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Notes for False Claims Of "Success"

[1] The statement implies that the decline in "drug use" is a significant measure. 

It isn't. Addiction, the real problem, increased over the same period.

The figure cited actually reports "use" of less than once a week. Imagine trying to measure the problem of alcohol addiction by finding out how many used alcohol "in the past month" but less than once a week.

Contrary to popular assumption, there is no significant correlation between the number of casual users and the number of addicts. During the same period from 1979 to 2003, the number of government estimated addicts increased from around 3.5 million to around 5 million.

The government report, Informing America's Policy on Illegal Drugs: What We Don't Know Keeps Hurting Us, cites a 1994 study by RAND, Corp. which concludes that if use is down "the decline is due to less casual use with persistence among heavy users."

(a) See Abraham Lincoln On Addition for his bitter condemnation of the condemnation of addicts.

See: Drug Use Is NOT Abuse

[2] The statement implies that the drug war produced the change. It didn't.

The Rain Dance goes on and on and it may or may not rain, but the Rain Dance isn't responsible for the change in the weather.

MTF also reported that the decline has been slight for some 15 years and almost nonexistent for the past 10 years. Yet the supply of drugs has always been greater than the demand* since 1979, and spending and punishment increased dramatically over the past 10 years when no significant change was reported.

In short, the only tactics used by the drug war were increased during the more than 10 year period after the supposed decline in use and did nothing to curb use, according to the MTF data.

* Even Tom Constantine, former head of the DEA, said:

" ... no matter how much we seize, it doesn't seem to change the amount coming into the country."

See: Drug War Failure

[3] The figure is presented as "fact" even though the speakers know full well that it is a highly questionable estimate.

It is hard to view this as anything other than the willful deception of the American people.

The data comes from a poll done regularly by Monitoring the Future [MTF]. It does not measure "drug use," it measures the willingness of individuals to admit to a crime. Self reported use is notoriously inaccurate.

And, since the period of the 1980's saw a marked escalation in the harshness of penalties and the rhetoric of condemnation(a), either may have discouraged honest responses.

The government's 2001 report from the National Research Council - appropriately titled, Informing America's Policy on Illegal Drugs: What We Don't Know Keeps Hurting Us - said that the problem of inaccurate responses when collecting drug use data is "chronic and acute."

The weak claims above are apparently the best the government has to offer in defense of the drug war. Can such weak justification allow us to avoid responsibility for immoral results ?

(a) See Abraham Lincoln On Addition for his bitter condemnation of the condemnation of addicts.

[4] There are other measures of estimated "use" that contradict the conjecture that "drug use" decreased.

Since 1979 we have seen a steady increase in reported drug related deaths, hospital emergencies and estimated total drug consumption. [See: www.drugwarfacts.org for more details.]

If the speakers are unaware of all this government information - and its contrary implications - they are incompetent; if they do know it, they are not giving the whole truth to the public.

[5] The statement is often coupled with a claim that there has been a huge decrease in cocaine use. 

To attribute this to the drug war is strange. How did the drug war come up with a strategy that worked for exactly one drug and only one drug ?

Cocaine's effects are closely related to those of many amphetamines. The spread of amphetamine use and local production has been widely noted. Home grown is cheaper and the proliferation of amphetamine "labs" reminds of the stills of alcohol Prohibition and of the influx of cheaper "crack" to replace some powder cocaine use. Any switch to cheaper synthetics is not progress, much less "success."

Certainly the result was not due to limiting the supply of cocaine: "The weakening of the cartel structure in Colombia and the impressive U.S. seizures of more than 760 tons of cocaine between 1990 and 1996 have had no discernible effect on the underlying traffic infrastructure and on the availability of the drug domestically."

- Clawson and Lee, authors of The Andean Cocaine Industry, cited in National Review's, SUPPLY: STOPPING IT IS IMPOSSIBLE, 09 July 2001

And, if there was never a decrease in cocaine shipments, are the drug cartels so stupid they are producing more for lower demand?

Of particular concern is the availability to children:

"About half of high-school seniors reported that cocaine was readily available to them in 1999, roughly the same figure as in 1991."

-- National Review, 7-9-01, SUPPLY: STOPPING IT IS IMPOSSIBLE, by Richard Lowry

If half of teens find it easy to get cocaine, the other half could also find it easily - they're just not interested enough to find out how. Again, this is not "success."

See: Deter

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