Review, analysis & thoughts on Ending the War on Drugs by Dirk Chase Eldredge

Narrated by: Jeff Riggenbach
Length: 6 hrs and 54 mins
Release date: 11-06-06
Paperback published: 1998

Listen to a sample and read other reviews here: Ending the War on Drugs on

Initial Thoughts

This book was fantastic.  Published in 1998 it provided a point by point procedure of how to change policy and why it should be change.

The author thoroughly researched the issues, and the history and it was just a really interesting listen.

It turns out he was actually a political advisor during the Reagan presidency, which as we know from other books, documentaries and movies was responsible for the start of the war against drugs.  Or rather Nancy Reagan was responsible for that with her famous ‘just say no to drugs’ being the start of it, and Richard Nixon was responsible for officially starting the War On Drugs.

That being said Ronald Reagan was also responsible for the Contra controversy which was funded with drug money.   What a model president that one was.

So the point is, you would assume that the author would be fully in line with ‘whatever America does is the right thing, because we are America’ kind of thinking and moreover completely in-line with the Republican line of thought.  However, like a real American he followed through the policies of his party and traced it to find out how it has worked out and how it could be improved.

What he found of course was the reason why he wrote this book.

Here’s some more information on the author  – he’s had quite an interesting life it seems.


1st of all the author does his own narrating of the book, which is actually really good.  The only thing is that you can hear him clicking his mouse as he’s scrolling through the pages and going onto the next.

But….the advantage is that he knows when to emphasise certain words to make the point more poignant.

His style of writing is also really good, and his separation of the different topics and how they all join together is done well to really succinctly drive home his point.

Impact on American Society

This book has technically been out for 20 years, so what impact has it made?

It seems…. Pretty much nothing.  Apparently no politician has given it the credit it deserves which is incredibly disappointing because the author clearly put a lot of hard work in to not just research how things developed but suggests realistic points that government could make into real policy.

There’s been a lot of discussion on the legalisation of Marijuana, which is good to see…especially in a country that has a lot of problems like the USA.  Because at the end of the day, if America managed to learn its lessons from the failed prohibition of alcohol and put in decent enough regulation to curb people that desire a dangerous drug like alcohol from actually limiting themselves and others, then that’s pretty impressive… but the question has to be asked… why can’t they do that for other drugs?

There IS always going to be desire (proof for the fact that there IS an industry to be fought)… if there wasn’t, then you wouldn’t have a War on Drugs, would you?
So working from the assumption that the desire is ALWAYS going to be there, it’s best to legalise it and regulate it and provide education on the subject, rather than make it criminal and create a massive criminal component to it, which actually ends up being a far bigger problem than the drug by itself ever was.

When you raise the argument of – ‘why isn’t marijuana legal?   Many people will state… ‘Well where does it stop?   Should heroin be legal?’
As if that’s an argument to put you in your place for stopping drugs being legal.

Well, yes, heroin should be legal.
The point is regulation, education and harm prevention.

For instance, even though many people are against the more hard-core drugs of cocaine & heroin and support law enforcement’s conquest for the War on Drugs, its apparently tolerable for celebrity’s to have cocaine habits and end up in rehab centres.  Clearly its legal enough for these celebrities to have it, yet when it’s a non-celebrity, suddenly its zero tolerance.  I

If there are rehab centres…then it clearly means that there are many people getting access to a huge number of drugs.   Clamp down on this.

Law enforcement and even the proponents of The War On Drugs seem to have unclear enforcement of their opinions.  And essentially represent hypocrisy which is too rife allowing for some of the massive problems in society.

The point of regulation, education and harm prevention is the overlying point of the book.

If they’re going to do it anyway, its best to make it as least damaging as possible, minimising the harm they cause to themselves and minimizing the harm caused to society.

The author talks a lot about the harm that the War on Drugs has caused on America and the world, and then goes to cite the Netherlands as an exemplary model for how the USA could operate.

The author focuses on the 3 main drugs which were the primary cause of the War on Drugs: Marijuana, Cocaine & Heroin.  But goes on to cite all the other drugs that were developed as a direct cause of the illegality of these main 3.

Anyway here’s some interesting points that I wrote down.

These are notes that I took whilst listening) but more than these points… the book cultivates education.

It’s just a shame that those that are in a position of power, have not actually read such a book.  I wish more people in general had.

-America has 5 % of the population but uses around 60% of the drugs.

-0.09% use cocaine.

