It’s been concluded that the War on Drugs has been a farce. The government initiative only served to swell prison populations beyond the realm of affordability, and to create a large number of social problems resulting from the mass incarceration of millions of people over a 40 year period. African Americans have been hit the hardest, since many black men are behind bars who would have otherwise been husbands and fathers to struggling black children and unmarried black women.
Americans spent roughly $100 billion a year on the program from 2000 to 2010, according to the RAND corporation. But that number is actually a conservative estimate of the total cost of the drug war, which is believed to be as high as $322 billion world-wide, according to the UN. The trillions spent on the drug war have not only harmed a large segment of American society, but have also led to calls for reparations from those who’ve calculated the vast economic damage done to the African American community.
It’s a gargantuan task. Critics of the war on drugs say it’s an impossible one. Over 40 years, the U.S. has spent more than $1 trillion in the fight. Thousands of people on both sides of the battle have lost their lives. In the end, it’s led only to cheaper, higher quality drugs at home and abroad, and by most accounts, little change in the number of people using them. While the momentum may finally be shifting away from an enforcement-first national drug policy and toward prevention and treatment, aggressive enforcement of the nation’s drug laws doesn’t appear to be going anywhere just yet.
Until the nation drastically rethinks its approach on drugs, the DEA will continue to play an integral part in the war against them, and that sometimes means resorting to controversial tactics. Below, find out how domestic spying, broken promises and a 14-year-old from Detroit have all played a part in that seemingly endless struggle.