What many do not know is that America’s longest-running war has been the War on Drugs. It is not Afghanistan, Iraq, or anything else.
Every single year, drugs, prescription as well as non-prescription (illegal substances), claim the lives of countless Americans. The war on drugs has been going on for nearly five decades. In those five decades, the country has pumped in billions of dollars.
This incredible money has gone into activating law enforcement agencies, creating national institutions, raising support, raising awareness, and informing public discourse. With more than 70,000 Americans dying every single year, Biden and his deputy, Harris, need to end this.
Opinions are divided on either end of the political and social spectrums. Some believe that Biden and Harris have what it takes to tackle this problem. Others believe that Biden lacks what it takes, given his prior engagement with the subject from his Senate days.
The History that Precedes President Biden and America’s War on Drugs
Joe Biden has been a career diplomat. He has always held a tough position as far as the war on drugs has been concerned. The year was 1989, and Biden was the Head of the Senate Judiciary Committee. In a speech that has started doing the rounds ever since his appointment, Biden had gone on record saying that the then President’s (George Bush senior) policies were not tough enough to make a difference. Biden pushed for the following in the 1980s and 1990s-
- More dedicated law enforcement agencies will be specifically created to fight the menace in society.
- Appointment of more public prosecutors that will be able to put those dealing drugs away for a long time.
- More judges dispose of the cases in a fast and punitive manner and pass tough sentences that act as a harsh prevention mechanism.
- Building more prisons that could house those dealing with drugs and rehabilitate them successfully.
Many interpreted this as a direct call to action in favor of incarceration. While the present Democratic establishment, as well as Biden, is much more affable, there is no denying the fact that it was Biden that tried to make the legal system as lethal as it could become.
The truth is that tough incarceration and Biden’s earlier strengthening of the Criminal Justice System have not been successful. If it had been, we would not have 70,000 Americans losing their lives every single year.
President Biden and the National Drug Control Strategy: Will it work?
On April 21, 2022, President Biden released the National Drug Control Strategy and presented the same to Congress. This was on the back of heartbreaking statistics that pointed out a record 106,854 American lives were lost due to drug overdose.
The entire National Drug Control Strategy can be divided into two main sections-
- Identifying and treating untreated addiction problems-
There is a consensus in government circles that the first step toward fighting the war on drugs is by checking addiction. This means that the role of recovery centers and detox facilities becomes very important. The government, along with experts, have spoken about the greater need for people to reach out and seek professional help, including cognitive behavioral therapy.
- Checking drug trafficking through law enforcement agencies-
The war on drugs has a second focus- checking the entry, accessibility, and distribution of drugs within the country. When it is not heroin, it is cocaine; when it is not cocaine, it is fentanyl. No matter what the type of drug, it is causing serious problems in American society. Trafficking needs to be supported by the criminal justice system and dealt with strongly.
Why is Addiction Recovery a Strong Part of the National Control Drug Strategy?
In a 2020 study, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSUDH) stated that 41 million Americans require immediate intervention and treatment for substance abuse disorders (SUD).
While this number was startling, what was even more shocking was the fact that just about 2.7 million Americans could receive addiction recovery treatment.
Experts were quick to point out that the large percentage of individuals that could not get treatment was because of several barriers and societal stigma.
The use of Naloxone as something that could prevent drug overdose and control mortality rates has been met with both positive and negative reactions.
Several states in the American Union have restricted the spread and use of Naloxone. However, the Biden administration has been quick to spot this and has, in fact, started arguing and lobbying heavily for access to Naloxone in several parts of the country. This is in tune with Biden’s call to champion ‘harm reduction’.
Low-income groups and segregated communities where the drug problem has assumed epidemic status require uninterrupted access to Naloxone as well as support from programs like Syringe Services Program. Accessibility to information and treatment options has become a top priority of the President, who was once a champion for punitive actions.
Higher Budgets for the CBP and the DEA in Biden’s National Drug Control Strategy
Two institutions are critical to America winning the war on drugs, according to Biden. They are the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
The plan outlines increasing the budgets and investing $300 Million in each body. The goal is to create specialized barriers to the production and distribution of synthetic and non-synthetic drugs in American society.
Biden wants to target drug traffickers where it hurts more- their financials. The plan outlines in great detail how the goal is to prevent the flow of money. If that is interrupted, everything from production to supply and distribution will be affected.
There is an action plan that outlines three major areas that need to be paid attention to-
- The Caribbean borders
- The Northern Borders
- The Southwest Borders
The government, the document states, is committed to working with international agencies in terms of data and intelligence to prevent the spread of drug trafficking in not only North America but the rest of the world.
The Bottom Line
The National Drug Control Strategy is a far cry from what Biden had called for in the 80s and 90s. It outlines a more mature approach, calling for a greater call to education, information, and data. The plan outlines several steps that deal with the dissemination of information in schools, colleges, and universities.
While a positive step has been taken in the right direction as far as the War on Drugs is concerned, only time will tell whether this will be the first success that the country will experience or it will go down once again in a long list of failures that have come before it.