-Most users are age 15 -35.  They usually take the reassurance of a trusted friend.

Mesculine. Trippy drug.  (similar effects to LSD)

“It is imperative to see the world as it really is, rather than what we imagine it to be.”  (not seeing it as everyone is good Christian people that refrain from drugs and other vices because that’s what some people aspire to be)

-80% of drug deaths are due to the illegal nature of the drugs… Not of the drugs themselves.

-and of the 20% the majority of the deaths are due to overdoses which comes from either lack of quality control/ consistency and education for exactly how much to take/ how much is a lethal dose.

Me. Education exists for alcohol, even for Caffeinated drinks like Redbull…so why not for other drugs?

Many people who use cocaine can quit and not come back later in life (52.6% as tested in a few studies)

The notion that using drugs will lead to dependence, is actually untrue.

Society can’t arrest their way out of the problem, neither can we frighten it.

Less than 1% of drug users become dependent.

Cigarette smoking is the most common true addiction.

Physical dependency exists. For cocaine, it does not.

Heroin withdrawal does have severe physical effects.

Notes on the audio book – Many tables apparently. Best for actual book.  I think some of the information is lost in the audio version of the books, however the author does read it out, it’s just difficult to make meaningful comparisons as you tend to forget the information.

Media coverage is key to changing people’s opinions. It worked for cutting down cigarette smoking.

However, their (mass media) stance on drugs is way over-exaggerated.

If kerosene is replaced with benzene…(in the production of cocaine) the it has a high chance of causing leukaemia.

Crack cocaine is just regular cocaine + baking soda and water.  Enters via the lungs, more intense high, cheaper.

Was 50,000 a kilo (cocaine) to 20,000 a kilo (crack cocaine). Price.

A kilo of heroin, is about 10 times the price of cocaine.
Considered a self-destructive drug.  Total absence of quality control is key under the black market.

Controlled legal distribution can verify the quality and consistency.

1 out of every 3 people have tried it. (Heroin)

Reefer madness. (A Public Service Announcement) Came out of misinformation.

Canvas sativa. THC   link

Hashish should be more potent, same as hash oil as well, because it is straight from the resin.

Due to law enforcement marijuana has become more potent. Due to trying to make it more viable to transport by increasing the quality rather than the quantity. The stronger it is, the less they have to sell in weight.

Me. People still aren’t asking why? To war on drugs. If they have the real goal in front of them, it’s easier to approach and strategies how to enforce.

Common myth that it makes you lazy, in fact no significant studies support this.

Alcohol has a troublesome use of 10%. Meaning this is more than marijuana, cocaine and heroin use combined.

All societies (historical and current) used drugs of some kind, the only exception is the Eskimos, as their diet consisted of meat and animal fats, plants generally didn’t grow in their particular environment.

For a long time, designer drugs were legal due to not being able to see it obviously. (not being able to discern it as a mind changing substance easily)


The father of designer drugs. 25 mg 10-hour trip.

Timothy Leary.

Swiss chemist Albert Hoffman the accidental creator of LSD. Originally tried to promote its use at the pharmaceutical company he worked at (Sandoz Laboratories)

Me.  Really recommend the Feature Documentary Orange Sunshine

In terms of determining the jail term sentence – The weight of the paper or sugar it was paired with , (paper it was printed on, or sugar is was absorbed into) was also weighed to determine punishment.

10-hour high for 5 to 10 dollars.

Systemic = due to working in that system. System of black market.

Drugs on the black market leads to crime due to the inflated black market price, corruption, violence.

With legalisation, drug related violence would pretty much disappear.

Much of the violence associated would not exist because there would be no motive.

‘War is politics carried out with blood shed’- Mao Ze Dong.

The war within the war on drugs.


Fair trials, due process, warrant-less searches have all gone out the window.

Instead we should be….

-Preventing, not punishment.
-Education not incarceration.
-Treatment not tormenting

Milton Freedman. Proposition writer for the drug war Prop #?

Asset forfeiture

Anything used in the possession of drugs.

A case where a family was stopped, cash of $2300 and jewellery seized due to suspecting “probable cause”.  Rather than ‘beyond reasonable doubt’.

For suspecting that a stick of bubble gum was actually cocaine.

665 million dollars’ worth of cash and property were seized by the DEA in 1995.

