(Article found by Michael Bonventre)
What would you do with $60 billion dollars? Buy all your friends new Mercedes? Maybe you would own mansions all over the world? Perhaps you would give all your money to charity and retire in the Bahamas? How about hiring your own private tutor so that you'd never have to wake up early to go to school again? Or, did you ever consider financing the world's most corrupt organizations so that you can tear apart families, ruin lives, and destroy communities? Umm, unless you're Darth Vader, the answer to that last idea is probably a big NO. Unfortunately, that is exactly what drug users in the United States are doing. U.S. drug users spend approximately $60 billion dollars a year on illegal drugs, according to government estimates, helping to support the business that destructively affects our world from the national level down to individual users. Many people think it's no big deal to buy a quarter ounce of weed or a gram of coke to party with over the weekend. After all, it's only the ones who do the drugs who get hurt, right? At first, it may seem like the illegal drug industry creates lots of jobs in the communities where the drugs are produced. All of the sudden, the small communities that produce the drugs have an influx of cash into their economy. In the long run, though, the drug money destroys legitimate business and long-term development. Drug traffickers invest drug money into legal businesses to disguise their illegal profits as real business gains. This is called money laundering (good-bye Tide, hello Corruption). True legitimate business owners find it is almost impossible to compete with the drug traffickers, who are making 90 percent of their profit off of drug sales. On top of that, all of the money that selling drugs generates can't be taxed because it's all illegal and supposedly unknown to the government. So, millions of dollars worth of taxes, which could be used by the government to fight hunger and poverty, instead goes to the drug lords, their workers, and pay-offs to government officials.
Speaking of pay-offs, millions of dollars are used by drug traffickers to make sure that their drug business runs without hitch past politicians, police officers, judges and border inspectors. Sometimes drug traffickers will fund and provide arms to extremist groups to protect themselves from the government. Then another country's government will fund the counter-extremist group, and before you know it, there's a war. If money doesn't work, drug traffickers will use threats, blackmail, and even murder to keep mouths shut. This turns the very people that we depend on to protect us into corrupt, greedy and scared slaves to the drug industry.
When you look at how drugs affect local communities and families, the statistics are just as sad. According to the 1999 Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring Program, 75 percent of the male adults arrested in New York City for committing a violent crime tested positive for drug use. In smaller cities in the U.S., like Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, these figures ranged as high as 64 percent. The direct correlation between drugs and crime is well known. Many drug users will lie, steal, cheat and abuse others to get their next hit. Tragically, these tendencies are often carried into the home. According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy's (ONDCP) 1998 National Drug Control Strategy, one-quarter to one-half of all incidents of domestic violence are drug-related; substance abuse is one of the key problems exhibited by 81 percent of the families reported for child maltreatment; and 3.2 percent of pregnant women use drugs regularly. This isn't even the half of it. Families may also experience emotional abuse and financial strain as a result of drug abuse, in addition to the hundreds of unreported cases of drug-related domestic abuse that happen each year.
Finally, what exactly can happen to those people who just "party" a little on the weekends? For starters, bloodshot eyes, yellow teeth, major weight gain or loss, high blood pressure, impotence and diarrhea are common side effects (not exactly your Brittney or Justin prototype). Cocaine, ecstasy and meth can give even Olympians a heart attack on the first try. Over the long term, we're talking lung cancer, liver problems, and major brain damage. Drug users tend to forget about meaningful goals, and instead focus on when and where they can get their next high.
So what are we doing as a country to fight drug traffickers and their posse? The war on drugs takes place on every level described above, from nations to individuals. Organizations created by the U.S. government such as the Drug Enforcement Administration (D.E.A.) spend hundreds of thousand of dollars in cooperation with the F.B.I., C.I.A. and local law-enforcement officers to crack down on drug producers and dealers both inside and outside of the U.S. Well-trained officers and police dogs work at the border between Mexico and the U.S. to search vehicles for incoming drug shipments. Still, some border officers estimate that they find only five percent of the drugs crossing the border. The United Nations estimate that current drug fighting efforts intercept only 13 percent of heroin shipments and 28 to 40 percent cocaine shipments worldwide.