The US Federal Government Finally Admits the War on Drugs is a Failure

10-Big-Stories-from-2015-that-Show-the-War-on-Drugs-is-in-RetreatBy Dylan Charles

The war on drugs officially kicked off in 1971 when president Richard Nixon addressed the nation in a press conference explaining how the recent passage of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970 would provide the legal framework and material support for a new kind of war, the war on drugs.

We must wage what I have called total war against public enemy number one in the United States, the problem of dangerous drugs.Richard Nixon, 1972

His address spoke of the need for a coordinated federal response that addressed both the demand side, and the supply side of the issue, noting that although America had the highest rate of heroin addicts in the world, the drug was not grown or sourced in the United States.  The door was thereby opened for the destructive interventionist policies that have since greatly affected mostly Latin American nations.

Fast forward forty plus years and for anyone who is not making a profit in the global drug trade, the war on drugs looks like one of the greatest human tragedies of all time. Billions of dollars spent, hundreds of thousands of deaths, millions of people incarcerated, countless lives and families shattered, higher than ever rates of addiction, billions in foreign military aid spent, and the availability of drugs is higher than ever before.

Now, the nation’s newest ‘Drug Czar,’ and recovering alcoholic, Michael Botticelli, is going public with the message that the war on drugs is a failure and that it cannot continue as is. He says it’s time to change our approach to how we treat addiction, and in an appearance on the CBS program 60 Minutes which aired in December of 2015 entitled A New Direction on Drugs, president Obama’s recently appointed drug boss is making an attempt to change the tone of this colossal disaster.

During his conversation with CBS’ Scott Pelley, Botticelli first remarked that he didn’t like the title ‘Drug Czar,’ because the title had become antiquated and linked to the failures of the policies of strict prohibition and open war that are closely associated with the US’ decades long war on drugs.

From the interview:

Michael Botticelli: It’s actually a title that I don’t like.

Scott Pelley: Why?

Michael Botticelli: Because I think it connotes this old “war on drugs” focus to the work that we do. It portrays that we are clinging to kind of failed policies and failed practices in the past.

Scott Pelley: Are you saying that the way we have waged the war on drugs for more than 40 years has been all wrong?

Michael Botticelli: It has been all wrong.

Blunt force didn’t knock out the drug epidemic. 21 million Americans are addicted to drugs or alcohol. And half of all federal inmates are in for drug crimes.

Michael Botticelli: We can’t arrest and incarcerate addiction out of people. Not only do I think it’s really inhumane, but it’s ineffective and it cost us billions upon billions of dollars to keep doing this.

Scott Pelley: So what have we learned?

Michael Botticelli: We’ve learned addiction is a brain disease. This is not a moral failing. This is not about bad people who are choosing to continue to use drugs because they lack willpower. You know, we don’t expect people with cancer just to stop having cancer.

Scott Pelley: Aren’t they doing it to themselves? Isn’t a heroin addict making that choice?

Michael Botticelli: Of course not. You know, the hallmark of addiction is that it changes your brain chemistry. It actually affects that part of your brain that’s responsible for judgment.

Here is a preview of the 60 Minutes interview:

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Botticelli devoted considerable time in this interview discussing the growing social epidemic of opiate abuse, noting that heroin is now a drug that people turn to after becoming addicted to prescription pain medications. While telling of his personal journey of recovery from alcoholism he remarked that it is the legal drugs, alcohol and tobacco that do the most damage in our society, furthermore voicing his disapproval of cannabis legalization.

Michael Botticelli: You know, even kind of feeling that moment of hesitation about saying that I’m in recovery and not about being a gay man shows to me that we still have more work to do to really de-stigmatize addiction.

But it’s addiction to legal drugs, alcohol and tobacco that kill the most Americans, over half a million a year. Botticelli does not believe in adding another drug to that cocktail with the legalization of marijuana.

Scott Pelley: You’re not a fan?

Michael Botticelli: I’m not a fan. What we’ve seen quite honestly is a dramatic decrease in the perception of risk among youth around occasional marijuana use. And they are getting the message that because it’s legal, that it is, there’s no harm associated with it. So, we know that about one in nine people who use marijuana become addicted to marijuana. It’s been associated with poor academic performance, in exacerbating mental health conditions linked to lower IQ.

Overall the message from the new Drug Czar appears to be a reflection of his personal experiences with the demons of addiction, but it lacks any mention of the systemic corruption and problems that make the war on drugs much more sinister than just a fight against addiction. Drug running is big business, and there are many elements within our own government that facilitate this trade and profit immensely from it, including but certainly not limited to the ever-growing private industrial prison complex.

