Reflections on the War on Drugs

August 27, 2012 Karl Shallowhorn, MS, CASAC

The so-called “War on Drugs” has been going for almost as long as I can remember. For years, the US government has poured billions of dollars into programs designed to help decrease America’s dependence on illicit substances. While I typically do not get into public debate on this topic, I felt the need to share my thoughts on this controversial issue.

Practical Considerations on the US Drug Problem

First, let me say, I do not have the magic solution to the problem of drug abuse. I do, however, have some ideas that are worth exploring:
• We will never be able to prevent drugs from entering the country. We can build a 100 foot wall around the perimeter of the States (sorry Alaska and Hawaii) and we would still have a drug problem.
• As long as the drug trade is a lucrative and profitable system, there will always be those who will try to find ways to distribute drugs. Providing job training and educational opportunities are ways that people can have an alternative to selling drugs on the street.
• The criminal justice system is broken. It costs far less to provide treatment than it does to incarcerate. One glimmer of hope is the Drug Court program that serves as an alternative to incarceration. Drug Court was pioneered in Western New York, where I live, and has also spawned such programs as Mental Health Court and Veterans Court.
• Prevention is key but only works when people work together to help our children to remain drug-free. This is not left entirely to school programs. Adults have to take the responsibility to be role models. I’m not saying to be perfect, but our behaviors are observed whether we realize it or not.
• And once again about treatment: I would be remiss if I did not mention that as a credentialed substance abuse counselor I have seen people’s lives turned around as a result of their participation in formal drug treatment. Treatment certainly is not the panacea but it does work. I am a product of the treatment system and I owe a debt of gratitude to the counselors who guided me on the path to recovery.

Future Challenges for the War on Drugs

None of these ideas I have mentioned are new. But as an addicted society we will never begin to put a sufficient dent in the US drug problem until we focus on the fundamental underlying issues we have been facing for years. “Just say no,” just doesn’t cut it anymore.

APA Reference
Shallowhorn, K. (2012, August 27). Reflections on the War on Drugs, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2022, December 5 from

Author: Karl Shallowhorn, MS, CASAC

Steve Adams
September, 26 2012 at 10:46 am

Thanks for this article Karl. But let's be honest, the illegal drug industry is only a part of the problem. We all know for a fact that a growing number of addictions world wide are the result of prescribed drugs that are handed out like candy. The answer to this dilemma, time will tell. One aspect within the addictions treatment industry that I know for sure, in most instances, has not been addressed is the physiological component. Heal the brain, which would be the foundation of which to create a recovery program that increases the percentage of successful individuals on their journey of sobriety. Peace

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

September, 26 2012 at 3:20 pm

Steve - I agree that prescription medications are as much to blame for the drug problem in our society. Until we address addiction at its core level then we will lose this war.

September, 3 2012 at 5:59 pm

So well said, Karl. Your ideas are very much worth exploring. Great article!

Plastic Surgery LA
August, 27 2012 at 10:05 pm

Preventing drugs to come to the US is impossible as there is a free trade route to Russia and so. But we can however reduce it if we block the trade from Russia.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

August, 29 2012 at 9:34 am

Russia, Mexico, Afghanistan. The list goes on and on. There will always be a drug problem if we do not take care of the many social ills found in our society.

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