Abstract Drug Abuse is one of the major social problems that the world is facing. In combating this disease, many programs have been initiated by different governments. In the United States, the government has created several programs that will deal with issues on the use of illegal drugs and drug abuse. The paper contains a discussion of these programs and their goals. It also contains a discussion of the drug law enforcement agencies and the drug abuse policies that the government is implementing. An analysis of the policies and how they can better help drug abusers is also evident in the paper.
Combating Drug Abuse in the United States Prevention is better than cure. Many health related professionals would often utter this cliche. However, they fail to elaborate on what it really means. Prevention and cure appear to have the same meaning, but if one looks at the definition of the terms deeper, the dictionary would spell out that the two terms are not actually similar. The same goes true for drug prevention and drug treatment. Drug Abuse Prevention Drug abuse prevention means that the use of illegal drugs or the abuse of certain medications is avoided.
The individual who wants to engage in the use thereof holds from the use or abuse thereof. It signifies that the individual has not yet engaged in the use of illegal drugs or the abuse of certain addictive substances. The failure to observe drug prevention measures would increase the risk of the individual to engage in illegal drug use and abuse. Drug Abuse Treatment Drug Abuse Treatment on the other hand indicates that an individual has already engaged in the use of illegal drugs or the abuse of addictive substances and there is a need for this individual to engage in a process where the illegal act would be countered or be cured.
It means taking the individual to a rehabilitation program where he could be taught of ways and means of getting the habit of illegal drug use and/ or drug abuse in his system. It is like taking part in a healing and cleansing process. The failure of a drug addict to participate in this process would increase the effects of the addiction to his body and it would also worsen his craving or addiction for the drug. State of Drug Addiction in America All governments in the world are taking several steps to stop the proliferation of drug addicts because of the negative effects that it yields to.
It does not only affect the body of the drug addict but it also affects the family of such individual and the people who are living in the society to where he dwells. It may either be a direct or an indirect impact to the society and to other people. Based on the data of the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (ONDCP1, 2008), there are 19. 9 million people in America who are using illicit drugs. This accounts fro 8. 3 percent of the total American population. However, this figure could be higher as the survey is only limited to 67, 500 people.
There is no direct correlation between drug abuse and the commission of certain crimes however, research figures indicate that many of those who are incarcerated tested positive for drugs. It has been reported that 70 percent and 57 percent of the adults who are incarcerated in state and federal prisons respectively used drugs on a regularly basis before they were incarcerated. Research on juvenile delinquents, on the other hand, revealed that 56 percent of boys while 40 percent of girls tested positive of drug use when they were arrested (NIH, 2006).
These figures only indicate that many of those who use drugs also have a high probability of committing crimes. Aside from this, there are also negative effects to the body of the individual which might cause severe repercussions to his health. These are the reasons why the government is exerting efforts to curb drug addiction and use of illegal drugs. Drug Abuse Treatment Programs In the United States, there are various drug addiction treatment programs that the government offers to the people. Among these treatment programs is the access to recovery and drug courts.
The access to recovery program was launched in 2003 in order to expand the treatment options of those who have drug addiction problems. Through this program, the government provides vouchers that can be used to engage in drug treatment programs of health companies. These vouchers include treatment options from community and faith based providers. This gives the beneficiaries more leeway to choose a treatment which will help them overcome their addiction. Although this program is seen by several entities to be ambitious, it provides a big help to those who have drug addiction problems since their choices are not limited (ONDCP2, 2007).
According to the National Institute on Drug Addiction (NIH, 2006), there is no single effective treatment for drug addiction. The effectivity thereof varies from one individual to another. An effective treatment addresses all the needs of the individual and not just the drug addiction part—there is a holistic approach. If the vouchers that the government provides to drug addicts who want to undergo treatment is limited only to several institutions, this might affect the way they react to it.
The more choices available, the greater is the chance that the drug addict will be able to cope up with his addiction. Expanding the coverage of treatment vouchers also means expanding the chance of drug addicts to find a suitable treatment for them. Another drug abuse treatment program of the government is the creation of drug courts. This program was started in 1989 in order to address the problems with individuals who continue to commit drug related crimes. These courts divert non-violent and substance abusing offenders from the prison cells to treatment facilities.
They are subjected to strict monitoring by the court and long term treatment services. The beneficiary of the program is mandated to appear regularly in court (ONDCP3, 2007). The program aims to lower the cases of re-arrest and improve the outcome of the drug abuse treatments. Research on the said program indicates that it is successful in curbing the rise of recidivists. Compared to other community supervision programs, drug courts employ a more comprehensive supervision and monitoring. They require frequent drug testing among the beneficiaries.
