For almost a decade, the United States has been engaging in a war filled with confusion and challenges. This is the war against illegal drugs that has had devastating effects on the social, political and economic life.
To some, it is a war that is not worth the cost because of the high levels of commitment among wealthy drug dealer millionaires that always find a way of getting their operations on the move.
Drugs surfaced as early as in the 1800’s when opium was the most popular. Believe me you, most of the drugs labeled “illegal” today were first used for medicinal and spiritual purposes.
A good example was morphine that was used to decrease pain. It wasn’t long before users began experimenting with these drugs and drug abuse began to soar. Today, drugs have become part of our contemporary life, and their effects seem to get worse despite harsh law enforcements.
Well, wondering how it all begin? It is a long journey that is somewhat filled with mixed reactions and varying opinions.
In the beginning
Even though illegal drugs have caused many social problems in the American soil, they were first used as over-the-counter prescription medication. There are controversies regarding the exact time of discovery of drugs.
However, it is very clear that the earliest use of drugs has some attributes to native cultures during the ancient ages.
In the entire history of illegal medicinal products in the America, marijuana holds the crown for being the most commonly abused the drug. This most popular illicit drug dates back to the Jamestown settlers in the 1600’s.
It was legalized for psychoactive or medicinal applications and was also popular among the adults for recreational purposes. By the year 1937, there were a high number of violent crimes because of Marijuana use. Later, the approval of Marijuana Tax Act criminalized its use.
Opium was also one of the earliest medicinal herbs that caught the attention of many because of its powerful medicinal value. It was a common drug among the Chinese migrants. By the early 1900’s, anyone could buy opium freely in the U.S.A. People were experimenting with opium and using it for recreational purposes. Opium dens were beginning to spread in the mid-19th century.
By this time, opium use started raising concern. Chinese migrants were the reason for luring Americans into the opium dens way of life. In 1970, the Congress passed the Controlled Substance Act to control the soaring drug epidemic. California passed the first anti-opium law in 1872, but less was achieved as the policy didn’t cover abusers who used opium in private residences.
On the other hand, consumers were celebrating the discovery of injectable and highly potent morphine (opium derivative discovered in 1906) that led to widespread addiction on American soil. Morphine became the most common painkiller that was also used by soldiers to help battle injuries.
It became known as the “Soldiers Disease” as more soldiers got addicted even though doctors had prescribed the new opiate derivative as a non-addictive cure for opium addicts.
The next epidemic that became prevalent in America was heroin addiction that spread so fast. French was responsible for the huge supply of heroin into the U.S. American servicemen also became victims of heroin abuse during the Vietnam War.
Commercial Drug Phase
Between the 18th and the 19th century, most well-known commercial products sold over the counter contained drugs. You can imagine buying an illicit drug at the grocery store.
For instance, cocaine toothache pills became common and easily available in the stores. They were used to cure tooth problems. Fraser tablets were also used to cure asthma and contained heroin. Additionally, Mrs. Window’s Soothing Syrup helped calm teething babies.
In 1906, the Food and Drug Act was passed. It required that all medicines containing opiates among other substances be labeled. It was during this time that the world most known brand, Coca-Cola began using decocainized leaves instead of unprocessed coca leaves.
The Nixon Operation
President Richard Nixon is one of the most recognized figure in the war against illegal drugs in the U.S. According to him; drug abuse was the number one public enemy to the United States.
In 1973, he developed the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in a move to combat the illegal aboveground marijuana market. DEA had over 1470 agents and was allocated $75 million but sooner than later, the amount was inadequate.
However, nothing could make President Nixon declare nothing less of the “war on drugs.” He increased the size of DEA agency and pushed for accurate measures against licit drugs in the U.S. He even rejected the proposal by the commission to decriminalize the possession and distribution of Marijuana.
Incarceration Skyrocketing Era
The impact of drugs began to raise the concern of the public and lawmakers. The number of people that were going to the bars as a result of drug-related offenses began to skyrocket. The number rose from 50,000 in 198 to 400,000 by 1997. People were getting addicted to smoked cocaine that was better called as “crack.”
In 1982, Nancy Reagan, the wife of President Ronald Reagan, began his anti-drug campaign with the slogan “Just Say No.” This later led to more zero tolerance drug policies in the late 1980’s. Harsh drug policies helped reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS by suppressing the expansion of syringe access programs.
As the 20th century approached, drug policies shifted from being harsh and punitive to more sensible and accommodative laws.
Despite the long war on illegal drugs, we all suffer the consequences of drug abuse, directly or indirectly. You may have lost a loved one to drugs or know somebody who is suffering because of drugs. Drug cartels are responsible for several crimes and killings in the society today.
The U.S. government has spent more than $2.5 trillion fighting illicit drugs, but the war seems to be very far from being over. However, thanks to scientists for their commitments in drug-related research.
They help the society understand the effects and the increasing sophistication surrounding the entire drug abuse. This results in more effective treatment that helps combat the drug addiction across the U.S. and the world as a whole.
People are also learning a lot about the short-term and long-term drug abuse effects.