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The Failed War on Drugs Epidemic

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https://visual.ly/community/infographic/politics/40-years-war-drugs

War on Drugs. We see it. We hear about it. But what is it? Tune it to find out.

What is the War on Drugs?

In 1971, President Richard Nixon initiated and eventually signed off on the War on Drugs (“The United States War on Drugs”). The 1970s had been a period of increased drug use and the communities that threatened Nixon’s administration quickly became tied to the War on Drugs (“Supervised Injection Facilities”). As I conduct my research, I hope to answer the following questions: How have the responses of the War on Drugs carried over to the modern-day safe injection sites? Did the opening of safe injection sites develop as a solution to War on Drugs? Finally, what are the racial correlation of the War on Drugs to minorities and the lower class community? This work will consider how the War on Drugs began and its ability to criminalize and vilify communities who posed a danger to white power in the United States. I, then, hope to chart the changes in perceptions and attempts to decriminalize and humanize drug users across the United States.

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https://ibw21.org/initiatives/petition-on-the-war-on-drugs/

History of the War on Drugs

Many people believe the War on Drugs began with Nixon’s law in 1971 (“The United States War on Drugs” 1), but it actually started with the Harrison Narcotics Act in 1914 (Miron and Zwiebel). The Harrison Narcotics Act started with the restriction of selling heroine and ultimately the selling of cocaine was also restricted (Head). The War on Drugs set about ending illegal trade from the South, criminalizing the antiwar left, and black people. This was accomplished through military and police force. This war also had another effect in vilifying and stereotyping the antiwar and blacks (Lopez 2016). I am interested in researching the changing perception in the United States of drug use beginning with Nixon’s War on Drugs to recent efforts to establish safe Heroin Injection Sites.

When Nixon passed the War on Drugs law, many rebellions and supporters clashed over the idea of what should be done in the process of War on Drugs. For example, one of the biggest campaigns came from Reagan’s administration called, “Just Say No” (“Her Causes”). It was a campaign that encouraged people to say no when offered drugs. This movement was led by Nancy Reagan, where there were many speeches and protests supporting this movement. This caused a lot of controversy because many people believed it was hard to “just say no,” when offered drugs, especially in dangerous situations. Many minorities took offense because they felt that this campaign was directed towards them since they were considered the low-class society.

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Statistics on overdoses since the initiation of the War on Drugs.

My Personal Interest

I am interested in this topic because I learned more about it recently at a debate tournament in Spokane, Washington. I was debating in student congress, which means students give speeches, go through Q & A, then we vote whether or not the bill passes. Before we start the debate, each school draws a letter from a hat, which is correlated with a bill that goes on a docket with the bills that are debated upon. One of the debate topics for student congress was whether or not more heroin injection sites should be opened across the United States. Prior to this debate, I was already interested in the War on Drugs, especially with the recent legalization of recreational marijuana at the beginning of the year. So, after going to this debate and hearing about this project, I knew immediately that I wanted to focus on the War on Drugs.

War On Drugs Video:

This video is a timeline about drug issues since 1961. It describes how the War on Drugs has changed throughout American history. It particularly focuses on the funding of the drugs such as cocaine and heroine. Throughout the video, you will see the drastic funding changes that heavily affected the United States’ economy.

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My Specific Research

Through this project, I have learned about the different perspectives about how War on Drugs has changed throughout the last 40 years. I discovered, through my interviews, how the drug system has changed from the initiation of the War on Drugs. One observation I have had is that many drug users have not been obeying the laws because they feel that their voices are not heard by the government. But, these sites are one step closer to having getting drug users voices heard. One driving question I researched is what are the responses to the War on Drugs, and how have those responses carried over to the modern-day heroin injection sites? Also, as I researched supervised injection sites as a response to War on Drugs and what are the responses to those. As you continue through my website, you will see my interview with my history teacher, Mark Schneider as he helped and guided me through this process. 

What are Supervised Injection Sites?

Supervised injection sites are places across the United States to safely inject drugs with clean needles so that people won’t contract diseases from infected needles. They were first introduced in Canada in 2003, which is the same year when the United States’ drug market was at its highest of $321.6 billion (“Drug Trafficking”). Injection sites have been debated because of the long-listing pros and cons. Many people believe that these sites tend to embarrass people because they have to publicly walk in these sites to get injected (Center). But, the counterargument to this is it is better for people to inject heroin safely then inject it in themselves without knowing the dangers of dirty needles.

Image result for supervised injection sites

Supervised injection sites are places across the United States to safely inject drugs with clean needles so that people won’t contract diseases from infected needles. They were first introduced in Canada in 2003, which is the same year when the United States’ drug market was at its highest of $321.6 billion (“Drug Trafficking”). Injection sites have been debated because of the long-listing pros and cons. Many people believe that these sites tend to embarrass people because they have to publicly walk in these sites to get injected (Center). But, the counterargument to this is it is better for people to inject heroin safely then inject it in themselves without knowing the dangers of dirty needles.

