National Security , Newsline

Beat Drug Overdoses – By Caring

Posted on Monday, February 27, 2023
by AMAC, Robert B. Charles

Recent conversations with counter drug experts reveal America will likely record more than 120,000 young Americans overdosed last year. That is twice our losses in all of Vietnam, three times our dead from the Korean War – and in one year. Year before? 108,000 dead young Americans. We must do better, we have done better. We have solutions if we care to get on them.

In the 1970s, drug abuse was widespread – but lower purities, lower addictive potency, heroin one-tenth current purity, marijuana one-twenty-fifth. President Reagan – and his wife Nancy – undertook to reverse that trend, joined by successor George H. W. Bush. Together, they did.

In the decade from 1982 to 1992, drug abuse, addiction, emergency room incidents, and overdoses fell, as awareness of addiction’s angers and risks grew, along with cultural rejection. Strong prevention, treatment, law enforcement, border and maritime interdiction, and international engagement rose. This combination, without hesitation, did the trick.

The correlation is so strong it makes clear – these coordinated policies worked. Thus, “monthly cocaine use dropped from nearly 3 million users in 1988 to 1.3 million in 1990,” capping a decade of declining drug abuse. After a presidential address, “Overall drug abuse dropped from 14.5 million users to 11.4 million” in one year, 1991 to 1992. Leadership turned the dial.

More broadly, based on an honest discussion of how illegal drugs affect the brain, body, reproductive organs, judgment, ambition, and attitude – and real effort to stop foreign drugs, major change occurred.

Overall drug use plummeted by more than half between 1977 and 1992, capturing the last years of Jimmy Carter, totality of Reagan and Bush, putting the nation on course to reverse overdoses.

Moreover, as congressional testimony affirmed, related social problems – including high school “dropout rate, illegitimacy…HIV, and violent crime” fell in turn. Other social ills are statistically tied to drug abuse – including suicide, 80 percent of domestic abuse, chiefly of women and children, drugged driving, accidents, falling educational scores, and auto accidents.

Unfortunately, like taking your fist from a bucket, things fill in fast behind you. If you lose focus, give up a fight, imagine the fight won, you slide backwards. In the mid-1990s, drug abuse crept up, until a Republican Congress and Democrat President again acted to reverse it.

Again, they did. Working together, with consistent messaging and a robust effort to coordinate honest, unvarnished truth about drug abuse, addiction, overdoses, and the pain they create, Republicans and Democrats did what Reagan and Bush 41 had done before, reversed abuse.

Methodically – with unblinking reference to facts – they spoke truth, together aligning drug prevention in schools, communities, the military, and government with addiction and dependence treatment. They did this not with “harm reduction” or “legalization,” both of which encourage use and addiction, but with proven means for genuinely ending dependence and addition.

They also embraced three coordinated responses, stronger support for federal and state law enforcement against drug trafficking, tough border-and-maritime interdiction, and proven international alliances and programs to reduce drug trafficking, drug-related crime, and drug-funded terror.

From 1995 to 2000, part of the US House Oversight Committee for which I served as staff director and chief counsel led dozens of hearings, featured drug czars and DEA Administrators, everyone from Nancy Reagan and Bill Bennett to Coast Guard Admirals Yost, Kramek, and Loy.

In Congress, Speaker Gingrich set up a Counternarcotics Task Force. Committee leaders in both parties formed one Bipartisan Drug Policy Working Group – a well-attended, serious effort. My jobs included being senior staff for both. Not surprisingly, these congressional efforts bore fruit.

Until the early 2000s, bipartisan congressional, coordinated with two White Houses that cared, showed when the nation works to reduce drug abuse, addiction, and overdoses, we can do it.

Sadly, starting in the early 2000s, taken off course by 9-11, then “transformational” cultural distractions, and shameless promotors of drug abuse, the nation’s drug problem – returned.

This time, unlike past periods, a “perfect storm” of poor leadership created a wildfire – one that continues to consume young people at an alarming rate. In effect, the idea of honestly presenting dangers associated with narcotics abuse and addiction, potential overdose, and the terrifying nature of trying to escape addiction – were thrown away.

Prevention was belittled, thrown out for what politicians thought was easy money, taxing the addicted, pretending they had compassion for devastated lives and families by shifting some money to treatment. It was a shell game, and they knew it going in.

Experts knew it would be a dead end – amplify pain for kids, parents, the nation. Added to hostility for police, border security, and assured prison for traffickers, the wildfire grew.

Why? Because getting addicted to dangerous drugs is easy; escaping addiction is hard, often nearly impossible. One can get addicted in a use or two, even die; getting out can take years.

All this betrays callousness, lack of compassion, lack of caring for those around us – who like the next young person you see just need truth, a reality check, and if they should slip, then treatment. Law enforcement, border enforcement, and international engagement also matter. Politicians play games with the drug issue – their games kill people, especially young people.

