Can “A War on Drugs” Really be Won?

Education, Health & Wellness, Life, Coffee House | by Ray Lang ”Your Advocate”













A seventeen year old boy arrested for illegal drug possession once told me that he began self-medicating when he was fourteen. He would take some pain killers out of the medicine cabinet that were prescribed to his father by a doctor for back pain. He confided that he thought that the pills were safe since they were manufactured by a well-known pharmaceutical company and approved by the government.  Less than a year later, I shockingly learned that this young man had died by overdosing from this same safe, government approved pain killer.

Most of us likely know a family member or friend caught in the clutches of the deadly disease of drug addiction. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), in 2011 an estimated 22.5 million Americans (8.7 percent of the U.S. population) aged 12 or older were current illicit drug users. Abuse of tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drugs is costing our Nation over $600 billion annually in costs related to crime, lost work productivity and healthcare.

Billions of dollars are made by those involved in producing, prescribing and distributing dangerously addictive drugs. Pharmaceuticals, psychiatrists, doctors and healthcare providers substantially benefit from sales of extremely addictive painkillers, anti-depressants and anxiety treating medications. Worse yet, the illegal distribution of these dangerous drugs and other illegal alternatives such as heroin, make billions more for organized crime. In light of the temptation of substantial payoffs, powerful political lobbying and lucrative job opportunities offered to FDA employees it is difficult to wage any kind of  “War on Drugs”.

As dangerous drugs fuel the addiction frenzy inflicting our neighborhoods, our courts are becoming filled with those accused of drug related crimes. If you are arrested and charged with drug possession, before deciding how to proceed you have an important question to ask yourself. “Am I a drug addict?” Before you answer that question, you need to be totally honest with yourself. If you believe you are an addict, you should view your arrest as an opportunity to deal with your problem.


If you say “yes” to the question of addiction, you should know that most jurisdictions have courts offering programs geared toward treatment and rehabilitation. If you elect to go in this direction, generally you make an agreement with the court to pursue a prescribed treatment plan. If you succeed in executing the program, the charges may be dismissed or significantly diminished, however if you fail you may be sentenced to the original charges.

Drug addiction is a complex illness characterized by intense and, at times, uncontrollable drug craving, along with compulsive drug seeking and use that persist even in the face of devastating consequences. Addiction is a brain disease that affects multiple brain circuits, including those involved in reward and motivation, learning and memory, and inhibitory control over behavior. Because drug abuse and addiction have so many dimensions and disrupt so many aspects of an individual’s life, treatment is not simple.

Medication and behavioral therapy are important elements of an overall therapeutic process that often begins with detoxification, followed by in-patient and out-patient treatment and relapse prevention. Easing withdrawal symptoms can be important in the initiation of treatment; preventing relapse is necessary for maintaining its effects. Medications can be used to help reestablish normal brain function and to prevent relapse and diminish cravings. Methadone, buprenorphine (suboxone) and, for some individuals, naltrexone are effective medications for the treatment of opiate addiction. Behavioral treatments help patients engage in the treatment process, modify their attitudes and behaviors related to drug abuse, and increase healthy life skills. Support groups are beneficial in aiding in relapse prevention.

According to the NSDUH, 19.3 million persons, aged 12 or older, needed treatment for an illicit drug or alcohol abuse problem but did not receive it in 2011. This is only about 16.5 percent of those who actually needed such treatment in 2011. Of the 3.8 million persons aged 12 or older who received treatment for alcohol or illicit drug use in 2011, 2.1 million persons received treatment at a self-help group and 1.5 million received treatment at a rehabilitation facility as an outpatient.

Support Groups

• Narcotics Anonymous (NA) uses fellowship and a set of guided principles (the “Twelve Steps”) to help members achieve and maintain sobriety. The twelve-step process involves:

 admitting that you are powerless to control your addiction or compulsion;
 recognizing a higher power “as you understand it” that can give strength;
 reviewing the mistakes you’ve made in the past, with the help of your sponsor;
 making amends for past mistakes and wrongs;
 learning how to live a new life, free from old unhealthy habits and ways of behaving; and
 helping fellow drug addicts.

