Gains Made in Controlling Illegal Drugs, Yet the Drug Trade Flourishes

GGD-80-4: Published: Oct 25, 1979. Publicly Released: Oct 25, 1979.

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Drug abuse and trafficking still flourish despite several decades of efforts to overcome the problem. The country's $5.5 billion drug abuse program during the past decade has dealt with both demand reduction and supply reduction. A continuing trend of great concern is the levels of drug use and abuse among young people in the United States. Drugs were the seventh most common cause of death for Americans aged 10 to 19, and ranked fourth for the 20-to-24 age group in 1976. These age categories represented one-fourth of all drug-related deaths during 1976. Although at present there exists a shortage of heroin in the United States, this accomplishment may be temporary. There is concern that as Mexican heroin availability declines, heroin from Southeast Asia and the Middle East will fill the gap. Some also fear that use of dangerous synthetic drugs will continue to increase as heroin users find that drug difficult to obtain.

The enormous supply of and demand for drugs have created a multibillion dollar worldwide business involving millions of Americans. The social, economic, and political realities of drug-growing countries make it difficult to prevent cultivation of illicit crops and stop trafficking at the source. Suppression efforts have been hindered by longstanding and socially accepted traditions of smuggling and corruption. In the United States, the enormous profits of drug trafficking attract an ample number of entrepreneurs who see opportunities that far outweigh those offered by legitimate businesses. It is easy to enter and distribute drugs in the United States. It has been estimated that law enforcement agencies seize only 5 to 10 percent of all illicit drugs available. Actions needed to fully support federal drug strategy implementation have not materialized. Differing views among government agencies, as well as the public, make it difficult to attain the necessary legislative, executive, and judicial actions to achieve an integrated and coordinated approach in efforts to reduce the drug supply.

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