How did the war on drugs affect society?

The war on drugs has subject millions of people to criminalization, imprisonment and criminal records for life, which has disrupted or completely eliminated their access to adequate resources and supports to lead healthy lives. Efforts to disrupt the supply of illegal drugs suffered another severe blow last year, after Mexican authorities repudiated the tactics of the drug war and began to block most interdiction initiatives in the southern United States. In 1984, his wife, Nancy, spearheaded another facet of the War on Drugs with her “Just Say No” campaign, a privately funded initiative to educate schoolchildren about the dangers of drug use. However, in much of the country, disillusionment with the war on drugs has already led to the repeal of some of the most punitive policies, including mandatory long prison sentences for non-violent drug users.

Frederique, from the Drug Policy Alliance, said that the Black Lives Matter movement was partly inspired by cases that revealed a dangerous attitude towards drugs among the police. During months of interviews for this project, NPR found a growing consensus across the political spectrum, including among some members of law enforcement, that the war on drugs simply didn't work. Policymakers at all levels of government passed tougher sentencing laws and increased enforcement measures, especially in the case of low-level drug-related crimes. Concern about the effectiveness of the War on Drugs and the growing awareness of the racial disparity in the punishments that were imposed led to a decline in public support for the most draconian aspects of the war on drugs in the early 21st century.

Reagan greatly expanded the reach of the drug war, and his focus on criminal punishment rather than treatment led to a massive increase in incarcerations for nonviolent drug-related crimes, from 50,000 in 1980 to 400,000 in 1997. Studies show that from the beginning, drug laws were enforced with a marked racial bias, leading to unprecedented levels of mass incarceration for black and brown men. Since approximately 80% of crack users were African-American, the mandatory minimums led to an uneven increase in the incarceration rates of non-violent black drug-related offenders, as well as to claims that the War on Drugs was a racist institution. War on Drugs, the effort made in the United States since the 1970s to combat the use of illegal drugs by significantly increasing penalties, law enforcement, and the imprisonment of drug offenders. This growing concern about illicit drug use helped to boost political support for Reagan's hardline stance on drugs.

Darla Hemmeke
Darla Hemmeke

Internet practitioner. Incurable internet evangelist. Extreme travelaholic. Award-winning zombie geek. Incurable pizzaaholic.

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