The White House contends that the U.S. is scoring big wins in the war on drugs, especially against cocaine cartels. Cocaine seizures are up – leading to higher prices on American streets. Cocaine use by teenagers is down, and, officials say, workplace tests suggest adult use is falling. The New York Times says in an editorial that the official enthusiasm “rests on a very selective reading of the data. Another look suggests that despite the billions of dollars the U.S. has spent battling the cartels, it has hardly made a dent in the cocaine trade.”
While seizures are up, so are shipments. The cartels are not running for cover. Mexico and parts of Central America are being swept up in drug-related violence. About 2.5 percent of Americans used cocaine at least once in 2006, the same percentage as in 2002, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. The Times say there are serious problems with a strategy that focuses overwhelmingly on disrupting the supply of drugs while doing far too little to curb domestic demand. The newspaper says the government should spend more on treating drug addicts and less on putting them in jail. Drug courts, which sentence users to treatment, deal with a small minority of drug cases and should be vastly expanded. Drug-treatment programs for imprisoned drug abusers, especially juvenile offenders, must also be expanded. Until demand is curbed at home, there is no chance of winning the war on drugs.