It seems to help government budgets
Me. Perhaps government are in fact relying in this.  Now they seem to have a stake in continuing the War On Drugs, they profit and get money to do other things, however morals go out the window, and is the cost vs benefit really worth it in the end?  Increased prison fees (due to more people) bigger budgets on law enforcement, more expenditure, more dangerous streets, more corruptible government personnel in all roles from Police, to Customs, to Senators.  Is this countering the amount that they are paid?
Maybe loss of voters is countered by increase of other voters that are misinformed, or from  support from higher up political people who will ensure tenure in their job positions.

Government vs property cases. Drugs grown in land without the owner’s consent. The land could be removed from the owner even though he/she wasn’t involved in actually making the crime.

Ruled against it. Thank God.

Asset forfeiture has ruled to have no discernible effect.

Me. John Oliver’s Last week tonight does a good segment on it.

Average murder charge is 9 years in jail. Growing marijuana is 30 years.

Me. The level of injustice in this is just insane.

Police rely on plea-bargains so much that a 1% decrease in drug plea bargains will create a clog in the system.  Such is the inefficiency in the system and the amount of people passing through the justice system due to the involvement of drugs.

Plea bargains are even shown on television crime dramas (Law & Order & many others) to educate the population that this is how things can run, important to ensure the system flows.

Offenders can be tried at a local court, then after their sentence can be re-tried for the same crime in a federal court.

Double jeopardy doesn’t come into play for some reason.

Their local sentencing can be used as evidence for the federal side.

Me. The book looks into prison overcrowding as well.

Law enforcement estimates over half of today’s violent crimes are drugs related.

24% of all homicides were drug related.

State prisons are 16-17% above capacity. Federal prisons are 25% above capacity.

Drug treatment, education and monitoring for non-violent drug users -costs way less, offers more effect.

Clinton administration kept the excessively high prosecution on crack cocaine (10 times more than cocaine powder) minimum 5 years.
As the black population generally use more crack as its more accessibly (price & availability) and white people generally use more cocaine powder…The law ended up looking incredibly racist.
It was recommended many times that crack punishment should be reduced, but Clinton refused.

Of every 100, 000 blacks- 965 are in prison.
Of every 100, 000 whites- 95 are in prison.

On speaking about the AIDS virus, and the transmission of HIV.
Originally (1965) 75% of the spread was from homosexual sex.
Now it’s just 50%, the rest is from needle sharing and the sex within those sexual relationships.

Apparently 200, 000 Americans are unaware they have AIDS.

New York and San Francisco are the joint leaders in HIV population have around 25% of the HIV population. Also large % homosexual and drug needle users.

Shooting galleries = places to shoot up.

IDU = Injecting Drug User.

A study supported 25 IDUs from Canada to go to the UK to have heroin for free. 25% said they preferred the street scene and couldn’t take hygienic ‘pure heroin’.  (more than 75% pure heroin is said to be able to kill people) ‘pure heroin’ refers to clinically controlled quality control.

They liked the risk factor and the things the street scene brought with it.

European approach focuses on harm reduction. Needle exchange places.

First was 1984 in Amsterdam.

UK says HIV is a greater problem to the nation than drug use.

Studies found that diabetic injectors have lower rates of HIV due to them having easy supply of needles.

Many NEPs (Needle Exchange Programs) operate illegally but are tolerated.

Me. This is because of the federal government’s stance on drugs. But the state of even society believe that this will help and it IS helping.

It just means that the federal government is too lazy to look at the research and evidence or are flat out ignoring it.

In response to the suggestion that NOT providing clean needles would curb the drug injection problem…
One woman’s response – “It’s like saying if you took away all condoms…People would stop having sex. Not very likely is it?”

One study was that where a NEP operated they saw a 33% reduction in new HIV cases for IDUs.

The agency went on to say that government should drop its prohibition for funding NEPs.

The DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) combines a report every year with all the innovative ways of drugs smuggling.
Woodwork, children’s car seats, suitcases with cocaine in the plastic mix.

Author arguing that fighting a war directly against ‘Drug supporting nations’ or even governments has been a failed endeavour and is in fact pointless.

Invasion of Panama to get rid of a drug dealer…Then have the USA supported leader placed in that also came to have drug connections….Nothing changed at all.
Me. But of course was that really the USA’s goal for invading Panama?

If the street value of cocaine is $250,000, the smuggling costs will be around $2,500. Therefore, if smuggling costs, seizures etc. go up… It will only have a negligible effect on price on the street.

