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Can Obama Stop Drug Wars?

The US State Department has warned students not to go to Mexico during spring break since drug gangs threaten violence. Drug cartels are threatening the stability of nations around the globe, assassinating police and government officials. A record opium crop is providing funding for the Taliban in Afghanistan. Can decriminalization of narcotics be a solution? Neuroscience offers new hope to cure addition.

While Mexico is not yet officially on the US State Department’s warning list, it is fast approaching. Gangs often interrupt police radios threatening police offers. These officers are often killed in hours. The military is replacing the police in an attempt to cut down on drug violence. More than 6000 people died in Mexico from such violence in 2008.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon has made fighting drug traffickers his top priority. While the US is the main consumer of the Mexican narcotic trade, Mexico faces its own rising drug addiction problem.

Like his predecessor, Vicente Fox, Calderon favors decriminalizing narcotics—individual caught with small quantities would only be required to undergo treatment. The Bush Administration opposed decriminalization for the US and for countries receiving US “War on Drugs” aid.

Mexican drug gangs are fighting for control of routes to the US, which is the most lucrative drug market in the world. This will certainly become a nightmare for Homeland Security since US immigration and drug laws are creating gangs of professional smuggles able to get anyone or anything into the United States.

The United Nations Office of Drug and Crime (UNODC) has designated a raising number of countries as “narco-states,” in which drug traffickers have corrupted the government, assassinated officials, and are destroying emerging democracies.

Some say that we are not wining the “The Afghanistan War.” If we’ve learned anything from Iraq, it is that we cannot “win” militarily. We cannot encourage democracy and woman’s rights while a record opium crop funds the Taliban and creates corruption.

We must stop treating addiction as a crime. It is a pandemic that produces crime. It is a problem that can be solved by education and medical science.

Neuroscience is learning mush about addiction. Using tools such as functional nuclear resonant imaging (fNRI), scientists now know how addiction proceeds at the prefrontal cortex. Neuroscientists are demonstrating that medication with the appropriate pharmaceuticals and psychotherapy similar to the Alcoholics Anonymous Program can cure addiction. Decriminalizing addiction encourages addicts to seek help without fear of arrest.

Obama certainly has a lot on his plate, but the problem of addiction aggravates all the others. If we need to rethink anything, it is the problem of addiction and we need to do it soon.

Photo Credit: Flickr

Written by Fred Etcheverry

Fred Etcheverry lives in Santa Cruz, California with his wife Elsa. He is a freelance high-tech B2B (Business-to-Business) copywriter usually for clients in the nearby Silicon Valley. He is also an engineering consultant and teaches courses in industry and college on computers and electronics. When he is doing none of the above, he swims in the Monterey Bay, hikes in the Santa Cruz redwood forests, visits his adult children, or goes to art galleries, plays and operas with Elsa and friends.

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