Now that the US federal government has publicly admitted that the war on drugs is indeed a failure, it remains to be seen what changes in policy will be made. For a full transcript of Botticelli’s interview, visit CBS News, here, but for a real, hardcore look at the truth of the war on drugs, watch this important film by Kevin Booth, American Drug War:The Last White Hope:

Dylan Charles is a student and teacher of Shaolin Kung Fu, Tai Chi and Qi Gong, a practitioner of Yoga and Taoist arts, and an activist and idealist passionately engaged in the struggle for a more sustainable and just world for future generations. He is the editor of, the proprietor of, a grateful father and a man who seeks to enlighten others with the power of inspiring information and action. He may be contacted at

Read more articles from Dylan Charles.

Sources are embedded throughout article. 

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This article (The US Federal Government Finally Admits the War on Drugs is a Failure) was originally created and published by Waking Times and is published here under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Dylan Charles and It may be re-posted freely with proper attribution, author bio, and this copyright statement.

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11 Comments on "The US Federal Government Finally Admits the War on Drugs is a Failure"

  1. There is only ** one ** reason this plan didn’t work – – it is called OBOOOOMA – the magnificent FARCE – with his do nothing policy on DRUGS . //////////////////////////////////
    The US of A is against DRUGS – – – but – – – with OBOOOMA and his useless ** NO ** strike back policy – – – the STATES are open to do what they want on the DRUG SITUATION . /////////

    • You are mistaken. The alleged war on drugs was a cover-up for the illegal cocaine that was already being smuggled into the US. The smuggling was amplified by George H.W. Bush, and developed into the “Iran-Contra” affair. Searching on the phrase, the Mena connection, pulls up articles that reveal the Bush-CIA-Clinton drug smuggling that occurred when Bush Sr. was VP to Bush´s proxy, Ronald Reagan.

  2. The alleged war on drugs was aimed at stopping the use of cannabis, which is a natural herb that assists the body to cure all illnesses. Nixon authorized the Univ of Virginia to study the effects of cannabis on the human, thinking that it was harmful. The UVir found the opposite, that cannabis cured everything. Nixon was very angry, stopped the research and trashed the first report. Now that the USGov has awarded the pharmacy industry semi-control over cannabis, the pharmaceutical industry is uncovering its stash of cannabis, that it has been growing in S. America for 30 years. For useful details, search on the phrase, Rick Simpson Oil.

    • yEshUA ImmAnUEl * ben-'Adam | December 17, 2015 at 9:01 pm | Reply

      ”While it is alleged by many that the philosophic cide of our day is sound, we declare it to be false and soon to die of its own
      inherent weakness. just as Nature, however, provides a remedy for each new disease that manifests itself.”

  3. yEshUA ImmAnUEl * ben-'Adam | December 17, 2015 at 1:20 pm | Reply

    ”Strive constantly to serve the welfare of the world; by devotion to selfless work one attains the supreme goal of life. Do your work with the welfare of others always in mind.”

  4. BellsNwhistles | December 18, 2015 at 7:46 am | Reply

    Monopolize the market was the goal with coke and I am sure that is true about Heroin also. The Capitalist have used these same drugs for profits for centuries.

  5. of course the ‘war on drugs’ was a ruse – the royals et all have controlled the drug routes for hundreds of years.
    read ‘the Committee of 300’ John D. Coleman.
    Bary and the Boys – Hopsicker.
    Hint – it was never Noriega.

  6. A failure? No, no, no!! You couldn’t be more wrong. Consider this: 1) It has allowed the creation of a vast prisoner/ slave population that work for 25 cents an hour for insider companies inside of prisons, 2) it has caused the price of the drugs to shoot way up, greatly financially benefiting insider criminals who run the drug trade, 3) it has allowed the destruction of civil liberties to “fight the drug war”, 4) it has been used to brutalize/ federalize the police, 5) it has been used to destroy many poor families, mostlyy non-whites and 6) insider companies have made vast fortunes selling weapons and spy equipment to the police.

  7. “It’s been associated with poor academic performance, in exacerbating mental health conditions linked to lower IQ.”

    I was performing poorly in school and at work when I was having uncontrollable epileptic seizures all of the time. Now that I use marijuana and am not having seizures, my work performance is impeccable, my IQ is in the 140’s, I’m not depressed and moping around the house, and am able to live a normal life. When are we going to stop letting these people tell us what we can and can’t put in our bodies? He admits the war on drugs is a total failure, but is against the legalization of marijuana? I am guessing this is really because his job would be in jeopardy if he came out in favor of legalization, so he uses the old disproved “mental health” and “lower IQ” excuse. Time to get rid of the Drug Czar position in government. If the war on drugs is a failure, then we no longer need these people!

  8. Philip Daniels | December 20, 2015 at 4:38 pm | Reply

    He couldn’t be more wrong with what he says here, he’s the wrong guy for the post … I was waiting for him to come out with the “gateway” theory …

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