Interdiction –the action of prohibiting or forbidding something.

Doesn’t say the people are stupid, just that the goal is impossible.  (The goal of the current War on Drugs to eliminate all drugs)

Estimated that 80% of cocaine available in the USA comes from Columbia.
Columbia has 70 murders per 100,000. USA has 11. Medellín (2nd largest city in Columbia) has 250 per 100,000

The Cali Carter took up the slack after the Medellín Cartel (Pablo Escobar)

The book looks around the world at actors in drug production- Peru, Bolivia. Columbia, Mexico, Panama.
-Columbia Bolivia, Peru produce 95% of the cocoa leaves.
-Asia and the golden triangle. Heroin.
-Burma, Thailand Laos.
-Pakistan & Afghanistan.  L.P. Brown. = American drug czar.
-Nigeria also smuggles. And is known as the gateway to Europe, and from other places to the USA.

Recommended Policies

Drug production is not the problem. Drug consumption is the problem. If there is demand…Then there will be supply.

2 fundamental facts.

1.The demand for mind altering substances has been with humans since the beginning. No amount of wishing or well-intentioned legislation will deter this.

  1. As long as this demand, and even though it’s illegal the market will supply them.

Both interdiction, and the jailing if offenders are a failure.

Bilateral harm reduction. Should be the centre of America’s drug policy.

Reduce drug use through education.  Helps reduce cost in society through the reduction of the prison population.

Legalisation eliminates the huge profits of the drugs makers and smugglers, and redirect that money into education and harm minimisation + treatment & research.

Harm reduction should be the policy going forward. And therefore a few steps will follow.

Harm reduction, legalisation, research after this.

Government must adopt a new mind-set to do with drugs.

Crime and criminals due to the system that is illegality of drugs, corruption, lack of respect of law and enforcement, racial tension, and the spread of AIDS and other diseases, all would be resolved or considerably eased under this bilateral harm reduction.

2 sources of harm may remain unresolved.  Both answered logically.

  1. Perception that taking of drugs is bad for the moral outlook on society. (But the much more concerning moral aspect is the crime that is associated with drugs being illegal and all the deaths and destroyed lives that come from that)


  1. Negative impact in society of drug dependant non-productive citizens.

(But that will be there regardless of a nations state on drugs )

Massive strategy of education

Prevention rather than prohibition, treatment to decrease dependence.
$30 billion spent per year. 70% to law enforcement and punishment, 30% to education and treatment.

1997 to 34%.

The idea would be to flip these figures, ie. 70% of budget given to education & treatment, and 30% given to enforcement.

Netherlands example:

Balkanisation – a geopolitical term used to describe the process of fragmentation or division of a region or state into smaller regions or states that are often hostile or uncooperative with one another

Describes the concern that if one city/ country legalises drugs, then people from all surrounding areas/ countries will come to this location to participate and you’ll have more problems associated with it, not because of the domestic population, but because of the influx of foreigners what to try.

Me.  Very apt point. I saw this with my own eyes represented for Amsterdam.  In fact all of the Netherlands has the same policies, but Amsterdam is a problem city because its known especially for its bars, clubs, red light districts, hotels and is the namesake city for The Netherlands biggest International airport. – Meaning it’s to convergent point for all foreigners wanting to try legal drugs of all sorts, and thus is the major problem area.

That if you cannot get everyone to think a certain way…You doing the right thing…Minimises the actual impact or at least perceived impact.

Zurich Switzerland. Allowed public intoxication and injection. Failed experiment.

Should have been buy in public, but not use it in public.

“Profit is the powerful engine that drives the drug situation.”

Raises alcohol and tobacco as a precedence. The profit margin needs to be reined in for dangerous substances.

Means of distribution should remain with the states.

Would at half the retail price, and can be put back into society.

Ensuring purity, consistency. Basic quality control.

Nearly all of today’s deaths are from overdoses of drugs of unknown potency. Or from using useful substances to dilute the drug.

Me. But of course outside sources will still produce because ..what if the government reneges on its decision for legal drugs? -There still needs supply.

Just like the gun control issue in America.  Just because the government assures people that they’re not going to go all tyrannical, it doesn’t mean the people believe them, and will always be suspicious on their own government turning on them…. Thus will keep some off the radar just in case.  Such is the scepticism of the American people.

Media’s role is also bad…And not helping.

Preparation. The concept still needs to be presold. – So that you don’t get states that have educated drug policies and other that don’t want it, Thus creating a checker-boarding of states.