• Al-Anon/Alateen is an international “fellowship of relatives and friends of alcoholics and drug addicts who share their experience, strength, and hope in order to solve their common problems.”

• Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS) is an international organization that takes a science-based, self-empowerment approach to abstinence and recovery from drug and alcohol addiction.

• SMART Recovery (Self-Management and Recovery Training) is a program that aims for abstinence from alcohol or drugs through self-empowerment and self-directed change.

Criminal Defenses

If you are arrested you may consider your defenses to the criminal charges. Defenses are fairly universal across state lines, while the federal government tends to have tougher drug sentencing guidelines. Some defenses challenge the stated facts, testimony or evidence in the case; others target procedural errors. General defenses to drug possession charges may include:

• Unlawful Search and Seizure – The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to due process of law, including lawful search and seizure procedures prior to an arrest. Illicit drugs found in “plain view,” such as a car’s dashboard after a legal traffic stop, may be seized and used as evidence. But drugs found in the trunk of a car after prying it open with a crowbar, assuming the suspect did not give permission, cannot be entered into evidence. If the defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights were violated, then the drugs cannot be used at trial and the charges typically are dismissed.

• Drugs Belong to Someone Else – A common defense to any crime charge is to simply say you didn’t do it. The drug possession equivalent is to claim the drugs aren’t yours or that you had no idea they were in your apartment.

• Crime Lab Analysis – Just because it looks like cocaine or LSD doesn’t mean it necessarily is. The prosecution must prove that a seized substance is indeed the illicit drug it claims it is by sending the evidence to a crime lab for analysis. The crime lab analyst then must testify at trial in order for the prosecution to make its case.

• Missing Drugs – Prosecutors generally must be able to produce the actual drugs for which the defendant is charged. Seized drugs often get transferred several times before ending up in the evidence locker, so it should never be assumed that the evidence still exists during trial.

• Drugs were Planted – Your attorney can file a motion that, if approved by the judge, requires the department to release the complaint file of the given officer. This file contains the names and contact of information of those who made the complaints, who can then be interviewed and questioned regarding whether the drugs were planted.

• Entrapment – Occurs when officers or informants induce a suspect to commit a crime he or she otherwise may not have committed. If an informant or undercover police officer pressures a suspect into passing drugs to a third party, for example, then this may be considered entrapment. As a rule of thumb, entrapment occurs where the state provides the drugs in question.


There was a drug addict who falls into a fifteen foot deep hole while walking home one day. He’s in pain and can’t get out no matter how hard he tries. Along comes a doctor, and the addict says “Please help me, I’m in so much pain.” The doctor throws down a bottle of pain killers to alleviate the pain and goes on his way. A clergy member walks by, “Help!!!” cries the addict “I’m an addict and I need help.” He tosses down a pamphlet of scripture and tells him to pray for strength against his addiction. Along comes a psychiatrist, the addict says “Please help me, I’m so scared.” The psychiatrist asks some questions & throws down a few anti-anxiety pills, then goes on his way. As days pass, although the addict is feeling no pain or anxiety after taking the pills and praying, he realizes he is starving to death. Along comes a recovering addict and he looks down in the hole. The active addict says “Please give me some food!!!”, and the recovering addict JUMPS INTO THE HOLE!!! The active addict looks at him and says “Are you nuts! Now we are both down here!” The recovering addict says “I know but you see I’ve been here before and I know the way out!”

Like the Good Samaritan in the Christian Parable, the Recovering Addict demonstrates true compassion and courage. His successful navigation through rehabilitation and treatment become a blessing to the active addict and his courage to take action reinforces the Recovering Addict’s own recovery. The road to addiction recovery is long and challenging, but with help from those who have successfully been traveling this road, trained therapists providing the road map and fierce determination to not swerve of it, the personal battle can be won.

The societal battle is a different story. Karl Marx naively called our faith in God the “opium of the people.” Faith, in fact, cures our addictions caused by such opium.  Faith is the ammunition we need to successfully fight the “War on Drugs.” We must share this Faith, and unite our gifts, talents and experiences in this struggle and only then will we make a dent in the daunting crisis of drug addiction destroying our society.


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