Drug Use and Related Criminality: Reflective Essay Example

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Despite the immense effort put into tackling the problem of drug use and drug trafficking, the menace has proved to be quite a big dragon to slay. The problem persists in many countries around the world, with the trade growing into a multi-billion industry over the past few years. International drug cartels have proved to be more aggressive and are putting more effort into expanding into new markets and coming up with new drugs. Tracking the activities of these cartels is proving hard by the day given their increasing skills in concealment as well as their constantly changing distribution patterns. This turn of events has led me to believe that the traditional approaches being used in the war against drugs are not as effective as initially thought. Going through the current topic and the different course materials provided has affirmed my thoughts and provided an insight into alternative techniques that can be used to win the war against drugs.

The traditional techniques used in the war against drugs tend to be more prohibitive, and these techniques have brought about several unintended consequences. This is highlighted by Keefer, Loayza, and Soares (1), who point out that most governments across the world have opted for the prohibitive approaches to the drug trade and consumption. According to Keefer, Loayza, and Soares (1), despite using enormous resources in enforcing the prohibitions, the trade and consumption and trade in illicit drugs has persisted over the years. In addition to that, the prohibitive techniques have brought about more damages compared to the illicit drugs. The authors go ahead to highlight some of the negative consequences of the prohibitive approach to the war against drugs, stating that these techniques are often not brought up in public debates. One of the consequences Keefer, Loayza, and Soares (1) mention is the effect of criminalisation on the health outcomes of drug utilization, stating that it does exacerbate the negative health outcomes of using drugs. This is quite true since outlawing the use of drugs has seen many drug addicts resort to unhealthy approaches of sourcing and using drugs such as the sharing of needles and syringes. Other negative consequences of prohibitive measures in the war on drugs as mentioned by Keefer, Loayza, and Soares (1) include driving up demand, which only serves to increase the lucrativeness of the drug trade and the creation of illegal markets. This often proves to be costly to the farmers of the crops from which the illicit drugs are extracted as opposed the actual drug dealers. This revelation is a clear indicator of the failures of the traditional approaches to the war against drugs and a wake-up call for the need to consider alternative approaches that would not worsen the situation.

The fact that criminalisation of drug use and trade has created more problems in the society as opposed to offering a viable solution is also highlighted by Nunn (382), whose article focuses on how the war on drugs has led to the increased marginalisation of the African-Americans community. The trade in drugs and drug use has been demonised, a fact that has led to it being largely associated with the marginalised members of the societies. The poor communities of any given country are often the focus of police surveillance and crackdowns as far as the war against drugs is concerned. Nunn (383) confirms this by pointing out that African-Americans have been unfairly arrested, investigated and even sentenced in the past for dealing and using illegal drugs. As a result, African- Americans are overrepresented in the American prisons as opposed to colleges, a fact that has only served to create more challenges to this community. According to Nunn (383), the over-emphasis on the African-American community as far as the war on drugs in the US is concerned has led to the frequent association of drugs and drug use with African Americans in the eyes of the criminal justice system’s workers, planners, and managers. Despite this unfair focus on the black communities, the problem of drug use and drug trade persists in the US, an indicator of how the authorities have had it wrong in imposing harsh penalties and focusing on only one section of the community.

Aitken et al. (193) also investigate the effectiveness of police crackdowns on the street-level drug trade. Crackdowns on specific target areas have been used over the years as one of the main approaches of foiling illicit drug deals and transactions. However, the increased sophistication with which drug dealers operate has resulted in the questioning of this approach. According to Aitken et al (194), the approach used by the Australian government to the problem of illicit drugs consists of a balance between reduction of supply, harm reduction, and demand reduction. However, this has resulted in confusion between the existing political rhetoric and established policies, resulting in an environment where traditional police crackdowns can be used without any significant opposition from the public. In their investigation, Aitken et al (193) focus on one such police operation by the name “Operation Clean Heart.” They report that while the crackdowns were able to bring down the visible aspects of the street drug trade, the market was quick to adapt to the new environment characterised by increased crackdowns. According to the researchers, the operation was also accompanied by several consequences that were not intended, including the discouraging of safe injecting practices and displacing of the markets to other areas. The findings from this study affirm my initial idea that traditional approaches to fighting the use and trade in illicit drugs are not as effective as initially thought and that there is a need for utilisation of techniques that have proved to be characterised by very few unintended consequences.

Wellbourne-Wood (403) highlights an alternative that can prove to be quite effective if adopted across the globe. This approach is harm minimisation. According to Wellbourne-Wood (403), this approach has been central to Australia’s national drugs policy since 1985. The author points out that this approach has been the rationale of a number of successful programs whose target has been diverse drug-related harms. Wellbourne-Wood (404) also discusses the promise of harm minimisation, stating that its adaptation helped articulate and instil the important distinction between drug use and drug-related harm. From this article, it is clear that the war against drugs should not only focus on preventing the use and trade but should also take into consideration the reduction of harm caused by the illicit drugs. Surveillance is also increasingly being used as a technique to countering the problem of drug use. Moore (256) offers an insight into surveillance assemblage, pointing out that it is often theorised as a collection of technologies that seek to discipline human behaviour. Moore (256) goes a step further to link surveillance studies to drug treatment courts, pointing out that the traditional surveillance studies have been control-oriented. He offers a more effective alternative “therapeutic surveillance,” stating that it is more benevolent. From this article, it is quite clear that scholars have also started to raise concerns about the traditional approaches being used in studies on the global drug problem. It is only through successful studies that the most appropriate techniques for dealing with the global drug problem can be established.

Works Cited

Aitken, Campbell, et al. «The impact of a police crackdown on a street drug scene: evidence from the street.» International journal of drug policy 13.3 (2002): 193-202.

Keefer, Philip, Norman Loayza, and Rodrigo R. Soares. The development impact of the illegality of drug trade. World Bank, 2008.

Moore, Dawn. «The benevolent watch: Therapeutic surveillance in drug treatment court.» Theoretical Criminology 15.3 (2011): 255-268.

Nunn, Kenneth B. «Race, crime and the pool of surplus criminality: or why the war on drugs was a war on blacks.» J. Gender Race & Just. 6 (2002): 381.

Wellbourne-Wood, David. «Harm reduction in Australia: some problems putting policy into practice.» International Journal of Drug Policy 10.5 (1999): 403-413.