Illegal Drug Use in the United States

Illegal Drug Use in the United States

A person might be excused for assuming that countries which have legalized drugs are the greatest consumers of those substances. In fact, something practically the reverse is true. Even though the U.S. helps to lead the world in criminalizing every aspect of drug use, this country continues to have the highest levels of illegal drug use worldwide.

When it comes to use of marijuana, for instance, our use outstrips that of countries like the Netherlands where using marijuana is completely legal. Why is this so and what can we do about finally winning our forty year crusade against drugs

The news about U.S. drug use after four decades of concerted effort at home and abroad is pretty grim. We use more drugs than ever before and considerably more than other countries around the globe. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) says that as many as 40 percent of high school seniors have self-reported using marijuana within the previous year.

That statistic is up from 30 percent of high school seniors who reported using the substance back in the 1990s. And over the course of a lifetime, Americans are four times more likely than any other world citizen to use cocaine. In short, we continue to be the leading illegal drug market anywhere on the planet.

The basic law of supply and demand states that when the supply of an item goes down, the price goes up. The U.S. government has operated on that premise, attempting to reduce the amount of drugs entering the country, thereby driving up the price and hopefully curbing drug use. It is a good strategy in theory, but unfortunately, not one that has worked so well in practice.

The U.S. has sprayed marijuana and poppy fields from military planes to reduce supply and has been somewhat successful in jailing drug dealers and making port of entry interdictions. Nevertheless, the cost of cocaine has dropped by 30 percent compared to its price even 30 years ago. The cost of methamphetamine and heroin has also tumbled. In fact, marijuana is the only major drug whose price has not fallen over the years.

Since the current policy appears to be making little headway, some are suggesting that it is time for a change in battle strategy. The World Health Organization (W.H.O.) reports that drug use is unevenly distributed across the globe with the highest use being found in those countries with the tightest regulations on illegal drug use. Countries with looser drug controls, says the W.H.O., actually report less illegal drug usage. Therefore, say proponents of change, it is time to change laws and make drug use less criminal. Those in favor of such changes say that loosening possession laws would be a good place to start.

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