What Does the War on Drugs and Whack-A-Mole Have in Common?


By Connor Roe, Summer Associate

What does the War on Drugs and Whack-A-Mole Have in Common? You knock down one problem and another sprouts up. Now that the DEA has done a lot to shut down the illicit drug trade, drug abusers have moved onto prescription drugs such as OxyContin. This shift from illicit drugs to prescription pain killers has forced the DEA to change its tactics. Money previously spent on making cocaine impossible to obtain is now being spent on making the drug abuse-proof. Oxycontin can no longer be crushed and snorted. Nor can the time-release capsule that encloses the pain killer be removed.

But now drug users have switched to the most recent trend in synthetic drugs: Opana ER. Made by Endo Pharmaceuticals it contains oxymorphone, a powerful painkilling chemical. Endo did create an uncrushable version of Opana, but it was not approved by the FDA. Now the uncrushable version has been approved but there is still an unknown amount of the original on the market. Abuse of this drug is on the rise.

First the DEA shut down OxyContin. Then the drug users began abusing Opana. Many drug enforcement experts suggest that the next trend will be heroin, one of the most dangerous drugs making its way into America. So how is the DEA adjusting its tactics to adapt to the ever changing War on Drugs? For now it is allocating more of its money to fixing the legal system in Mexico. The money that in 2008 was spent on helicopters and border patrol is now being spent on strengthening Mexican communities and building the rule of law there. In addition, more money is going towards programs that focus on keeping at-risk-youths from joining gangs. If the cartels have less influence over the communities near the border, they will have a much more difficult time pushing product into the US. The US is also training Mexican prosecutors, judges and prison guards. In doing so the hope is that fewer cartel members will walk away free from any charges they may be given.

With luck and continued support from the US government, the DEA hopes that these new tactics will bring us one step closer to ending the War on Drugs.