This procedure has led to a significant reduction of drug use among the participants (NDCI, n. d. ). There are more than 1, 500 drug courts that are operating in the United States to date (NIJ, 2006). Drug Abuse Prevention Programs Aside from the drug abuse treatment programs, the government also has drug abuse prevention programs. Among these programs is National Youth Anti-Drug Media campaign. The basic purpose of this campaign is to educate the people on the effects of illegal drugs and drug abuse to the body and the society. It aims to prevent the use of illegal drugs before it even starts.
The targets of this campaign are the youth aged 9 to 18 years old, parents and adults who exercise strong influence in the decisions that youths make (ONDCP4, 2006). The campaign involves the use of different communication techniques from the advertising and public relations sectors and the interactive media. The campaign utilizes the news media, the internet, entertainment writers as well as producers in getting their message across. The facilitators of the campaign also teams up with civic organizations in order to gather wider audience.
The multi-faceted coverage of the campaign allows the proliferation of the campaign message to more people. The more people who become aware of drug addiction and the effects thereof, the greater is the possibility that they will be able to develop measures and practices that will help them avoid drug addiction. Another drug prevention program of the government is the random student drug testing. One of the goals of this program is to discourage the students from taking prohibited drugs and developing addiction towards it.
Through this program, the students are obliged to avoid using prohibited drugs (ONDCP5, n. d. ). The program was not designed to punish those adolescents who are found to positive of illegal drug use but to help them cope with their addiction and be rehabilitated as early as possible. Prolonged drug addiction may cause severe health problems. Federal Drug Law Enforcement In the United States, drug trafficking proves to be a very profitable business. The records indicate that merchant as well as passenger ships carry illegal drugs such as cocaine, marijuana and heroin.
These drugs are concealed in shipping containers and cargoes. There are many groups who are responsible for bringing for prohibited drugs in the United States. Among these groups are drug syndicates from South America. The main drugs distributed by the syndicates are cocaine and heroin. Drug traffickers from Mexico are also responsible for the distribution of drugs in the country. The geographic location of the country makes it easy for syndicates to operate in the United States. Among the drugs that they smuggle are marijuana, cocaine, heroin, amphetamine and methamphetamine (US no Drugs, n. d. ).
According to the National Drug Intelligence Center (2006), the three big drug traffickers in the United States are the Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations (MTO), Colombian Drug Trafficking Organizations (CTO) and Dominican Drug Trafficking Organizations (DTO). The MTO is the biggest and most influential among the three. It has control over the domestic distribution of drugs in the United States. The CTO, although it remains to be the principal source of cocaine and drug traffickers, are distancing themselves from direct selling in the country. They sell their products to other drug trafficking organizations such as the MTO.
This process removes the risk of being apprehended by US law enforcers. The distribution of drugs in the United States has increased drug related violence in the country. Although there is no significant increase in the number of drug users in the United States, the number of drug users remains to be relatively high. This can be attributed to the fact that illegal drugs have become readily available in almost all cities in the United States. International and domestic drug trafficking organizations have made the proliferation of such drugs easier in the country.
They have organized themselves in such as way that they could easily get away from the law enforcers (US No Drugs, n. d. ). The conglomeration of the drug syndicates does not only make it easier for them to run away from law enforcers but it has also led to the retention of the low price of illegal drugs. The cheaper the drugs are; the more people are encouraged to try it. Due to the continued proliferation of drugs in the United States, several federal drug law enforcement agencies were created. Among these agencies is the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
The agency was created under the administration of President Nixon with the primary goal of establishing a unified command to fight the drug menace in the world. Among its responsibilities are the investigation and preparation for the prosecution of drug organizations, and those who violate the controlled substance laws. It is also responsible for all the drug related law enforcement counterparts in other countries. The DEA is the only federal law enforcement agency that is involved in the suppression of cannabis cultivation in the United States.
Cannabis or marijuana is the only drug that is cultivated within the borders of the United States. The DEA program eliminates all cannabis plants in the country whether or not it is cultivated indoors or outdoors. This program has prompted cannabis growers to shift to methods where they can easily conceal the growing of such plant. However, the DEA is striving hard to catch up with these technologies (US DEA, n. d. ). Another federal drug law enforcement agency is the Office of the National Drug Control Policy (NDCP).
