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Op-Ed – Is drug interdiction the only answer

As has been predicted, the levels of driving while using drugs has surpassed the driving while intoxicated because of alcohol. This country has tried many different levels of approach to this problem. The primary approach has been interdiction of drugs coming into this country.

It now becomes patently obvious that the approach of interdiction has not been successful.  The question now is why, plus have other viable approaches have not been explored? Why has the interdiction program not worked?  The answer lies in the demand for drugs in the United States. which has been met and will continue to be met by the drug smugglers.

It is well known and documented that effective deterrence programs work. For example, look at the drug positive rates in the transportation industry or in the nuclear power industry and other industries that utilize effective drug use deterrence programs using random drug testing and enhanced supervisory training programs. As a further real life example, look at the positivity rates in the US Military, where the positivity rates have plummeted from around 40% in the early 1980’s to the current 1% positive rate

The positivity rates in this country are out of control, particularly with the opioid drugs combined with the relaxed attitude about marijuana.  The damage to the societal fabric of this county is increasing with each accident and death that has drug involvement. The cost is enormous and runs into billions of dollars.

Is there an easy solution to this problem? Unfortunately, there is not, as with any national problem. This issue requires a multi-faceted solution.  Drug interdiction is only one way to address this problem.

While President Trump has appointed Governor Christie to address the problem, particularly for the opioid abuse issue, will he have the authority to tackle the issue of other drug use that that is taking place in this country? The issue of marijuana use for both medicinal and recreational purposes is influencing society.  This has given way to a very relaxed attitude which is now a very prevalent and a very important issue.  The statistics are there; driving while under the influence of marijuana rates have now surpassed the alcohol rates.

The blossoming issue of substance abuse is not a political issue, but one of ever increasing national importance that crosses political or party lines. While a national policy should be adopted, it is up to the individual states and municipalities to formulate policies to address this in their respective governing areas.  To accomplish will take a national effort united in many ways but all with a common goal.

What are the elements needed to have an effective policy on the substance abuse in this country?

  1. Interdiction of drugs flowing into this country, particularly cocaine and opium, but this should not be primary focus.
  2. Step up research into the medicinal uses of Cannabis sativa for a variety of medical conditions as identified in n the Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base Released January 15, 1999 and do an update on this report.
  3. Develop an effective educational program that outlines the consequences of the drug use. This should consist of several presentations that are aimed at all the different social groups in this country.
  4. Develop drug intervention programs aimed at preventing today’s youth from engaging in behavior that will endanger themselves or others.
  5. Most of all, develop several different models of effective drug treatment to assist in the treatment of substance abuse, as no one model will fit all.

A treatment program that should be given serious consideration is outlined by the late Abbie Hoffman in his book: “Steal This Urine Test: Fighting Drug Hysteria in America.”  Chapter 5 of this book gives the outline of a successful drug treatment program that was used to treat addicts located in Haight-Ashbury Park in San Francisco, CA.

The aim is to develop a demand reduction program with the goal of lessening the demand through prevention and deterrence combined with effective treatment programs.


Robert C. Schoening is recently retired from the US Coast Guard where he managed the drug and alcohol program for the US Maritime industry nationally and internationally.  While at Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington DC, he was asked by the White House Office of National Drug Control and Policy for input on how to help curb the issue of substance abuse in this country. He received the Navy Achievement medal for his work in developing the Navy’s drug test program in 1982-1983.  He now works as a consultant in the field workplace substance abuse and has written over 90 articles to help address this issue.