Critics Call Drug Czar's Report to Congress Clear Evidence of Drug War's Failure
On Thursday the Office of National Drug Control Policy will present Congress with an annual report on the results of the Drug War. Drug Czar General Barry McCaffrey claims "substantial progress" in the fight against illegal drugs in the past year. Critics challenge his criteria for success. "It is senseless to claim success when the death, disease, incarceration and suffering resulting from current drug policy continue to rise," said Ethan Nadelmann, director of the Lindesmith Center, a leading drug policy institute in New York.
Nadelmann points to the following indicators of the public health costs of drug use and current prohibitionist policy:
- Deaths associated with illicit drug use are at a record level. In 1997, the last year for which records are available, there were 15,973 deaths - up 1,130 from the previous year. Heroin overdose deaths have jumped dramatically in many parts of the country.
"The current approach, with its drug free rhetoric and over-reliance on punitive, criminal justice policies costs billions more each year yet delivers less and less. U.S. drug policy needs a new bottom line -- one that focuses not on reducing the total number of people who use drugs but rather on reducing the death, disease, crime and suffering associated with both drug use and drug prohibition." Nadelmann said. "If the government were serious about the health and welfare of its citizens, it would take the following steps tomorrow:
- Make appropriate treatment available to every addict who seeks it, including methadone maintenance - which has been proven to be the most effective treatment for heroin dependence.