The War on Perseverance

“The War on Perseverance”—The War on Drugs has been effectively reduced drug use availability, and abuse.

By Alice Hou

“The War on Drugs has reduced the demand for illegal drugs by half,” says Asa Hutchinson, the director of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).  The goal of the War on Drugs is to reduce drug use. The specific target is to destroy and inhibit the international drug trade, then make drug habits unaffordable in the U.S.. Hutchinson rejects the claim that the war is too draconian; he also asserts that the vast majority of drug felons are imprisoned for trafficking offenses, not just for simply using or possessing small amounts of illegal drugs.  



Asa Hutchinson, is the director and administrator of George W. Bush’s first Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).  What Hutchinson noticed is that the agenda of legalization is perpetuated by some myths that have been promoted by those who seek to change our current policy, and those myths are believed by some because they have lost hope.   Hence, Hutchinson concludes that the war on drugs can be won as long as Americans do not give up the battle and preserve.  Besides Hutchinson emphasizes that Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) enforces the laws very strictly.  What the DEA is doing is by going after drug trafficking, they’re only incarcerating and targeting drug traffickers, not just small users. Which means if we get the drug traffickers, it will decrease the availability of drug use because we end the origin.

In addition, Hutchinson says that the drug policy has a positive impact on general crime, which  decreases drug usage and reduces the availability of drugs on the street, and uses treatment instead of incarceration.  Additionally, there has been an increase of law enforcement presence on the border and in the airports because the drug war remains a transnational problem that requires an international response. Therefore, what the DEA concludes is that continuing with harsh rules and penalties, enforcement of drug laws is the way to fight the War on Drugs.

According to the article “Is the War on Drugs succeeding?” by Robb London, drug use is down over the last 25 years. The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) has been involved in the passing of California’s Proposition 36, in 2000, which requires treatment in place of incarceration for many drug possession offenders and has already kept close to 100,000 people from going to jail or prison.  By taking the action of treatment and law enforcement instead of incarceration to make drug habit in the U.S. unaffordable.


William Bennett who’s the drug czar under President George H.W. Bush, points out a study that sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which shows that in 1999, 14.8 million Americans were drug users, down from the 1979 peak of 25 million users. And most of people are in prison for multiple offenses, including illegal drug use. However, there are very few people in prison for only drug use alone.

In Pat Paterson and Katy Robinson’s research, they examine the metrics of counternarcotics strategy in the Americas by following the production and trafficking of coca and cocaine.  They trace the illicit products as they are cultivated in the Andes Mountains of South America, processed into cocaine in Colombia and Peru, transported through Central America and Mexico, and then deliver to markets in the United States.  Paterson and Robinson’s aim is to provide quantifiable evidence drawn from UN, U.S., and Latin American official government to report the level of success of each phase of the counter-narcotics strategy by examining the level of effectiveness of the counternarcotics trafficking programs.


Paterson and Robinson found out the U.S. drug policy has been, as a rule, shifted towards prohibition efforts, focused on supply, rather than demand suppression in the U.S.. In 2001, cocaine production dropped nearly 300 metric tons.

The success was short lived, and  drug operations were shifted into new areas. By 2003 production had returned. By 2006, the damage to drug labs and cocaine production was irreversible. Cocaine production has decreased steadily, from more than 500 metric tons in 2006 to less than 200 tons in 2011.  A 60 percent decrease in cocaine production in just five years!

The 1980s were the peak of cocaine use, Americans were consuming more than 600 metrics tons a year.  In 1985, nearly six million Americans age 12 or older (3% of the population) were cocaine users.  Late 1980s, cocaine consumption and the number of users decreased dramatically.  There were more than four million Americans had stopped using cocaine on frequent basis in 1991.  Cocaine consumption continued to drop steeply from its peak from 1988 to 2001, a 65 percent reduction in drug consumption.  

Paterson and Robinson noticed there’s an interesting phenomenon occurred which is the drug consumption corresponds to the surge in production.  It indicates that if the production is low, then the drug usage will drop!  Therefore, the drug policy efforts are successful!  It can also corresponds to the price of drugs.  If the price of drugs increase, it’s likely because of a decreased supply due to successful drug policy.  On the other hand, if the price of drugs decrease, it represents a surplus of drug on the illegal market and a competitive market for drug consumers who can select the least expensive product.

According to the statistics collected by Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), teenage drug use estimated that nearly 630,000 fewer teenagers used illicit drugs last year than in 2000, a 15 percent decline.  Current marijuana use has dropped 12 percent.  In addition, drug use among workers declined for prescription opiates (oxycodones) 8.3 percent between 2013 and 2012 and 12.7 percent between 2012 and 2011.


The United States insists there is no alternative to its current counternarcotics strategy such as legalization or decriminalization and the fight is worth continuing.  From the report by White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, there has been a sustained reduction in demand for drug in the United States.  The percentage of cocaine users in the U.S. has dropped 50 percent since 2006.  In their opinion, the damage of drug abuse lies not with violence or excessive imprisonment but with the deterioration of society that would result from access to drugs on a wide scale.  

Measuring success in the War on Drugs is one of the most debated topic nowadays. There are two sides of his topic, one is drug policy which is law enforcement and another one is the production of drug. To consider that the War on Drugs, we can focus on the amount of drug users and addicts. Also we can measure the success on increased or decreased seizures.

Drug policy changes may occur in the future, but for now it appears that we are destined to muddle through rather than make a clean break from the current War on Drugs.  And we still have a long long way to go, to fight on War on Drugs.


3 Comments Add yours

  1. Amanda Levin says:

    It seems clear that drug use is down. The question this bring up then, is why are arrests and incarceration rates up?


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