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Our Gift From The Drug War:

A Second Pharmaceutical System


The war on drugs has had an astounding impact in developing the second pharmaceutical system, making drug dealing a lucrative industry such that -- as of 1997 -- it started listing as a valid profession.   


There was a time when anyone from the general public, including a child, could walk into the local apothecary, explain what they wanted or what symptoms they had, and the apothecary, a predecessor to the chemist and pharmacist, would produce what the customer wanted.  Although there were not nearly the number of drugs available today, there were still a sizable number that could be fatal if taken improperly. Laws and restrictions took the apothecary away, and modern medicine split the powers between doctors  and druggists, which today are the so-called pharmacists.  It was more inconvenient and more costly, and often it didn't work as well as the apothecary who had a command over drugs, and the best work 12 hours a day, seven days a week. 

The war on drugs (WOD) -- initially proposed as the "war on drug abuse" (WODA) was changed by Richard Nixon himself as he failed to distinguish the difference between USE and ABUSE.   A fanatic on the subject matter, Nixon carelessly worded his speech, exaggerating the problem rather than providing facts.  After hearing the remarks from the Shafer commission, Nixon decided that he knew more than his qualified experts who were recommending legalization as a possible option.  What Nixon wanted to hear was an echo of his constitutients who disfavored drugs because it was clear to them that sexual deviency, including homosexuality, was caused by the drugs young people were taking.  There was no better proof than the correlation between drug users and all the homosexuals coming out of the closet. 

As the power of physicians regress, the responsibility of the drug dealers increases.  In the 21st century, clients of drug dealers were largely recreational drug users.  Today, self-medicators outnumber recreational drug users as drug dealer clients.  And while US Government interprets the problem as the failure of insurance carriers, it is actually the failure of providers.

Indeed, the staunchest supporters of the drug war would fit Utopia if everyone on the planet would discard tnd ihe substances they have and forgot that drugs ever existed.  But if that can't happen, then the next best thing is to at least negate the attitudes that people had before the war on drugs and that is something that has occurred, unfortunately.   Only those who were living during the era before the drug war will remember what it was like to smoke a cigarette on a subway, in a taxicab, in the office, in a restaurant, in a bank...    

Any chemical could be packaged for shipment throughout much of the world.   It was possible in those days to establish an open and honest relationship with physicians.  A patient could trust a physician with information simply because they knew that the information was not going  to leave the mind of the provider.    Before the drug war, physicians were loyal friends and confidential advisors.   From the end of the second world war until the mid 1980s, about 40% of the US population said they would consult their physician in a time of an emotional crisis.  Today, less than 2% of the population feel the same.  Even more serious, 85% of the population today don't trust their physician.  In fact more people responded that they found pharmacists and drug dealers to be more trustworthy.  

During the 1980s, the Reagan administration forever changed the world of medicine by over-regulating the healthcare industry.  In doing this, they literally destroyed the backbone of American health, leaving the US citizen floundering with changes to the system that have been only getting worse since. 

The drug dealing trade started having a separate significance around the time of Prohibition.   In the 20th century, however, the illicit drug trade turned drug dealing from routine commerce into a high-profit glamour business.  Thus, the modern drug dealer first appeared on the scene in the US, in about 1920.   Despite what some people think about the Prohibition, it catered to the risk-takers -- those men and women who thrive on danger, otherwise known as societal misfits.  During the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s knowing someone who was dealing drugs was like knowing royalty.   Everyone knew who the serious players were and quite often they would keep their distance.  When you walked into a nightclub in New York -- gay or straight -- if you couldn't point out the dealers, you were not A-List material.  If someone was kind enough to introduce you to a club dealer, it was because they liked you and trusted you.  It became increasingly difficult to find someone who would not breach that trust.   Of most importance, the suppliers needed reliable people who could weasle their way out of any dilemma while mixing in with the crowd.  Someone who was not one of "them" would stick out like a sore thumb and would not last long. 

Drug raids on bars and dance clubs are less common today than they were during the 1960s and 1970s.  Back then, the Italian Mafia retained ownership of buildings and the capital that they acquired during the Prohibition.  

From about 1960 until the mid 1990s, the drug dealer held a prominent role in social circles.  It was possible to sell drugs and amass incredible wealth.  In some communities, this is still possible.  However, in the past, nightclubs depended upon the business of drug dealers.  

The Clinton Administration thought that by raising mandatory minimum sentences for possession, many drug users would simply kick the habit.  Instead,  drug users turned into drug dealers overnight because it no longer made any difference whether they were using or selling.  The proliferation of many drug dealers with one or two clients, made the hunt cost-prohibitive, frustrating, and completely out-of-control.  
By 2000, the age of the grand dealer was over.  Clubs tossed out their last dealers and sided with the law for obvious reasons.  It was a change that was necessary.  Drugs should come from a pharmacist; not from someone on a dance floor.  


When drug laws began targeting apothecaries during the early 20th century, no one ever dreamed of an underground operation so large that it could not be contained.  In fact, when the Nixon administration sought to put an end to the drug trade, it was thought of as a rather easy task.  It was assumed that within a few years, every drug would be gone.  Nixon's resignation and Jimmy Carter's election might have imposed some setbacks, but when Ronald Reagan took hold the reigns of the presidency, there was no question that changes would be made.

The fact is, that today we can look back and analyze the drug war and what it's done.  What benefits did anyone get from the drug war?

Well, let's first take a look at who didn't benefit.  First, there is the healthcare industry which suffered the most significant amount of damage because the drug war completely demolished the physician-patient partnership.  Law enforcement were given more work so they didn't benefit. Politicians didn't benefit because drugs have become more of a problem.  The general public that doesn't do drugs didn't benefit because they are paying taxes to support drug criminals in prison.  The general public that does drugs didn't benefit because drug prices escalated and they too have to pay taxes.  You might say that drug users got the short end of the stick.  School kids didn't benefit because the drug war didn't do anything to educate them.  In fact, the drug war has led our kids right into the inferno of drug abuse with no preparation before and today, the wrong preparation.

There is only one group that has benefited from the drug war and that group is comprised of the drug dealers and suppliers who don't get caught.  We can't even begin to imagine the number of drug dealers there are out there; we only know that there are millions. 

Up until the 1990s, drug dealing was territorial.  There were limited numbers and everyone knew everyone.  It was easy for the DEA to come into a new territory one week and the following week 15-to-20 would get busted just from one name.  The Clinton clan was hoping to show some muscle in the effort, but when they weren't doing any better than the Republicans, they went brainstorming for new ideas.  You would have thought that the Democrats would have had more brains and shot down the war on drugs through an executive order, but they didn't.   The Clinton Administration thought that by raising mandatory minimum sentences for possession, many drug users would simply kick the habit.  Instead,  drug users turned into drug dealers overnight because it no longer made any difference whether they were using or selling.  The proliferation of many drug dealers with one or two clients, made the hunt cost-prohibitive, frustrating, and completely out-of-control.  Drug users couldn't have planned a worse strategy.  Within one year, drug busts declined considerably, and the GOP was in stitches with Rush Limbaugh in the front seat.   

Today, it's almost insane the number of people selling drugs.  The only opportunity one has to get a foot in the door is to know a handful of people who want the drug, buy extra, markup the price and/or cut the product with impurities and dish it out.  Today, the least likely to be selling drugs is selling them.   Grandmother, children, women, mothers, executives... in fact, it wouldn't phase me in the least if someone ever told me that Washington state legislator, Roger Goodman is selling drugs.   I strongly suspect that he does.

Copyright C 2007