The locations of safe injection sites have been a debated topic in the US recently. Three cities across the U.S. have proposed the idea to open injection sites, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Seattle (Lopez 2018 “Nixon Official”). The first injection site would be opening in San Francisco on July 1, 2018 (“Supervised Injection Facilities” 2). San Francisco, alone, has 22,000 drug users who publicly inject themselves. Last year, San Francisco had over 100 people die from overdoses. So, as a result, San Francisco decided to make a change in their city to save their community and not suffer from so many deaths. War on Drugs was a big historical event in America because drug usage is something the United States still struggles with. As a result, many reforms were made, but none have had as much of a long-lasting impact as heroin injection sites. 


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Interview Transcription

Mr.Schneider:

Q: How effective do you think the War on Drugs has been? Do you think drug monitoring has been improved or worsened since the initiation?

A: Worsened, I think it’s been extremely ineffective. It’s disproportionately targeted [towards] poor and communities of color and has also not been successful in reducing […] major dangerous drugs. Getting them off the streets, stopping addiction. It’s been very ineffective in my opinion.

Q: Heroin injection sites are sites being open around the United States to monitor people’s drug usage. In addition to these sites, I’m advocating for conversations about drugs to decrease the stigma around embarrassment of entering sites. So my question is what do you think about the developing idea of injection sites and conversations with drug users?

A: Yeah, I think it’s a really interesting idea. I think that bringing people out of the shadows, so to speak, and reducing the stigma to try to get it holistic. Rehabilitation and education around drug use […] definitely as part of the picture, so I’m glad [injection sites and conversations] encompasses that.

So, What’s Next?

The first solution proposed for War on Drugs is using the government funding for rehabilitation and treatment centers instead of the injection sites because it can be argued that thwhat do we do now tv land GIF by nobodies.ese sites may encourage drug usage. By encouraging drug usage, the US’ deaths caused by overdoses will increase and make the problem worse instead of progressing. About 10% of people in the US recover from drug addiction every year (“Shaming the Sick”). At this rate, we can see improvements in the recovery process for more people, especially with the government’s funding focused on these rehab centers.

Secondly, another solution is decreasing the stigma around them. Many people disagree with supervised injection sites because they tend to embarrass people when entering the sites. If we were to keep these sites, we need to create more welcoming conversations about drug addiction to decrease the stigma that negatively impact one’s self-esteem. The stigma around the sites have decreased the positive aspects of injection sites, but with conversations and movements to motivate people to acknowledge the dangers of drug addiction.

Conclusion

Throughout this process, I learned a lot about drug history in America. Obviously, injection sites won’t fix the whole issue with War on Drugs, but I strongly believe that this is a great first step towards reform and concrete change. Special thanks to Mark Schneider for taking time out of his day to interview with me.

Works Cited

Center, Author Amethyst Recovery. “Safe Injection Sites, The Pros and Cons.” Amethyst Recovery Center, 1 June 2017, www.amethystrecovery.org/pros-cons-safe-injection-sites/.

Giphy. “What Do We Do Now Tv Land GIF by Nobodies. – Find & Share on GIPHY.” GIPHY, GIPHY, 22 Mar. 2018, gph.is/2o4gY3p.

Head, Tom. “A Short History of the 20th Century War on Drugs.” ThoughtCo, ThoughtCo, www.thoughtco.com/history-of-the-war-on-drugs-721152

“Her Causes.” Her Causes , www.reaganfoundation.org/ronald-reagan/nancy-reagan/her-causes/.

Lane, Ashley. “40 Years of the War on Drugs.” Visual.ly, The Maneater, visual.ly/community/infographic/politics/40-years-war-drugs.
Miles, Kathleen. “These Charts Show Just How Bad America’s Heroin Problem Has Become.”The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 21 Feb. 2014, www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/21/america-heroin-charts_n_4817130.html.
“Petition on The ‘War on Drugs.’” Institute of the Black World 21st Century, ibw21.org/initiatives/petition-on-the-war-on-drugs/.

“Shaming the Sick: Addiction and Stigma.” DrugAbuse.com, 6 Oct. 2016, drugabuse.com/library/addiction-stigma/.

“Statistics on Drug Addiction.” American Addiction Centers, americanaddictioncenters.org/rehab-guide/addiction-statistics/.

“Study Shows Benefits of Safe Injection Site.” TheInfluence, 12 Feb. 2018, theinfluence.org/study-shows-benefits-of-safe-injection-site/.

“Supervised Injection Facilities.” Drug Policy Alliance. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Jan. 2018.

The United States War on Drugs, web.stanford.edu/class/e297c/poverty_prejudice/paradox/htele.html.

“Vancouver’s Health Authority Applies for Two More Supervised-Injection Sites.” CFJC Today, 1 Nov. 2016, cfjctoday.com/article/546979/vancouver-s-health-authority-applies-two-more-supervised-injection-sites.

 “Would Jesus Give an Addict a Clean Needle?” RSS, www.craiggreenfield.com/blog/harmreduction.

 

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COMMENTS: 1
  1. April 27, 2018 by Gisele.Yamamoto

    I loved your webpage! It was so informative and thoughtful. It was really interesting how you elaborated on both the pros and cons of Injection Sites. I think they are controversial because it sort of condones drug use but at the same time, it prevents hundred of people from contracting diseases from dirty needle use. Overall, great job!

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