It would cause states that have legal drug laws to be inundated with drugs users from other states.

Checker-boarding could be eliminated with constitutional amendment.

The reason that a constitutional amendment has precedence in this case:
-The 22nd amendment was to repeal alcohol prohibition.
-18th = alcohol prohibition.
-Drug prohibition was imposed by federal statute. And could be repealed by congress…  which is an easier process.  (Drug policy change could come from a decision of Congress.)

If Congress passes law that individual states can pursue a drug legalisation process and as soon as 30 states have given assurance that they will put in legalisation, the policy change will be implemented by all.

Others would comply when they see the strong benefits, less crime, more money and quality of life as seen in the more progressive states.

Following steps

1st eliminate the key federal laws that prevent the manufacture, possession and sale of drugs.

2nd. Dismantle the DEA and assign its functions to the FBI or other federal investigations.

3rd. Line out the primacy of the states to decide which drugs would be legal and empowering them for that.

Goal to remove the profit motive.

Some states already own the liquor stores to serve it’s states population. Alabama 150 stores to serve 4 million people.  13 states presently control the retail sale of alcohol.

Pennsylvania 680 to serve 12 million.

State controlled retail outlets.

Me.  I didn’t know this.  For such a capitalistic country, I’m surprised that the USA would find this appropriate.

Distance can’t be a deterrent. There has to be enough of them.

If the Pennsylvania example of alcohol could be replicated with drugs (as they apparently control it very well especially with the relatively small number of accidental sales to minors) then it would be a Great win for that state.

Packaging would be generic, and contain warning labels like cigarettes, direction for use, and phone numbers and contact info for obtaining help, needles to be included where appropriate.

Pricing legal drugs

Price drugs low enough so that criminal cartels could no longer compete, but high enough so that the cost was not insignificant to the user.

May vary state to state.

Profits from drugs sales could be used ONLY to combat drug abuse.

Current approach is that agencies get ever increasing funding regardless of results.  (Meaning that it’s a plan showing that its failing)

Question of advertising

None would be allowed. No sales no encouraging.

Promotion through media should be discouraged or at least minimised.

Would be vital to the success of legalisation.

Individual responsibility

Irresponsible behaviour should not be condoned.
-If you harm another whilst on the effect of a mind-altering substance you will be swiftly and harshly punished.
-Any death caused by drug use should be seems as premeditated.
-Death by overdose would be suicide and therefore excluded from life insurance policies.
-Driving under the influence = same as driving when drunk.

Financing research and treatment

Even the price of half the cartels price would still provide adequate funding for education, research and treatment.
$57.5 billion.

$28 billion would be available for treatment.

-Treatment on demand. Should be free or minimised.
-$2.8 million would be available for treatment (people) $5,600 per patient.
Total =$12 billion

Also might include long term residential solutions.

Also could begin to research a pharmacological cure to addiction.

No Federal money would be needed.

Currently though, under the current drug policy the federal budget is at 13 billion dollars and rising (1998)

Substantial savings for the tax payer.

The given problems are paid for by those that are its approximate cause.

Each year around 200,000 people with drug related problems are sent to prison and then released without treatment.

Scientists were able to come up with a synthetic enzyme that destroys the addiction of cocaine.

Only 2% of 1 particular study’s people said they would try cocaine if it was legally available.

Still recommends that the age should be 21.

Me.  Age of 18 is the normal around the world.  21 is even considered too late for many Americans.  Although I think the author’s goal is to push that drugs receive equal support and legality as alcohol.  Not to given preference of drugs over alcohol, nor to begin campaigning for the legal age for the consumption of alcohol to be dropped to 18 as well.

I believe the USA’s legal ago for alcohol consumption should be 18, but that’s a different argument.

“Some people presume that the search for the perfect, is the enemy of the good.”A widely accepted interpretation of “The perfect is the enemy of the good” is that one might never complete a task if one has decided not to stop until it is perfect: completing the project well is made impossible by striving to complete it perfectly. Closely related is the Nirvana fallacy, in which people never even begin an important task because they feel reaching perfection is too hard.  (From Wikipedia)

Should be instead:

Not the perfect solution but the best solution in an imperfect world.


Get this book and read it/ listen to it.  It really is pretty damn good, and I enjoyed going through it and learning from it.

The world, and especially America would be a much better place if people read it/ listened to it and digested the content and contemplated on it.