Richard Nixon was the first to use the words, “war on drugs” in 1971. But it was President Ronald Reagan who famously used them to drastically change federal drug policy in 1982. In a 1986 primetime address, he detailed the victories to date.
“Last year alone over 10,000 drug criminals were convicted and nearly $250 million of their assets were seized by the DEA, the drug enforcement administration.”
It’s now 33 years later and those in law enforcement who have spent their entire career fighting that war say there’s no end in sight.
“We’re still fighting it every day and it’s probably worse now than it was 30 to 40 years ago because children are starting younger,” says Lt. Scott Houston of the Pamlico County Sheriff’s Department.
Houston has spent a good portion of his 18 years wearing a badge working undercover narcotics.
He’s seen drug trends come and go, but it still scares him to this day when drugs like meth become as popular as they are right now.
“Users that we used to have that were solely cocaine addicts, now they’re switching over to heroin,” says Houston. “Heroin and meth are totally different drugs because of the physical dependency that it creates vs. the psychological dependency that crack and cocaine have.”
A physical dependency so strong, that people will stop at virtually nothing to feed it.
“People do more and worse things for heroin and for meth than I’ve yet to see with crack cocaine,” Houston says.
Scary too in that meth is so easy to “cook,” so to speak. We’ve heard it all before, but eastern North Carolina, Beaufort and Pamlico counties in particular, has seen a spike in meth lab busts over the last few years because it is so easy…and cheap to manufacture.
“The ingredients are still the same,” Lt. Houston says. “But they’re a little easier to get to make these small, one pot, small quantity batches.”
Ingredients like pseudoephedrine, often found in decongestants, such as Sudafed, which used to be available over-the-counter.
That is until the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act was signed into law in 2006, putting Sudafed behind the counter and limiting the amount you’re allowed to purchase. This brought the cooking of meth to a virtual standstill…temporarily anyway.
“It stopped it. In essence it stopped it in its tracks,” says Houston. “And then the one pot method popped up and they found out that they could make it using small batches. They have now adapted.”
So, yes, law enforcement is still fighting a full-scale war against drug possession, manufacture and sale. But many would argue that criminalizing the user is an outdated policy. Changes in the law that aim to treat rather incarcerate have been made, but there are people who say those changes still haven’t gone far enough.