Congress outlawed the sale of heroin and cocaine in 1914. Prior to then, drugstores sold narcotics as popular cures and tonics. "Heroin" was actually Bayer’s trade name for its over-the-counter cough medicine. Coca-Cola, a fountain drink, was invented by an Atlanta druggist; its kick came from the coca leaf.
In ninety-three years, narcotics have gone from quaint drugstore notions to ubiquitous small-town evils. For all of the drug wars that our government has fought and lost, we might as well never have quit selling them over-the-counter. At the least, addicts could buy pharmaceutical-quality drugs before Congress weighed in.
The news from Afghanistan is telling of our drug war failures. Our army and air force have occupied that desert fiefdom for five years. This year, Afghani poppy farmers will reap a record opium harvest. The acreage under poppy cultivation has risen to 370,000 acres since our armed forces have been in country.
To understand what has happened since we invaded Afghanistan, recall that the Taliban had effectively eradicated poppy growing by 2000. Last year’s harvest of 250,000 acres was estimated to have provided 90% of the world heroin supply. The 2006 crop is half again as big.
With such a glut, the price of heroin is certain to slump to modern lows. The dope dealers will likely drop the street price to hook even more addicts. Heroin could easily become America’s drug of choice. And down the road, we should expect increased business for methadone clinics as addicts seek treatment.
The late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.) discussed several areas of public policy in his 1996 book, "Miles To Go". He reserved a chapter ("Drug Wars") to write about America’s love of alcohol and drugs.
Moynihan is best remembered for his intellect. He may very well be the last true intellectual elected to the U. S. Senate, given the prostitutional manner to which we have stooped when selecting senators.
Moynihan, a master lawmaker, was also fond of alcohol, and it is therefore no coincidence that he wrote such a lucid, balanced essay on government’s effort to control drug use. In his conclusion, he tells us: ''Thus, it may be that drug addiction is one of the problems government simply cannot solve.''
The Rolling Stones went platinum with, "You can't always get what you want, but … you get what you need." Huey Lewis topped the charts with "I want a new drug." The popularity of these songs directly correlates to modern society’s addiction to narcotics. And therein is the problem. When Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby ruled the airwaves, drug use was comparatively non-existent.
The Sixties, however, brought out a culture that embraced drugs as a form of escape and recreation. Whether it was the bored housewife who chose Valium or the acid head who popped LSD, our society changed overnight, from top to bottom, and for the worse.
Daniel Patrick Moynihan perfectly captured the degradation of our society in his essay "Defining Deviancy Down." Because America has allowed its mores to decline over the last fifty years, defining deviant behavior has continually narrowed toward the most egregious crimes.
As a practical way of explaining this, consider that Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and John Kerry have all said that they have smoked marijuana. George W. Bush has admitted his bout with alcoholism and a DUI arrest. These facts barely raise an eyebrow today. But how would these political candidates have fared at their respective 1956 nominating conventions? Do you really think either political party would have considered one of these men to lead the ticket?
We are living out an unbelievably cruel joke. Our government made it harder for cold sufferers to buy Sudafed and has proclaimed that act as a victory in the drug war. At the same time, our military is fighting a real war in Afghanistan, but our government has opened the door for Afghanis to inundate the world with cheap heroin.
If you gave every Arab terrorist a flying carpet with a fully-loaded bomb bay, they could not muster a threat to the American way of life that even comes close to the havoc that heroin will do to our neighborhoods in the coming year. We are destroying our empire from within, one fix at a time. And what’s insane is that we’ve used our own armed forces to overlord a cheap, plentiful stash.
Government cannot solve the problem. Legalization of narcotics cannot solve the problem, either. Only the American people can. But I doubt that we have the will to do so.