Consequences of War on Drugs

The main approaches adopted in dealing with the menace of drugs include prohibition, legislation, extradition and other similar approaches. Most of these approaches have failed to yield substantial results as the issue persists. Provided there is a constant demand for illegal narcotics, supply-side approaches cannot be instituted to reduce delivery and stop drug abuse. Regardless of the capacity and financing allocated to supply-side approaches in the last decades, the amount of reduction in drug consumption in the United States and other drug-prone countries has not been congruent. Most of the countries that have realized little change include Russia, Mexico, Afghanistan, Brazil, and Afghanistan. These approaches have instead facilitated an increase in the consumption of drugs.

Politically, the war on drugs has forced many drug rings to employ sophisticated criminal techniques in trafficking and distribution. Aggressive counter-drug strategies have resulted in a virtual arms race that is currently drawing in military and additional police departments. One of the effects of this is a growing bureaucracy.[1] Additional departments are being created; increased funding is being allocated to their budgets and more personnel are being deployed. The unregulated expansion of the state machinery creates additional pressure on the taxpayers. Conversely, a section of the drug traffickers have entrenched themselves in the political system. This has been achieved through development of close connections with the political elite. The current form of drug trafficking has been transferred to the institutional level where it is permitted by the government officials. In this way, such drug cartels can enjoy the protection of the state machinery with little resistance. At the social level, the war on drugs has had the effect of separating family units and dividing communities.

Alternatives Presented

One of the most feasible approaches has been to change the existing supply-side policies. It has been discovered that while they were excellent, they lacked the effectiveness in dealing with the vice. Allowing all the countries to make their own policies has been an important step. Previously, the United States drug policy was being replicated across the rest of the world. These policies were mainly punitive in nature. After several decades, it has been realized that they were ineffective. The resulting policies have been founded around decriminalization of drug trafficking, increased public awareness, therapy, and abuse reduction policies. The extreme versions of these policies have been behind the legalizing drugs such as cannabis in an effort to devalue them.

Another approach has been the eradication of the drug crops that are being cultivated and processed into dangerous drugs. This approach is designed to reduce the prevalence of drugs by stifling the supply. This method has shown significant progress in Russia and China. However, this strategy has not been effectively especially in the last decade. This is because most drug traffickers and distributors have switched to synthetic forms such as methamphetamines and prescription tablets. The shift from traditional drugs such as cocaine and cannabis has rendered this solution much less effective.

Increased cooperation between the different agencies mandated to address the problem of drugs has been deliberated. This strategy has taken the form of joint operations between the military and domestic law enforcement units.[2] The United States has used the cooperation approach in eliminating the top leadership of drug cartels in Mexico, Brazil, and Pakistan. This type of effort was vital in eliminating El Chapo Guzman, one of the notorious drug leaders in Mexico. Over time progressed and the joint effort between different security agencies was able to slow down the power and scope of drug cartels in the country. This made it difficult for drug lords to continue running their illegal businesses. In the span of a decade, the Mexican economy and country’s infrastructure showed signs of growth.[3] This pushed most of the drug production to the countryside; it was eventually reserved for low-level guerilla, and other rebel groups such as FARC and ELN. Conversely, drug peddling consumption in Colombia has persisted because the Americans refused to join their war of drugs. Similarly, states such as Bolivia or Ecuador have resisted any association with Americans. Such states have reached a level where the majority of the public officials are factitively engaged in illicit narcotics trade. Such states need to be sanctioned for their sustained adamancy in exposing their people to safety risks and harmful drugs. The war on drugs can only be finished by ensuring that the supply side has been appropriately stifled.

Feasibility of Proposed Alternatives

            It is evident that tackling the global drug menace using supply-side measures has failed to yield the expected results. Previous efforts have shown that tackling drugs from this angle has only worsened the situation. It has threatened nation security and personal security, as well as other economic activities that include different countries. However, it is still possible to argue that these aggressive supply-side repression measures has resulted in higher drug prices and reduced availability in the market.[4] This has been followed by a sharp drop in drug consumption. This strategy has also been ineffective because the producers either relocate to new locations or resume production after a short period. Therefore, in the long term, drug production resumes to the same levels. The problem with supply-side approaches is they are restricted. The objective of supply-side solutions is currently very narrow and involves containing the symptoms of illicit drug trafficking and state vulnerability. The solution cannot lie in eradication cultivation of crops or interdicting drug criminals. A better alternative would be focus on a long-term solution.

One of the main reasons why most of the supply-side strategies fail to work is that they undermine the legitimate economy. Corruption unavoidably progresses from the massive financial backing that major drug dealers possess at their disposal. The power accompanying these resources allows cartels to insure and grow their illegal trade through bribes to officials across the state hierarchy and instruments including judiciary and police.[5] The extent of this corruption is such that the drug cartels resort to the threat of violence when they encounter individuals unwilling to engage in corrupt activities. In conclusion, it is clear that most of the strategies proposed and implemented over the years have not been effective in dealing with the drug menace. Most of these approaches have been largely theoretical. The few that have been practical also fail to consider the following factors. One, the problem of drugs is currently a global one. Proposing and implementing solutions at a national level will not work. The United States has been trying this strategy for over a decade in most of South America with little outcomes.





Naím, Moisés. “Wasted: The American Prohibition On Thinking Smart in the Drug War.” Foreign Policy 172 (2009): 168.


Shirk, David A. “The Drug War in Mexico.” Council of Foreign Relations (2011): 1-50

[1] David A. Shirk, “The Drug War in Mexico,” Council of Foreign Relations (2011): 45

[2] Moisés Naím,  “Wasted: The American Prohibition On Thinking Smart in the Drug War.” Foreign Policy 172 (2009): 168.

[3] Moisés Naím,  “Wasted: The American Prohibition On Thinking Smart in the Drug War.” Foreign Policy 172 (2009): 168.

[4] Ibid

[5] Moisés Naím,  “Wasted: The American Prohibition On Thinking Smart in the Drug War.” Foreign Policy 172 (2009): 168.

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