SEQUEIRA: DEA can better institute drug education

Rehabilitation, assimilation should be nation’s prime objective for street dealers

The phrase “same concept, different circumstances” is what characterizes and contextualizes the recent war on illegal drugs, illicit prescriptions and substance abuse in the United States. Louisville, Kentucky and its recent heroin overdoses are just another chapter in the melancholic book of disarray the U.S. narcotics agencies find themselves embroiled in. Louisville Metro Services reportedly responded to more than four dozen overdose calls in just over 32 hours last week, a marked jump from previous quantities of calls concerning overdose. But Louisville isn’t the only one dealing with a surprising level of overdose calls and substance abuse problems. Nationally, the total quantity of overdose deaths has more than doubled since 2007 with over 50,000 individuals dying from overdose in 2015. It is time we channel enough funds to narcotic watchdogs to ensure that we keep our streets clean, our citizens healthy and our medical institutions treating truly virulent pathologies, rather than the symptomatology of substance abuse.

It’s no secret alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs are deleterious to the human body. They not only disrupt the biochemical equilibrium, but introduce toxins and a dependency which erode on formerly good health. It would be nonsensical, however, to outlaw such substances for not only do some of them have positive health benefits (in moderation), but prohibition has led to clandestine smuggling and increased consumption historically. Even marijuana has been involved in clinical trials involving Parkinson’s symptomatology mitigation.

While keeping our citizens healthy is an imperative endeavor to strive for, the chance to minimize substance abuse in the U.S. can actually save us a great deal of economic heartache. Indeed, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, tobacco, alcohol and illicit drug abuse costs health care $130 billion, $25 billion and $11 billion dollars, respectively. Not to mention that such hospital visits take time and energy out of physicians, as well as divert attention and resources away from other patients.

The Drug Enforcement Agency is the main bureaucratic watchdog over substances and drugs trafficked in the U.S. The behemoth employs over 10,000 individuals with a budget exceeding two million dollars and yet drugs and stigmatized substances have only increased in recent years. Even the Obama administration confessed that the agency is an utter failure. Simply put, the DEA itself represents the problem with the war on drugs: by enforcing, intimidating and terrorizing America into going drug-free, it has paradoxically caused more street dealers to acquire a steady source of revenue since the demand is so high. The only solution is to compromise the tough-guy attitude for an educational and supportive approach to narcotics. Only then shall we see the American public and law enforcement finally working together to keep our streets clean.

To decrease substance abuse, the DEA needs to adopt a more positive approach to drug education. Granted that intimidation tactics and enforcing laws works well for hardened criminals, the vast majority of street dealers are not hardened — they simply just do not have an alternative for an income. This singular fact is what led President Obama to pardon 330 street dealers and help them rehabilitate and assimilate back into society. While the politics of Obama’s decision are neither here nor there, the chance to rehabilitate street dealers is a curious opportunity that the DEA should seize advantage of. Additionally, the DEA should be subsidized by the federal government to provide jobs for dealers to end the drug supply. With a vast knowledge of the narcotic as well as the market landscape, reformed street dealers can be rehabilitated to become powerful assets to the DEA. While programs like the criminal informant programs exist, it is time that the DEA incentivizes criminals and dealers in cooperating with them. Engaging in a mutualistic relationship can not only drastically reduce the incarceration rates in U.S. prison systems, but also help increase the DEA case closing rates, perpetuating the cycle.

The DEA’s inefficiency, especially in recent memory, can be partially attributed to its lack of educational practices and its low retention and conversion of criminals into informants. With more fervent educational initiatives and more incentives for former criminals, we can keep our streets clean.

Sea Sequeira is an Opinion columnist for the Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at opinion@cavalierdaily.com

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