THE HISTORY OF THE WAR ON DRUGS
Many may not remember, but the War on Drugs was actually initiated on June 18, 1971 by United States President Richard Nixon. It was begun as a campaign to reduce illegal drugs with a focus on international production, distribution and consumption, particularly within the U.S. The role of the U.S. was to offer military aid and intervention in conjunction with other participating nations as well as the U.N. In his speech to Congress announcing the program, President Nixon stated about drug abuse in the U.S., “If we cannot destroy the menace in America, then it will surely in time destroy us.1”
In the decades since, many have claimed the War on Drugs to be a failure, even as the U.S. under President Ronald Reagan increased military aid and intervention to limit, if not stop the international drug trade.
To worsen matters, subsequent presidents, including President George H.W. Bush, President Bill Clinton and President George W. Bush, have all failed to make significant inroads into international drug cartels, which can include traffickers, growers, producers, and in some cases, foreign government officials and military personnel.
AN EPIC FAILURE OF EPIC PROPORTIONS
Beyond the U.S. vitriol, the military aid and intervention, the War on Drugs, in time, utterly failed. One can see the trend, particularly with a rise in illegal drug use within the U.S., which this program was initiated to stop, or at the very least, limit.
But things didn’t go according to plan. While accessibility to illegal drugs was limited during the initial stages of the War on Drugs, that was only temporary. Meanwhile, global military and police action dramatically escalated, which resulted in an exponential increase in U.S. incarcerations, as well as an uptick in worldwide violence. This was made worse by plunging illegal drug prices, which went against America’s intent of limiting drug accessibility so that prices would instead spike, causing the drugs to be unaffordable. The POTUS War on Drugs was beginning to lean toward the disastrous.
In fact, according to the Office of National Drug Council, illegal drug prices saw a dramatic nosedive2 between 1981 and 2007.
Lives were lost and billions of dollars spent. Countries were fighting among themselves as to the best way to proceed with their interest in the War on Drugs, while at the same time, U.S. prisons were becoming saturated with what were arguably small-time drug offenders.
And now a new president was headed to the White House, named Barack Obama.
Obama would be the last U.S. president to fall victim to the international battlefront of his office as POTUS and War on Drugs. What he would instead do was alter the battle to a more domestic front, which would allow him to take on Big Pharmaceutical. To Obama, “Big Pharma” as it’s been called, were the true culprits in this drug war.
NEW COMMANDER, NEW WAR ON DRUG FOCUS
From 2010 when the Obama Administration published its first National Drug Control Strategy, the government stance on illicit drug use pivoted away from foreign growth, manufacturing and distribution of drugs, to concentrate on domestic prescription drug misuse3.
In fact, once again this year Mr. Obama has taken to task opioid producers within the pharmaceutical companies, who collectively seem anywhere from ill-informed to completely dismissing of the addictive nature and destructive properties of their products. Unlike the War on Drugs of president’s past, through Mr. Obama, America has seen a markedly different drug war, where the large pharmaceutical companies are now the target.
As early as 2008 when Mr. Obama first got into office, the large pharmaceutical companies began to experience the Obama Administration pressures. This came in particular when the administration sought to no longer allow tax breaks for Big Pharma in R&D and advertising. according to a CBS news report4.
As always is the case with any argument5 one side’s opinion can be the complete opposite of the opposing side’s opinion. This is no less the case with Obama and his most recent relationship with Big Pharmaceutical.
The Wall Street Journal reports that as of 2015 the association between the pharmaceutical companies and Mr. Obama had long-since soured, even in light of Big Pharma contributing $80 billion toward Obamacare in 2009, mostly through expansion of the Medicaid discount from 15.1% to 23.1%. And even as the pharmaceutical companies also agreed to a 50% mark down of prescriptions for seniors, Mr. Obama wants even more cuts that are closer to 75%.
Couple this with other examples of Mr. Obama’s salvos of late, such as blaming Big Pharma for an increase in prescription drug abuse, and it’s easy to see why the pharmaceutical companies feel they’ve been manipulated, if not, fully lied to by the president and his administration.
In reality, this formulates the new battlefield for the War on Drugs. The focus has changed from where it was waged nearly five decades ago on foreign land to what is now a domestic battle of politics, ethics and money, influence between the White House and the drug industry.
The question, though, is why? Does the current version of this war have any concern for those who use, and worse yet, abuse the drugs produced by Big Pharma? Yes, with POTUS and his latest variant of the War on Drugs, prescription medicine can possibly be more accessible, at least price-wise, to more Americans. However, increased accessibility can also result in increased abuse and eventual addiction, which not only the president, but Big Pharma needs to be aware of.
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- The War on Drugs Explained, German Lopez. Retrieved 2016.
- Price and Purity of Illicit Drugs. Office of National Drug Control Policy. Retrieved 2016.
- 2015 National Drug Control Strategy. Office of National Drug Control Policy. Received 2016.
- Obama Already Turning into a Nightmare for Big Pharma. CBS News. Retrieved 2016.
- Big Pharma’s Obamacare Reward. Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2016.