The War on Drugs, the Battle of Verdun, and Prescription Drugs

To quote novelist Jonathan Safran Foer, the campaign rhetoric has become “extremely loud and incredibly close”.  It is, therefore, an excellent time to consider a broader perspective of some seemingly unrelated recent events clouding the bipartisan horizon like swarms of mosquitoes at the summer family reunion.

In short order the Fast and Furious AFT gun smuggling scandal has devolved: the Republican controlled House has reduced its critique of the AFT scandal to a call for Attorney General Eric Holder, Jr., to step down.  But there is still a remarkable and disturbing absence of the facts in this case.  For instance, there is still no factual link established between the guns used to kill Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry in 2010 and the guns unaccounted for in the AFT’s bungled border operations

And while the names of the four at large suspects in the murderer of Agent Brian Terry were at last being released to the media, along with a $1 million reward for information leading to the arrests, Mexico had one of its six-year presidential elections. In spite of virulent charges of election fraud by the two major opposition parties, Enrique Pena Nieto is the new President of our neighbor to the south.  As such President Nieto represents the best interests of the PRI, the very same political party that spawned and nurtured Mexico’s drug cartels throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

Most recently our own DEA denied any major changes in drug policy even as it ramped up hands-on operations in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala.  At the same time the DEA organized new units in Ghana, Kenya, and Nigeria.

Lest we forget the common denominator in all these events, it is illegal drugs.  It is equally important to remember the history of our current War on Drugs and its rationale. The War on Drugs was first declared on October 14, 1982  after President Reagan referenced World War One’s infamous Battle of Verdun in which 700,000 French and German soldiers massacred each other in vicious trench warfare, President Reagan quoted a French soldier that, “There are no impossible situations. There are only people who think they’re impossible.”

There is, however, some good recent news in a federal study of drug use. From the recently released “2010 National Survey on Drug Use” we learn that cocaine use shows a steady decline since 2002 to 1.5 million users. At the same time fully 7 million Americans, “non-medical users of psychotherapeutic drugs”, reported taking prescription drugs including xanax (alprazolam) and oxycodone. (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration @  http://www.samhsa.gov/data/NSDUH/2k10NSDUH/2k10Results.htm ) .

In short, while cocaine and methamphetamine appear to have peaked, now Americans are much more likely to overdose-and to die-from prescription drugs than illegal drugs.  Meanwhile marijuana usage dwarfs all other illegal drugs and prescription drugs at a steadily rising 17 million users, approximately 7% of every citizen over twelve years of age.

The War on Drugs has fostered unintended consequences. It’s easy to point the finger at a combination of federal law enforcement agencies, the military, defense contractors and related institutions and services, all of which have come to rely on federal largess since 1982 and which, three decades after Reagan’s War on Drugs, have all been tainted by graft, scandal, incompetence, and hubris.

But while our 2012 version of the War on Drugs should have fostered an all-out offensive against the abundance of prescription drug, it is our major pharmaceutical companies who still deftly manage to escape public attention from their role in our failed national drug policy.  A case in point is their unwillingness, except in corporate rhetoric, to make it more difficult for criminal producers of methamphetamine to gather the essential chemical ingredients found in a number of non-prescription drugs that the pharmas manufacture.

It’s hard to believe where Reagan’s War on Drugs has led us, but we now run the risk of justifying an increased military presence in an expanding number of foreign countries in the name of Reagan’s failed War on Drugs.  An ever increasing global policing in the name of curtailing international criminal drug cartels may in fact create more national security risks than it allegedly stifles.

Our ability to face up to and resolve our massive drug consumption at home, the “demand side” for both prescription and illegal drugs, seems beyond the pale of our two presidential candidates as their campaigns continue to grow increasingly loud and incredibly close.  Lost in this political chatter and blather are proven remedies, therapies, and other solutions and alternatives for drug-shattered families torn apart by abundant and cheap drugs, drugs which are both crossed illegally from Mexico as well as prescription drugs produced within our own borders.

The electioneering supported by the new Super Pacs temporarily will abate after November, but the consequences of our current national drug policy, including its impact on national security, will continue to gravely damage and threaten our country.

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