The war on drugs is a familiar slogan of previous presidents and other law enforcement agencies. Everyone understands that drugs and substance abuse destroys lives, communities and has an overall negative effect on the United States. Doing nothing does not help the situation. As such, programs have been put in place to reduce and eliminate drugs, drug abuse, sales, and addiction. Unfortunately, drugs continue to be a problem. Why? With so much money and effort going into this cause, how is it that drugs are still prevalent? Could it be the way in which this country attacks the drug problem? This is the question that experts are now wrestling with today. Today’s laws punish those who are caught with drugs. Drugs are illegal, using them is illegal; therefore, if you are caught with them, you will be forced to accept the punishment. That is exactly what it is; a punishment. Does this punishment prevent people from using and abusing drugs? Or is it fueling the drug epidemic?

Drug Prevention Programs

There are a plethora of drug prevention programs that have been used over the last several decades. These programs use a number of different methods to deliver the same message, drugs are bad. They try to inform, scare, and divert young adults’ attention away from drugs towards more productive activities. In theory, this all sounds great. In reality, the drug problem in this nation continues to get worse. So, why are these programs working? Studies have shown that programs like D.A.R.E. and ‘This is your brain on drugs’ are ineffective for a variety of reasons. Research has shown that many of these programs actually increase children’s interest in drugs and drug use. Many students have stated that they never thought of using drugs like crack or cocaine (actually they had never heard of it) until they saw the drug prevention campaign against those drugs. The scare tactics used on children today are nearly worthless. Kids are exposed to images, events, and situations that are much worse than any commercial or school program can show them. As a matter of fact, most students admit that these scare tactics to be humorous; similar to the new cult classic Reefer Madness is to those who smoke marijuana today.

Punishment for Drug Abuse

How is the criminalization of addiction fueling the drug epidemic? It seems pretty simple. Do drugs and get caught and you get into a considerable amount of legal trouble. That trouble is both in terms of freedom (prison time), legal trouble, family dysfunction, employment issues and financial hardships. This is evidently an immense series of issues that drug users have to be concerned with, yet the drug abuse problem continues to increase. Punishment for drug abuse does not curtail the issue; rather studies have shown that it actually increases the problem. Drugs are an incredibly lucrative business to get involved in due to their legal position, which is why so many are willing to accept the risks. When they are caught and jailed for their crime, these criminals only learn more ways to mask their illegal activity and increase profit because prisons are a hotbed for this type of deviant education. In addition, by punishing the person abusing drugs the state is not preventing that person from using drugs again; especially if that person is an addict. Studies have proven that the best way to treat an addiction is through long-term drug treatment. Therefore, punishment does not treat the underlying cause of the illegal activity. Punishing addiction only fuels the drug epidemic, but by treating addiction the country can begin to reduce the damage of the drug epidemic.