Thursday, April 14, 2005

Why I Call It "Drugwar" Instead of Drug War

04/18/05 Note: While I thought I was quite clever using the term "drugwar" as a single word, it turns out that I was actually beaten to the punch by Arnold Trebach in his book "The Great Drug War," originally published in 1987 (page 353). It is no surprise that Arnold got there first -- he's been paving this road ahead of many of the rest of us for quite some time, and in reality is the original "anti-drugwar czar." Arnold is of course, prescient enough to have also coined at the same time the corollary term "drugpeace," which is ultimately the goal of those involved in reforming our drug laws. Visit his site:

While doing the research on what most people call the War on Drugs or "Drug War," two things quickly became evident to me: there are actually a wide variety of wars on drugs that have been declared throughout the past century; and more importantly, that the whole sordid mess is an endless cycle of repetitive and largely fruitless activity.

Given that a common folk definition of "insanity" is repeating the same act continuously with the expectations of a differing result, I believe that the Drug War fits within the scope of that definition. Thus, I decided to differentiate the term "Drug War" -- which is best understood in terms of the traditional activities of hunting down and capturing those who grow, manufacture, transport and or use the drugs -- and I began using the term "drugwar" to describe what I regard as a type of societal psychosis.

It is thus my contention that the following symptoms of Drug War indicate the presence of the mental illness I am calling "drugwar." The list of symptoms is adapted from the diagnostic criteria for "substance abuse disorders." Here then, is a brief review of the symptoms, and the verifiable evidence that the symptom is present:

  • A. Pattern of pathological activity

    • must be done daily to feel "normal" -- can anyone imagine the government letting a day go by without fighting the Drug War? Hell, they had cease fires and truces in just about every other war in history -- except this one.

    • inability to cut down or stop -- arguments to put a stop to the Drug War have indeed been being made over the past four decades of the Drug War, but they are met with vociferous and violent opposition from the patient. Threats to cut the Drug War budget or in any way let up on it are met with howls of protest, in which the patient claims dire consequences of almost biblical proportion.

    • repeated efforts to control or reduce excess -- there is plenty of available evidence of excess in the form of wrongful arrests, "oops, wrong house" raids, and corruption of officials. Attempts are made by the patient to correct these problems, but the patient always relapses back into the undesired behaviors.

    • binges -- every several years, those infected with drugwar go to great lengths to conduct largescale "operations" that yield quantities of drugs, an occasional dead person, and multiple arrests. The next morning, it is back to business as usual ... because the aforementioned did nothing to alter the status quo.

  • B. Impairment in social or occupational functioning

    • violence -- this is the ugliest side of drugwar. The violence inflicted by those suffering from drugwar runs the gamut from a simple wrestling match to keep a suspect from swallowing a crack rock, all the way to low-intensity conflict involving automatic weapons and military hardware.

    • legal difficulties -- arresting users sounds like a great idea ... until the courts get overwhelmed. Forcing people to choose between incarceration and treatment sounds like a great idea ... until the prisons are overcrowded and the waiting list for "treatment" is three years long.

    • arguments or difficulties with family or friends -- our closest neighbors are the targets of some of the harshest attacks by those infected with drugwar.

    • tolerance -- how many more senseles deaths and trillions of dollars need to be wasted in the name of "saving just one life?"

    • withdrawal symptoms -- listen to the pronouncements of the "drug czar" and the lawmakers when you ask them to cut their budgets.

  • C. Duration of disturbance of at least one month

    As it turns out, the patient has been ill for nearly 100 years.

In light of these facts, there can be no serious argument against my claim that our society is suffering from a chronic epidemic of a form of societal psychosis I call "drugwar."