I just came across this article from the 1980’s that discussed the growing trend of drug abuse and smuggling in the US. That is around the time period where things really got crazy. They make a comparison with Rome, but I really don’t think the comparison is apt. Would love to know more from the readers.
However, I do think that things are in a decline right now, and it’s rather interesting to see their take on the subject so many years ago. It’s cool to see how things change.
No ancient civilization ever matched Rome’s achievements. Rome grew from a tiny farming settlement on the east bank of the Tiber River into the controlling force of the known world. The Roman Empire over-extended itself and began to fall apart around the year 200. Outsiders–“barbarians” to the Romans–invaded the empire during the 300s and 400s and hastened its decline. Eventually, two barbarian groups–the Visigoths and the Vandals–entered the city of Rome itself and wrecked it.
Today, the U.S. is facing an invasion–one that some believe could be as deadly to our way of life as the one that ensured Rome’s downfall. This time the foe is drugs: cocaine, marijuana, and heroin. Like Rome 1,800 years ago, the U.S. is the world’s most powerful and productive force. But many see the nation’s might threatened by drugs that, in increasing amounts, are being ferried across our borders from Latin America and Asia. (See map, below.)
This traffic is having some troubling results. Forty years ago, Americans abusing opium, heroin, morphine, and cocaine numbered about 10,000. Today, in a given month, as many as 10 million Americans use cocaine, and another 20 million use marijuana.
The harmful effect drug abuse has on American society is plainly visible. Drugs are involved in anywhere from a third to a half of all crime in the U.S. Drug-related crime cost the nation about $7 billion in 1983–plus immeasurable amounts of fear and pain among crime’s victims. Employees who took drugs cost businesses an estimated $16.7 billion. Medical treatment for drug abusers cost more than $2 billion. (See Economics, pp. 12-13.) The shattering impact of narcotics on drug abusers’ families, on their communities, and on the abusers themselves is incalculable.
What is the U.S. doing to defend itself against the invasion of illicit drugs? An article on page 9 provides some answers, as does an exclusive interview with John Lawn, the chief enforcer of the nation’s drug laws.
TOO HIGH A PRICE?
In a sense, a flourishing trade in illegal drugs is part of the price we pay for a free and affluent society. The U.S. is an open society. This openness–one of the nation’s most attractive qualities–turns out to be a major “flaw” in the nation’s defense against drugs. A country where individual rights and freedoms were not guaranteed could no doubt control the drug trade more easily. But few Americans would want to live in a nation that has police on every street corner and in every corner of their lives.
Many teenagers have begun to create internal defenses against drugs. A nationwide study of high school seniors, conducted last year, showed illicit drug use continuing the gradual decline that began in 1980. For the nation, that’s good news. In the end, an economically strong, open society’s best defense against drugs is a refusal on the part of its members to put up with abuse.
“The challenge to an open, affluent society.” Scholastic Update 10 May 1985: 4+.