Since the end of World War II, almost every president has declared a war on illegal drug use. The efforts against drugs that are currently used, got their start from a series of laws passed during the Nixon administration’s “War on Drugs”. Many programs have been established including Nancy Regan’s “Just Say No” campaign which was started in 1983. George Bush, later provided the DEA with its largest federal funding increase ever, raising the DEA’s budget to more than $18 billion.
The War on Drugs has continued in the 1990s with a larger focus on the strict enforcment of U.S drug laws. However, the increased enforcement of U.S. drug laws has led to prison overcrowding and a change from the smugling of illegal substances to a local production of cheap, highly potent substances such as crack, cocaine, and methamphetamine. While when compared to foreign countries, the United States appears to be doing a good job in combating illegal drug use, it is very clear that the drug policies used during the past three decades have failed remarkably to meet their stated objectives.
Limited drops in usage levels (rising levels in Denver), failure to reduce violent crime related to drug use, failure to reduce importation of ilegal substances, faliure to reduce availability of illegal drugs, the expenditure of great amounts of money and limited public resources, and failure to provide meaningful treatment for current substance abusers, are all evidence that in fact the “War on Drugs” has been a non-sucessful program up until this point.
In the city of Denver, the FBI denver devision has joined forces with local agencies which include the Denver Police Department, U.S. Customs service, Immigtration and Naturalization Service, and the DEA to impliment various progams including both educational and enfocement policies. Mentorship for youth, Youth leadership, Parental and family education, community orgainizaition projectsProfessional and peer intervention such as the use of psychologists, Regional Prevention Specialists offering consultaton and technical assistance in the deveolpment of community prevention programs, and DUI prevention are among the list of things being done to combat the drug problem.
The Office of Safe & Drug Free Schools & Communities (OSDFSC) and the Regional Alcohol and Drug abuse resources program (RADAR), are local groups that were started in order to provide programs and services to assist schools with:
- Substance use and abuse prevention education,
- Creating a disciplined learning environment.
The offices’ approachs which are geared twoards preventative educaton, are representative of Denver’s focus on drug education. It is the offices’ beliefs that by educating students at an early age about the harmful effects of drugs on themselves and those around them, a long-term solution to the drug problem may be in grasp. This method of education rather than law enforcement measures being used has recently become the standard in many major cities including Denver
In Denver’s public schools, Project Alert is being used “to provide students the motivation, skills, and practice to resist the gateway drugs: alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, and includes a lesson on inhalant abuse.” The program currently requires middle school students to go through fourteen lessons that attempt to educate students about the harmful affects of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs.
The program’s main effort is to build resilance in youth. “Resiliency is the experience of encountering life’s adversities and challenges, being disrupted, but then not only recovering from the adversity, but surfacing from the experience with strength, confidence, happiness, self-esteem, and skills.” (Glenn Richardson).
As many other elementary schools, high-schools, and colleges across the nation have done, the city of Denver and the Denver Public School System has adopted a “no-tolerance” policy, in which a student found guilty of drug use or possession is subject to immediate suspension or expulsion. This policy is designed to detour youth from using drugs basically by means of intimidation. This method has never worked with any crime so why would it work with drugs? The penalty for murder in Texas is death, yet murders still occur there everyday. The goal of any drug policy should be to lower the prevalence and spread of harmful drug use and substance abuse, and to minimize the harms associated with such problems where they are found to exist. A no tolerance policy clearly does not help to reach that goal.
On March 31,1999 mayor Wellington E. Webb announced a new strategy for fighting the drug war. In a press release he said the following: “This strategy will help the City of Denver focus its efforts on preventing drug abuse, treating those who are addicted and providing our police officers with additional tools to enforce our drug laws. This isn’t a fight against drugs, it’s a war. And it must be waged with every available resource. The City’s plan is comprehensive and identifies numerous creative strategies to make Denver a drug-free city.”
In the same press release, the strategy that the city of Denver now uses was outlined. First, the “Action Planning Committee” (APC) was established to examine all media strategies intended to prevent the use of harmful substances, relate the effectiveness of treatment and develop a shared media strategy for Denver. Next, the mayor promised to facilitate a process to strengthen the network of treatment providers in Denver in order to provide greater resources in inner-city neighboorhoods. Prevention efforts were heightened in the schools by requring the Denver Board of Education, private schools and other community based organizations to agree upon and implement a drug prevention program curriculum in the school system (ie. ALERT).
The program’s second objective is to support positive behaviors and healthy lifestyles through education. Gaps in recreation and after-schools programs were identifyed, and those gaps were filled by working with the community to find resources; support programs by working with youth and young adults; and by communicating the availability of such programs to the public through avenues like the Community Assessment Center . Next strategies were devolped to address the recovery issues of drug addicts and provide support services for those people who have been through treatment to prevent relapse and promote integration.
The third objective of the program was to enhance communications and share information about drugs and their effects. This was done by working with appropriate resources to collect and relevant substance abuse data from existing sources to establish a central location of information for use by policy makers, employers, service providers, and community members.
Expanding treatment services was the next part of the program that was implimented by working within existing sources to establish the treatment needs of communities based on geography, age, gender ethnicity, families and special populations. Another committee was established to identify strategies which place an increased emphasis on the availability of culturally unbiased treatment centers for people of color in and out of correctional settings.
Next, information depicting the types of substances being use in Denver; demographics of users, venues leading to the use of harmful substances (media liquor store locations, advertisements, etc.) and high drug trafficking areas was given to the public in order to assist neighborhoods to reduce the number of liquor establishments and advertisements in their communities, to identify successful neighborhoods, such as Park Hill, to be used as models for others. to develop strategies to reduce billboards and advertisements for harmful substances, and to assist treatment providers in better meeting the community’s needs.
Supporting and enhancing Denver’s drug courts was the next directive. Adding a prevention component for children and families for all drug court participants. (When youth are involved with substance abuse, intervention efforts should emphasize family participation)
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