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The United States is facing a threat as dangerous to the national well-being and moral fiber of its society as anything encountered in the past 200 years. From without and within, our country is under attack from those who operate the illicit drug industry. In their pursuit of profit and power, the drug traffickers have become as threatening to our social and political institutions as any foe we may face in the next decade. They reap fortunes while sowing the seeds of societal destruction.
During 1995, some 20 million Americans, about 1 in 9 of our citizens, used some form of illicit drug and 12.8 million of those can be termed regular drug users.1 Between 1992 and 1995, the rate of increasing drug use by teen-agers more than doubled.2 The demand for drugs has created a climate of fear in many neighborhoods as drug-related violence and street crime are prevalent throughout the nation. Citizens are demanding greater protection?yet combating drug-related crime is already overtaxing both our criminal justice system and our penal system. Also in danger of being overburdened is our health care system. Those who use and abuse drugs by sharing contaminated needles spread the AIDS virus and other diseases. Those who seek medical and psychological rehabilitation to free themselves from drug addiction are draining assets from those needing treatment of disorders unrelated to drugs. We cannot deny that the situation is serious.
All responsible Americans have the obligation to help create and maintain a drug-free society for the health and well-being of the people of the United States. Achieving this will require a concerted national effort incurring considerable expense of time and resources. To sustain support for any long-term counterdrug campaign, it is essential that the nature and magnitude of the threat be understood by the American public. This chapter sets forth basic information that portrays the drug situation of the late 1990s. Included are the principal drugs of choice; where they come from and how they get here; some effects they are having on American society and the basic approach taken to combat the drug problem.
1. Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), Drugs and Crime Clearinghouse, National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS), Drugs & Crime Data, Fact Sheet, Drug Use Trends, NCJ-160044, Rockville, Maryland: July 1996, p. 2. Reference states that at least 19.2 million persons reported use of illicit drugs at least once in 1995. Data was derived from the National Household Survey of Drug Abuse (NHSDA) which is considered by many to give conservative estimates of drug use in the United States.
2. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (USDHHS), Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), National Household Survey of Drug Abuse (NHSDA) 1992, 1993, 1994, and the 1995 NHSDA Highlights from the SAMHSA Internet Web Page, http://www.samhsa.gov/oas/nhsda/ar18t003.htm, October 16, 1996.