obvious policy shift that would help get deadly fentanyl off American streets is securing the southern border. With law enforcement agencies swamped by the massive influx of migrants, fewer resources have been available for countering drug trafficking operations. Since taking office in 2021, Biden’s systematic dismantling of border security has made this problem drastically worse.

Ridding the country of fentanyl also means going after the producers in China, where 99 percent of the stuff originates. Although Biden met with Chinese President Xi Jinping last year, he failed to provide any specific details on whether or not he pressed Xi on the issue. The Chinese government has been notoriously reluctant to impose any restrictions or regulations on plants that produce the chemical raw ingredients for the drug.

Meanwhile, Democrat leaders at the state and local level have taken actions that seem to encourage more, not less illicit drug use. Many cities have created so-called “supervised injection sites,” while states like Oregon have decriminalized possession of all drugs. Bail reform policies and other far-left criminal justice “reforms” have meant that dealers often face little or no consequences for peddling deadly drugs, including fentanyl.

It may well take a change in leadership to begin to address the overdose crisis. Former President Donald Trump made opioid addiction a central part of his campaign in 2016, and declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency once elected. As a result of his actions, overdose numbers began to improve in 2018 and 2019 before worsening with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In his current campaign for president, Trump has pledged to redouble his efforts to combat addiction, including by calling for the death penalty for drug dealers and renewing his administration’s work on securing the U.S.-Mexico border. Whether Trump’s policies are enacted or not, it seems clear that the country desperately needs a new approach to fight the ongoing drug crisis.

Andrew Abbott is the pen name of a writer and public affairs consultant with over a decade of experience in DC at the intersection of politics and culture.

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Tom
Tom
1 year ago

Need to do something about being the most medicated nation in the world.

Patriot Will
Patriot Will
1 year ago

Biden’s refusal to beef up the security on the US Southern Border is resulting in rampant crime and drug deaths. He is purposely ignoring his responsibilities as our chief executive in upholding law and order. There is no good reason to allow the drug cartels to have so much wealth and power. Biden is unfit for his office. He should be impeached and forced to resign.

joe mchugh
joe mchugh
1 year ago

For the life of me, I cannot accept Andrew Abbott’s framing of the illegal drug situation. It seems that every journalist uses the same, or similar description. “The scourge of drug-relatyed deaths currently plaguing the country …” I would have rewritten this sentence as follows: “Good news! The abuse of drug-related deaths is now a self-correcting solution to the weak minded behavior of some of our more obtuse citizens.”

Harsh assessment? Not really, since such drug addicts are usually akin to anchors on the advancement of our society. Do you know one, or two of these drug addicted people? Do you think that they could be contributors of more positive efforts if they weren’t abusing drugs? Yeah, rhetorical questions.

Consider this scenario: All of the laws against the illegal sales, including the sales and use of controlled drugs are rescinded from the Federal and state code books. After a period of time, say 1/2 year, the overdose deaths from abusing drugs would tapper off to a few thousand a year. Problem pretty much solved.

Those who killed themselves in using drugs? As John Wayne said: “Life is hard, It’s even harder when you’re stupid.” I’m almost sure that people can get through life without abusing drugs, but hey, that’s just my way of thinking.

Greg Snyder
Greg Snyder
1 year ago

In 1965 the Rolling Stones released the song “Mother’s Little Helper” speaking to the use of pharmaceuticals to assuage life’s little hurdles. Unfortunately the problem has multiplied and become more lethal in the years since. Ben Franklin once said that to remove people from poverty you must increase their discomfort level. Rather than supporting addicts with services and financial support they should be made to suffer the results of their personal choices. Sure those around them will also suffer but that might help a potential addict to reconsider his or her plunge into the realm of drug dependency.

Jeri
Jeri
1 year ago

Maybe we could execute all dealers on sight. Bet that would stop things immediately. It’s not like they are contributing members of society and just doing this in their spare time…

joe mchugh
joe mchugh
1 year ago

Elizabeth, I am interested. Please reply with your house address. I’m guessing that there is a red light at the front door.

Randall L. Beatty
Randall L. Beatty
1 year ago

Time to bring back the death penalty to these drug pushers and crime in this country would end instead of having them sit on death row pick a date and execute them or others that do crime in this country build the wall hire more border agents stop playing games with those that come into this country and refuse to go back our government do not know what is coming into this country and they could care less people in government live in a different world then us they have big money and they have 24/7 body guards how nice for them does nothing for us.

tika
tika
1 year ago

users (possession) used to be strictly enforced and criminalized. people were scared of prison-time and it worked, but since decriminalization drug use and deaths and mental illness has grown.

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