So, what is the good news? Just this. We have solutions, know how they work, must care enough to cooperate again – and save the next hundred thousand kids, currently alive but gone a year from now without concerted effort to intercede, speak truth, lead with heart. So, let us start.

Robert Charles is a former Assistant Secretary of State under Colin Powell, former Reagan and Bush 41 White House staffer, attorney, and naval intelligence officer (USNR). He wrote “Narcotics and Terrorism” (2003), “Eagles and Evergreens” (2018), and is National Spokesman for AMAC.

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Elizabeth Misa
Elizabeth Misa
1 year ago

This also ties in with mental health. In the past in the state of Florida

joe mchugh
joe mchugh
1 year ago

So, Robert Charles suggests that more “caring” attitude about the drug overdose deaths would help solve the Problem. Well just to show that I do care about this ongoing crises, I have my own suggestions to offer.

First, and foremost, make every effort to educate our youth that by abusing drugs, they would be
damaging themselves, ………….. sometimes to the awful situation of overdosing.

For the young people, (and the not so young), who still decide against such advice, I would call for making full strength, i.e. uncut, drugs available. This would, of course, lead to immediate and massive overdosing of the fatally foolish.

Now consider the cost of such harsh advice. Our society would almost overnight shed the fully addicted who represent a drag on our society’s advancement. Add to that the savings of the expenses of the “War on Drugs” campaign. By the way, some of the saved money might be put aside to cheaply bury the overdosed addicts in various potter’s fields across the country.

Now compare my “caring” to the caring that Mr. Charles calls for. Which would have more immediate results? Think of this as being a more practical solution to our national drug problem.
Challenge: How much moral “caring” is needed to save the addicted drug abuser? Let’s reword that sentence for accuracy: How much taxpayer money is needed to save the addicted drug abuser? In either case, what have been the results of all this hand wringing over those who chose to start abusing drugs? (I’m not talking about the patients who became addicted to the pain medication needed for medical treatments.) Dare I suggest that the “War on Drugs” has little to show for all of the taxpayer supported efforts? Better question: How successful has the war on drugs been over the past decades?

1 year ago

Perhaps the children that have been saved… and their parents… would not think so. The efforts ate laborious, but they are their own reward. A life saved is an empire. Semper fi.

1 year ago

Hi world: When I worked over in the soviet union and the middle east in health care I saw a lot of underground religions while in this country I saw religion being taken out of our schools and our lives. I saw also a lot of death and destruction by hose who worshiped their gods control and money. I also saw that alcohol was used extensively by people. I have been very compassionate to those who have mental health problems in this country as well as those in other countries. I firmly believe that Mr. Charles has hit the proverbial nail on the head once again and that he has it right in his article. I have had a rough past year as at my age (82+) and with the diagnosis of Parkinson’s all I want to do is help those people were ever they are live out their dreams. But the reality has stepped in that unless we really wake up to what is going on in this country (biden and his ilk) we have no chance. I have given up on trying to change all the “useful idiots” and am concentrating more on my book that I need to write about and my husband’s lives who lived under hitler and soviet control in east Germany as he was born in Berlin in 1938. I am realizing how blessed I have been in my choice of husband and in my career the older I am. I know what it means to care as I have lived through he– on earth and I have survived. I just read an article about the war crimes putin is imposing on the people of Ukraine. What was so sad was the letters written in to AMAC by the so called NORMAL people in this country. Anyway thank you for letting me expound on my true beliefs. And thank you Mr. Charles by stating that caring is the answer to many of the world’s problems! I know if we cared more that would be a good way to decrease the deaths due to drug overdoses. And for anyone who has not been in a war I would ask you to please really read and listen to Mr. Charles and what he writes. Carol

1 year ago

I forgot to add the god “POWER”as one of the gods the “useful idiots” worship. So I also want to ask why I am being told I have to eceive approval to speak the TRUTH in my birth country! Thank you, Carol PS: I hope that Mr. Charles sees this and can tell me WHY!

David Millikan
David Millikan
1 year ago

Left out that there was a good 40 million less people then according to time frame and there wasn’t all kinds of designer drugs then either.
The government is the main culprit by not securing our borders.
Practically all the drugs that come in through Mexico and Canada are from Communist China.

1 year ago

All Americans need to be educated to never try any illegal drugs or they will probably get addicted & ruin their life. Starting in grade school, teach kids to never take a pill that any other person wants them to try. If there are no buyers, then that should mean no sellers someday.

1 year ago

Duh…Drugs were ILLEGAL until recently. Now the government condones drug use with a wink and nod because they think think monies will magically help these fools balance bloated budgets. The government also, I believe, is happy when everyone is high because then they’re too out of their minds to pay attention to government shenanigans, mismanagement and possible illegality

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