With every passing day, more Americans are using illicit substances, and the international drug cartels grow bolder, according to the Justice Department's National Drug Threat Assessment, a collection of data on national drug use and trafficking compiled annually.
As I read the report, I realized that the authors were explaining and showing, definitively, that the global war on drugs is being lost.
. These staggering numbers show that as long as demand thrives within the world's largest market, there will always be someone willing to produce illegal drugs and transport them here by any means necessary.
The data illustrates just how efficient dealers have become: According to the report, cocaine, heroin, marijuana and methamphetamines are available in every region of the United States. The Justice Department offers no consolation in its conclusion: "The threat posed by the trafficking and abuse of illicit drugs will not abate in the near future and may increase."
The stark reality is that, while a few countries have won battles in the past few decades, it is unlikely that we can win the war.
We are losing because ever more people are abusing drugs in the U.S. and Latin America, despite authorities' efforts.
We are losing because so many people are undeterred by tough penalties for those who sell and consume illegal substances.
Of course, a majority of politicians in the U.S. ardently defend the standard position of strictly forbidding the consumption of illegal drugs and severely punishing those caught distributing them -- most will not engage in any discussion of legalization. After all, no politician wants to be seen as the champion of the drug dealers. Instead, some have backed the legalization of medical marijuana, which many people consider to be a tacit legalization of cannabis.
There is a new factor in this war: the growing market for so-called "designer" drugs -- synthetic materials that mimic the effects of marijuana, cocaine, heroin and other substances. These new synthetics are at times marketed online as innocuous products like bath salts, and though they can be deadly, their popularity is growing at an alarming rate.
Faced with these obstacles, governments have a very limited arsenal with which to continue their fight. Other than attempting to abate violence, launching anti-drug campaigns targeting the young and providing medical care for addicts, what options are left? Some people have suggested that we target the drug criminals at the top. But that strategy has been tried and failed -- those running the cartels are more powerful than ever.
Of course, we cannot negotiate with criminals, and we cannot simply pretend they do not exist. But we need to change our strategy