The purpose of this agency is to formulate policies, objectives and priorities for the drug control program of the country. It is in charged with the production of the National Drug Control Strategy (NDCS) that will collaborate efforts of local, State and Federal entities (ONDCP6, n. d. ). The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is the main arm of the government in the enforcement of the criminal laws in the country, this includes drug laws. This agency was designed to safeguard the national security. Among the crimes that they investigate are organized crimes and counterintelligence.
It conducts investigations that are related to drug trafficking and investigates the profits and assets of drug organizations and how the government can seize them. They also develop drug enforcement programs in order to counter drug trafficking threats (Baltimore FBI, n. d. ). These agencies formulate varied policies and programs that aim to curb the proliferation of illegal drugs and the increase of people getting hooked with it. However, these policies have advantages and disadvantages. There is no single policy that will address all the drug-related problems in the country.
Among the measures proposed to improve the drug related policies is the decriminalization of drug use. There are certain prohibited drugs which have medical benefits and among these drugs is marijuana. It was used to cure stomach problems in the olden times. There are also other drugs which have medical benefits and yet the use or even possession thereof is prohibited. Due to the strict drug laws, there is a high number of drug abuse violations. Decriminalization does not mean legalization of the use of drugs it only means the reduction of the penalty for it (Powell, 2005).
There are some states in the America which does not incarcerate those individuals which are caught in possession of drugs in small amount as long as they agree to undergo treatment. These states include: California, Alaska, Colorado, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, New York, Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon and Ohio (Norml, 2002). The decriminalization policies that these states have imposed are backed by studies and research which claims that decriminalization does not necessarily lead to substance abuse, as protesters of such policy claim. Drug Abuse Policies
Drug abuse is not a crime but a disease. In order to combat this disease, punitive measures are not the answer. The government instead of engaging in expensive war on drugs and drug traffickers, it should concentrate on the treatment of drug abusers. Incarcerating violators of drug laws will not help the drug addicts because it is not the proper way to treat them. Drug abuse is not a criminal act but a disease that should be treated and cured. Incarceration will not help drug addicts since this process does not actually address the concerns of the individual.
As indicated earlier, an effective treatment for drug abuse is something which will holistically address the needs of the individual concerned. Many have been proposing that drug abuse be decriminalized as this is a more humane way of treating the disease. However, the proposal has not yet been fully recognized by the federal government because of fear that doing such would yield to higher incidence of drug abuse and criminality. Moreover there are also certain groups who are lobbying for the legalization of the use certain drugs which have medicinal purposes. Among these drugs are: cocaine, heroin and marijuana.
People should be allowed access to this kind of drug because it works in the same way as morphine does. There are certain instances where the use of heroin would be more effective for treatment. Marijuana on the other hand is used to treat glaucoma and combat the side effects of chemotherapy. It is also useful for the treatment of AIDS because it helps in relieving pain and in stimulating appetite. However, there are some medical professionals who disagree with these conclusions. According to them, these drugs are not necessary in the treatment of these diseases.
There are other less addictive drugs that can be employed in order to limit the effects thereof (Drug Library, n. d. ). The use of these drugs for treatment of certain diseases may lead to other illnesses if not used in moderation. Another debated drug abuse policy is the harm reduction policy. The advocates for this policy contends that in order to combat the adverse effects of drug abuse, there is a need to create a comprehensive approach to drug abuse and drug policies. This method embraces the idea that there is no society that is free from the use and abuse of illegal and legal drugs respectively.
Unlike other drug abuse prevention policies, this policy meets the drug users to where they are. The policies are formulated in consideration of the needs of the drug abusers—what leads them to abuse and what are steps that should be undertaken in order to help them get out of the habit. Aside from this, the program also engages in public education of drug abuse and addiction. Ways and means are being developed in order to make the people understand the consequences of getting hooked with drugs. The better they understand the system, the greater will their resentment will it be for the act (Harm Reduction Coalition, n. d. ).
For a country such as the United States, the best drug abuse policy is the decriminalization of drug abuse. True enough, drug abuse is not a criminal act but a disease. Leaving drug abusers in prison cells will not do them any good since this does not actually heal them. Instead of their needs being addressed, additional burdens are imposed on them. Drug abusers need proper treatment, something which will help them to settle the issues that they have and assist them in thinking logically as well as making the right decisions.
The determining factor in the success of any treatment for drug abuse lies in the voluntariness of the patient to participate in the process. If the drug addict profess willingness to undergo treatment then curing his disorder will be easy. However no matter how scientifically formulated a certain program is if the patient does not want to participate then the desired results will never be achieved. The beauty with this policy is the requirement of the patient willingness to undergo treatment. It does not force the drug abuser but encourages him to be firm with his decisions. References Access to Recovery. (2007).
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