Could it be that the War on Drugs has contributed to the rise of prescription drug use? Has it contributed to a decrease in illicit drug use? Is it a racial war?
Below is a graph of the historical development of pharmaceutical sales per inhabitant.
One could interpret the substantial 25 year growth of pharmaceuticals as a reflection of the introduction of many important medicines over this period. But I would ask what portion of these drugs are psychotherapeutic and narcotics in nature, and if this demand was created as a result of the war on drugs.
The costliest illnesses and their prescription’s involve, in order, cancer, cardiovascular illness, diabetes, and mental illness. According to the graph above, this holds true. Many of these chronic illnesses are directly related to the obesity epedemic. If I had the freedom to combine psychotherapeutic drugs into a sum total, it would equal 34.9 (adding 5, 7, 12), superseding the spending of every other expenditure. If I added (11) Narcotic Analgesics such as Morphine and Oxycontin, which are essentially equivalents to their illicit counterpart heroin, this number would rise to 43.3. (This graph shows a similar result).
It would seem that the largest benefactor of the war on drugs none other than the pharmaceutical industry. Check out this link for a graph of prescription drug advertising expenditures per-capita from 1975-2005.
How did the war on drugs affect illicit drug use in the US? It appears not much.
What the war on drugs did do was increase the legal risk of using drugs. This affected the demand for these drugs, consequently decreasing their prices.
This chart shows incarceration rates massive increase that began in the early 1970’s. Data would attribute this direct to Nixon’s War on Drugs which was passed as the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970.
This chart shows incarceration rates that are directly attributed to drug violations:
We can see that the war on drugs is a racial war, with the vast majority of felons being black.
This blog shows the relationship in deaths between the war in Iraq and the war on drugs.