40th anniversary of the "War on Drugs." Did we lose?

By: Kate Burgess Email
By: Kate Burgess Email

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT)--40 years ago this week, President Richard Nixon declared war on drugs. Trillions of dollars later, most Americans would agree: We're losing. A report by the Global Commission on Drug Policy says just that. According to officials in our area, the number one problem isn't cocaine or heroin, but prescription pills.

No matter who you ask, the answer is the same: "the use and prevalence of narcotics is the bane of all law enforcement. Particularly now with the use of prescription drugs," said Knox County District Attorney General, Randy Nichols.

Karen Pershing at the Metropolitan Drug Commission agreed, "If they're not used the way they're prescribed, or for the person they're prescribed, they're just as dangerous, if not more dangerous than an illegal drug."

But that hasn't stopped hundreds of thousands of people from abusing pills. "They've got the impression that these are safe because they're made by some giant drug manufacturer."

Nichols said after 40 years of "war," the drug problem in this country is only getting worse. "We're going into half a century now of trying to deal with this and the truth is we've not done a very good job."

Government crackdowns, jail time, nothing seems to work. "Either they end up in jail, they end up in an institution, or they end up in the grave."

Thomas Dean knows firsthand the pain of drug addiction. He spent a year and a half in a cocaine induced fog. "It was a real dark time," he said.

A darkness he managed to climb out of only after hitting bottom. "I was spiritually, physically and emotionally bankrupt in a year and a half's time."

Now he works as a case manager with the Knox Area Rescue Ministries. He says the drug problem in America is not one the government can solve. "The individual has to reach a point where they're sick and tired of being sick and tired."

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