By Corinita Reyes
In the war on drugs, the real targets have not been drugs themselves but on those who live a life in which drugs are ever present. Drugs prove to be a persistent issue in low income neighborhoods, specifically those who have an ethnically diverse makeup. The fact that those affected most by the war on drugs are thought of as “minorities” is no coincidence, it would seem rehab is a privilege reserved only for white affluent people, the rest are sent to prison to serve time for something that is seen as a treatable issue in the medical world. It is hardly a crime to develop diabetes or depression, so why do we treat a mental illness as a crime? It is imperative that we as a country explore how the war on drugs affects low income people of color (POC), its relationship on how mental illness affects low income people of color and why the war on drugs is simply not working. We need to replace the current war with a more sustainable system that supports our citizens, rather than punishes.
The war on Drugs has proven to be unhelpful because it is a continuing cycle which targets drug addicts. In the article “Drug Addicts As a Victim: A Link to Explore” by Laura M. Nunes and Ana Sani, they write “It is not uncommon in the illegal drug market to find that the individual selling the product, being in possession of large sums of money, is also intoxicated.” (3) This shows that the drug dealer and the drug addict are one in the same. Those who are not drug dealers are still in possession and can end up in prison system. Once in the prison system, they may incur trauma from violence, sexual violence or from isolation that only makes any sort of mental illness they had prior more intense. Upon being released, they now face new barriers from acquiring legal employment to being unable to qualify for public assistance and housing thanks to background checks. Now as they are back to illegal activities such as drug dealing in order to make money, these activities make a neighborhood less safe, “Also, by dint of their lifestyle the drug addict will tend to have much less protection, especially in the form of formal protection from the social control system, for fear that their deviant activity is discovered by the authorities.” (Nunes et al, 4) It is safer for these individuals to deal with violence themselves than reach out to authorities in fear of being arrested. Outside of the US, some of the most dangerous people in the world are the ones who are supplying the drugs to the streets of America. In the article “Winding Down the War on Drugs: Reevaluating Global Drug Policy” by Maria McFarland Sanchez-Moreno, they say “Governments around the world have poured billions of dollars into combating drugs…to pursue, conduct surveillance on, kill, prosecute, extradite, and imprison kingpins and low-level dealers, in source and destination countries alike.” (1) This shows how The US is not alone in these failing tactics against drugs, yet the problem persists not only on our streets, but globally. All of this is evidence that the war on drugs in conjunction with the prison system is a cycle that perpetuates violence and drug use. Continue reading “The War on Drugs: a Symptom of a Larger Issue”