In today’s world, drug abuse has become one of the social evils that have greatly affected the society in which we live in. In 2011, approximately 22.5 million Americans, aged 12 and older, used an illicit drug or abused medication (such as a pain reliever or tranquilizer) (Survey on drug abuse, 1996). Drug abuse has become increasingly rampant in the American society, manifesting itself in many ways and forms. There is an emerging interest in the prescription drugs, which are favorite ones amongst the elite. On the other hand, street drug abuse continues to have its main actors that include cocaine, heroin and marijuana. The inter-relationship between drug abuse and criminal activity cannot be ignored because these spheres are deeply imbedded.
Drug use trends in America are evolving: the traditional street drugs are being replaced by the prescription drugs, which are easily available. Drug abuse is not a predicament of the underprivileged anymore. It has become extensive in elite and upper social classes who abuse prescription drugs. This is because they can afford to bend the arm of physicians and access prescription drugs. Prescription drug abuse is experienced in middle income to high income earning households who have access to insurance (Lewis & Pulver, 1994). Abuse of these drugs is linked to depression and societal peer pressure.
Marijuana use has greatly increased since 2002 due its availability especially to teens. This is usually the first illegal drug taken by new users who then move up to prescription drugs and eventually hallucinogens. In America, it is considered a crime to possess or distribute drugs that may have an imminence to be abused. Illegal drug use can only survive and thrive by use of drug cartels and gangs who control the cash flow and steady supply of drugs.
Crime and drug use are related, moreover, most of the reported criminal activities are perpetrated under the influence of drugs. There is a linkage between petty crime and drug use in whereas most of the arrested perpetrators tested positive for marijuana and ecstasy. This is related to the feeling of invincibility that people tend to feel under the influence and thus, engage in crimes such as drug dealing, shoplifting and driving while intoxicated. For example, in 1995, the Drug Use Forecasting (DUF) program of the National Institute of Justice indicates the proportion of arrested persons whose urine indicates drug use between 51-83 percent (National Institute of Justice, 1995).
Violent crimes in America have been linked to drug use, especially in terms of drug cartel differences in the criminal underworld. The cartels hold control over the supply and distribution of street drugs and thus, earn money and power. It is a scene that the cartel or gang with the fastest moving drug is considered the most powerful. These cartels engage in violent activities in order to protect their interests and increase their market value. The rampantly growing drug use in America creates a ready market for these cartels, thus strengthening their power over society. In some cities, some gangs are even more authoritative than government structures, and are revered by people and, sometimes, even held sacred.
Drug use and its penalties intimidate Americans of different socio-economic classes and racial identities. The consequences of the drug use are repeatedly felt; districts with the neighborhoods where illegal drug markets thrive are weighed down by consistent crime and violence. Americans who lack all-inclusive health plans and small incomes are unable to afford
Treatment programs to overcome drug dependence. This creates a system in which “generational curses” of drug abuse are experienced. In the Black majority projects, it is usually seen that three stages.
Generations of one family suffer from drug addiction. This causes a ripple effect on the abandonment of young children, which, in turn, plays a role in the premature sexual activity, teenage pregnancies, delinquency and criminal activities. The drug use trends are becoming alarming in that there is a sense of compliance, thus encouragement of its continuance. For example, Massachusetts and the District of Columbia allow medical use of marijuana by cancer patients. This creates a loophole for the use and sale of marijuana: it is difficult to monitor that the drug is only sold to cancer patients. It creates an avenue through which the other street drugs can be sold and distributed. Some of these past by-laws are inevitable disasters waiting to manifest themselves in terms of future generations.
Drug abuse is a burden for the society that can be estimated only to some extent. It is easy to calculate the number of drug-related crimes that take place each year. However, it cannot be determined the degree to which the value of living in America’s towns and cities has been diminished by drug-related criminal activities. Drug-related crimes are abiding at a strong and steady pace and are proving to be more and more difficult to stop or reverse their effects.
Illegal drugs persist to be readily accessible almost anywhere in the USA. If calculated solely, in terms of cost and purity, heroin, marijuana and cocaine prove to be more accessible than they were a decade ago. There is the need to find both structural and non-structural strategies in order to deal with the epidemic before it becomes too late. Drug-related crime needs to be prioritized just as any other security and emergency matter by the government. The Obama administration has gone a long way in viewing the drug abuse as a health crisis rather than a criminal problem. This changes the perspective on solutions that can be applied in order to improve the lives of the American people.
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