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War on Drugs in the United States


Multiple regulations and prohibitions are currently in place in every country in the world and enforced by such services as the police and military (Levine and Reinarman par. 68). Today, drug trafficking is linked to a variety of other criminal activities such as terrorism, organized crime, corruption, and arms trafficking (United Nations par. 3).

Thesis statement

Even though the so-called “war on drugs” has had some positive effects, such as the decrease of cocaine and heroin production on the global level, harm reduction, and anti-drug policies are often criticized locally for the rapid increase in incarceration rates, low effectiveness, and insufficient effort as to the complete elimination of drug use as a threat (Hunt, 7; United Nations par. 2).

This paper attempts to explore the issue of the “war on drugs” and its positive and negative outcomes. Besides, the research discusses the drug offense sentencing practice and the factors that legal professionals are to take into consideration assigning punishments for drug crimes of different types.


Everywhere in the world, it is considered to be criminal behavior and the violation of law to manufacture, use, and sell drugs such as cocaine, opiates, or cannabis; some exceptions concern the intake of small portions of drugs for medical purposes (Levine and Reinarman par. 68).

According to the data provided by the Bureau of Justice Statistics under the U. S. Department of Justice, by the end of September of 2014, around 50% of all the incarcerated individuals kept in federal prison were imprisoned for drug crimes and offenses, this percentage represents approximately 96 thousand people (Carson 17).

Anti-Drug Policies: Weaknesses

Policies Affected by Public Presentation of Drug Use

According to Drucker, the criminalization and total prohibition of drugs in the USA work against the harm reduction practices (71). The author points out that the public presentation of the image of drugs is rather ignorant and not always realistic (71).


Because of the determination to identify and incarcerate all drug users, the American has grown by 100% over the last decade (Drucker 72).

Anti-Drug Policies: Strengths

Drug Addiction as a Disease

The new approach employed by the White House in response to the drug use problem is based on the idea that “addiction is a disease that can be treated; people with substance use disorders can recover” (U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy par. 2).

Prevention as a Focus

Another strong side of the modern anti-drug policies is their orientation at preventative actions and the belief that “innovative new criminal justice reforms can stop the revolving door of drug use, crime, incarceration, and rearrest” (U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy par. 2).

Sentencing Practices

Admissions to Drug Treatment

According to the research of the Justice Policy Institute, “increased admissions to drug treatment are associated with reduced incarceration rates” (2).


The strategy used to battle drug crimes in the USA has proved to be extremely aggressive. It included anti-drug campaigns and policies that distorted the public perception of drugs and criminalized the behaviors that could have been addressed differently. As a result, the prisons became overcrowded, harm reduction was not as efficient, and the overall level of drug use did not decline. The new strategy is orientated to prevention, and the new sentencing approach will minimize the number of drug-related incarcerations.

Hopefully, the new policies will show better results, as the “war on drugs” only succeeded in the global arena, while domestically drug-related problems became worse.


Carson, A. E. Prisoners in 2014. 2014. Web.

Drucker, Ernest. “US Drug Policy: Public Health versus Prohibition.” The Reduction of Drug-Related Harm. Ed. Ernst Buning, Ernest Drucker, Alex Matthews, Russel Newcombe, Pat O’Hare. London: Routledge, 2013. 71-81. Print

Hunt, Neil. A review of the evidence-base for harm reduction approaches to drug use. 2010. Web.

Justice Policy Institute. Substance Abuse Treatment and Public Safety. 2008. Web.

Levine, Harry G. and Craig Reinarman. Alcohol Prohibition and Drug Prohibition: Lessons from Alcohol Policy for Drug Policy. 2004. Web.

United Nations. Debate on Crime Prevention, Criminal Justice, Drug Control Concludes. 2009. Web.

U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy. White House Fact Sheet on U.S. Drug Policy. 2012. Web.

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ApeGrade. 2022. "War on Drugs in the United States." April 10, 2022. https://apegrade.com/war-on-drugs-in-the-united-states/.


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