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The War on Drugs Did Not End With Nixon

By S. Jordan, Opinion Contributor

On a cold and rainy August morning, the state police raided my home. The criminal they were investigating? My 23-year-old sister.

For some, the circumstances that unfolded that day are unimaginable, but it was my reality as I awoke to four armed officers holding guns pointed at my door, screaming that this was, in fact, a raid.

It is a real and daunting experience for families that have felt the full effects of stimulant abuse across the nation. As lawmakers currently attempt to tackle the opioid epidemic, other forms of drug abuse have been ignored.

This crisis in America dates back to the mid 1990s, and the National Library of Medicine reported last June, “Opioid use disorders affect over 16 million people worldwide, over 2.1 million in the United States, and there are over 120,000 deaths worldwide annually attributed to opioids.” Yet, the drug epidemic circulates back to President Nixon and the launch of the War on Drugs in 1971.

Presently, a study conducted by the medical journal JAMA Network Open (Journal of the American Medical Association) revealed that stimulant addiction has also been on the rise amongst users in rural areas.

That August morning, I bolted towards the door of my childhood home shaking and dressed in pink shorts that I designated only for sleeping, never supposed to be seen by the outside world. I grew up afraid to open the door for strangers, and there I stood fear stricken in front of them.

The officer's first words to me were, “Is your sister upstairs?” As I approach the age of 20, I often think about how the four-year age gap between my sister and I is not that much at all. But growing up, the years that separated us made her feel infinitely wiser and cooler.

I remember trying to do the makeup she did, and to this day I still utilize these practices. Donning the same black eyeliner almost everyday, my sister, whose birthday falls just five days before mine, stood in our driveway with me that day as the officers searched our home.

That person was no longer the girl I had grown up with, just the skeleton of what was left of her. I hope with time that she finds the skin of the person I watched become an adult.

This all occurred a few days before I left for college: the cop had looked at me as I stood placid against my garage door and said, “You don’t look happy to be here.” I replied, “No, not particularly,” in the dry way I say things sometimes. Following this, the other policeman retorted, “You can pick your friends but not your family.”

They asked my college major, an investigation tactic I was sure of, but I said journalism. The cop asked, “Are you gonna write an article about this?”

I thought I never would. Yet, I feel compelled because this story is not mine alone. The lead does not solely lie in my experience, but the experience of so many as this war rips through families nationally.

The War on Drugs, which began during Nixon’s presidency, has led to growing incarceration rates which not only target communities but also don’t assist people with rehabilitation. In an article by The Associated Press, it is written, “Today, with the U.S. mired in a deadly opioid epidemic that did not abate during the coronavirus pandemic’s worst days, it is questionable whether anyone won the war.”

The War on Drugs perpetuated by President Nixon was racially motivated and targeted minorities, which President Ronald Reagan continued in the 1980s. It does not allow for any reform as those affected have difficulty becoming integrated into life after prison. This issue — along with drug marketing in pharmaceutical companies — not only contributes to my story and those of others, but it also entraps people into reliving the raid forever.

If you or anyone you know are struggling with these issues, call the National Drug Helpline at 1-844-289-0879.

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