In March, the Biden administration announced a historic and massive increase in funding for National Drug Control Program agencies. For FY 2023, the US plans on spending $42.5 billion to continue fighting the failed war on drugs. This month, the Centers for Disease Control also released some historic numbers — as the US spends more on the drug war than ever in history, more people have died from drug overdoses than any recorded time in American history.
107,000 — that is the number of people who overdosed on drugs in 2021. Overdoses involving fentanyl and other synthetic opioids surpassed 71,000, up 23% from the year before. There also was a 23% increase in deaths involving cocaine and a 34% increase in deaths involving meth and other stimulants, according to the CDC.
Upon releasing these numbers, the White House called the sharp increase in overdose deaths “unacceptable” and promised to spend more money fighting an already failed drug war. While some of that budget will go toward treatment, most of it will go toward enforcement — because it has worked so well in the past.
“The net effect is that we have many more people, including those who use drugs occasionally and even adolescents, exposed to these potent substances that can cause someone to overdose even with a relatively small exposure,” Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse said in a statement, calling this latest increase “staggering.”
It is indeed staggering. Most people in this country now know someone who has died from an overdose and despite this massive increase in deaths, the United States government is going to attack it with more of the same — and it is costing taxpayers dearly. In the last 4 years, enforcement has gone up — at a rate of 5,000 percent — clearly illustrating that it is having no effect at all.
The new drug war budget of $42.5 billion for 2023 will cost the taxpayers $80,900 ever single minute or $1,350 every single second.
To understand how we got to this point, we have to look at how Americans became so addicted to opioids. Spoiler alert, it was not by chance.
Across the board, drug use and deaths associated with drug use have increased at alarming rates. No amount of AR-15s, SWAT police, MRAPs, or any other military gear has had a hand in lowering these statistics. In fact, the increase in overdose deaths nearly perfectly coincides with the increase in militarization of police in the last decade and a half.
Instead of deterring drug use, it’s been expanding, getting worse, and drugs have become more available and more dangerous. How did this happen?
There are legitimate needs for opioids just like there are legitimate needs for cannabis. But when people are taught their entire lives to blindly trust the medical industry, who clearly choose to deceive them, we end up with problems like we have today.
The government making drugs illegal does absolutely nothing when a person puts blind trust in a medical establishment who then deliberately addicts them to opioids to make billions. Even when it’s illegal, after these people have been duped into their addictions, they still seek it out. This is why we see soccer moms over dosing on dangerous black market fentanyl in front of Hobby Lobby.
They put blind trust in the government and medical industry to protect them and instead were turned out for a buck.
Drug manufacturers deliberately deceived patients and doctors about the risks of opioids, pushed prescribers to keep patients on the drugs longer and aggressively targeted vulnerable populations, such as the elderly and veterans.
Instead of helping these people, who clearly have physical and mental addictions and need help, the government simply began locking them in cages when they caught them with it.
Research — according to many law enforcement officials — shows that the cost of incarceration, especially for repeat drug offenders, is far higher than simply treating their addiction. It is also far better for a society who values freedom.
However, because the prison industrial complex profits from said incarceration, government keeps it going.
Those of us based in reality see that prohibition is what has driven the market for fentanyl. Without the war on drugs, fentanyl would likely not be a problem at all.
Much of the dangers associated with heroin would diminish if the drug were legalized and people had the freedom to put what they want into their own bodies. In a legal market, this extract of the poppy plant – which has been used for thousands of years by people worldwide – would be produced in exact dosages known to the consumer, free from harmful synthetic chemicals like fentanyl.
As Dr. Carl Hart — the Ziff Professor of Psychology in the Departments of Psychology and Psychiatry at Columbia University and Research Scientist at the New York State Psychiatric Institute — lays out in his recent book, Drug Use for Grown-Ups, we need to drastically revise our current view of illegal drugs.
Dr. Hart not only advocates for the end to the drug war but he admits to being a frequent heroin, cocaine, and MDMA user, and he does so with complete safety.
Think about it like this; if adults could go to the store and buy a bit of cocaine or heroin, as they can buy alcohol, we could expect the demand for fentanyl, meth, and other dangerous synthetics like Flakka to be reduced or non-existent.
Prohibition does nothing to curb the supply or the demand of these drugs, but it certainly enriches the corporatocracy and gives the State immense power over our personal freedom. It creates a void in the demands for drugs and those voids are filled with even more dangerous substances such as fentanyl.
We should have learned the lesson that prohibition only causes greater harm, during the miserable attempt at alcohol prohibition from 1920 to 1933. When government attempted to ban alcohol, its production and distribution shifted to the black market, and people suffered and died.
But we did not.
Reports of blindness and death were common as people attempted to make their own alcohol but failed to realize the dangerous by-products that can be produced. Bootleg alcohol fueled violent criminal gangs exploiting prohibition for financial gain. We are seeing the exact same scenario play out today as cops are frequently caught participating in the criminal trade of fentanyl.
There will always be demand for psychoactive drugs, and there will always be supply to meet this demand. If government attempts to ban substances, making it a little harder for some people to get things like cocaine or heroin, they will synthesize some other, more dangerous substance and the overdose problem will only get worse. Until this drug war is brought to a screeching halt, all we can do is expect more of the same.