Letters to Editor, New York Times, April 14, 1997
Should we continue to wage the drug war?
Chasing the dragon
The Lindesmith Center
A. M. Rosenthal's analysis that we are winning the drug war (New York Times column April 8) ignores a few points.
One is the Clinton Administration's drug war budget of $16 billion. Mr. Rosenthal points out that in the early 1980's, many more people used drugs than do now. Yet in 1980 the drug budget was only $1 billion.
Why does it cost so much more to deal with fewer users? Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey, the White House drug czar, is the Administration's point man in justifying this precipitous rise in expenditures. His is a tough task. After all, what else does the Federal Government spend 15 times as much on today as a decade and a half ago?
Mr. McCaffrey explains that we have as many intensive drug users today as in 1980. In other words, we managed to get casual drug users to stop but made no impact on heavy users.
Smoking heroin is called "chasing the dragon." The United States is chasing its national dragon by pouring more and more money into our illusory conquest of drug abuse.