35 Years Later: The War on Drugs, a Victory Not Yet Won

The month of December is almost over already, however many are looking forward to the last day with much anticipation.  When the clock strikes 12 o\’clock at midnight, many may say \”Happy New Year,\” kiss, and hug.  Meanwhile, the 35-year-old war on drugs will still be going on.  Is history repeating itself? Or has the face of the war on drugs changed – which presents more challenges?  Furthermore, has America\’s Health Care system turned into a trap house with its physicians pocketing money from too many prescriptions?   In 1971, President Richard Nixon declared war on drugs proclaiming it to be the number one enemy in the United States.  Fast forward to 2017, President Donald Trump announced that America has an opioid epidemic.


So exactly what has America been doing from the time President Nixon made his proclamation to now?  From data, statics and research conducted by CDC Wonder, we gather that over 64,000 overdoes have occurred alone in the year 2016 related to fentanyl and synthetic opioids use.  This is a higher spike than the 1980\’s cocaine consumption which increased to 700% from the year 1978-1984.  During this time the budget spending had also increased to combat the war on drugs to $1.4 billion dollars under the Reagan Administration.

Where did opioids derive from?  Well, like most medicine opioids come from a poppy plant.  According to the American Heritage Dictionary, a poppy is any of numerous plants having showy red, orange, or white flowers and a milky juice.  While an opiate is a narcotic containing opium or one of its derivatives.  So the question now is when does the plant become harmful if it has healing potential?  Perhaps when being abused, but how does one understand the signs of abuse?  In grad school, I recall the D.A.R.E. program and the constant \”Just Say No\” anti-drug Ad commercial, however I never learned how to identify a drug user.  Do they classify a person who has experimented with drugs but never used again a drug user?  How many times must one use drugs to be classified as a drug abuser? Perhaps the new educational material will answer these questions.

What has been going on to combat the war on drugs since 1971?  Have we misidentified the user and found fault in the findings that drug abuse can happen to any person no matter their ethnicity.  Has the funding found a new face for a pre-existing issue?  What about those Americans who were affected by the crack era?  Does the program support pre-existing drug abuser symptoms?  Or does this new era have certain program criteria?  Drugs do not discriminate they only require money for use.

Has cocaine been rescheduled?  Marijuana is now legal in the District of Columbia – not sure if President Jimmy Carter\’s efforts influenced this measure, but they\’re matching the expression across America with Colorado having much of a cash crop industry.  It is safe to say that some physicians have cashed in on the healthcare system with prescribing prescription drugs to patients.  What happen to the \”zero tolerance\” program, perhaps that just applied to the drug dealer and users. Did some physicians still practice under the \”maintenance program\” which the government funded a methadone program.


\”It takes a community to own this issue\” says Philip Mielke during his discussion on Safe Communities.  What is the real plan to combat this epidemic?  Is it only an epidemic because one sub-group of the population is suffering?  Sending a sub-group of the population to jail is not the most beneficial solution either.  The tax-payer carries the burden of paying for drug treatment programs along with housing the drug user or drug offender in jail.  Maybe the music may motivate the masses to \”pour up\” or \”pop a molly\” to sweat, but before another 35 years of war goes to waste, some agencies have set up systems to aid in this new fight.

Practitioners such as Solutions Engineer Patrick Obrien are assisting on the front line at Esri.  He is implementing a program which will detect fraud, waste, and abuse within the healthcare system.  The program\’s purpose will help agencies better analyze their data to determine which physician is writing prescriptions.  The distance traveled by the patient to get the prescription filled, and which pharmacy is filling it.

Maybe there is a silver lining in being optimistic in an opioid epidemic?

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