How the War on Drugs Increases Drug Use and Destroys Communities

The House I Live In: The War on Drugs in the United States

Directed by Eugene Jerecki (2012)

Film Review

Last night Maori TV showed The House I Live In, which maintains the US War on Drugs is far more destructive than drugs themselves. Instead of reducing illicit drug use, the War on Drugs has vastly increased it – in part because it has shifted funding from treatment to enforcement.

The documentary traces how drugs enforcement has always been targeted, not against drugs, but against ethnic minorities (and removing them from the workforce). In the white community, drug addiction has always been viewed as a public health problem. Yet in the 19th century, the first opium laws were targeted against Chinese workers imported to work on the railroads; in the early 1900s cocaine enforcement was targeted against African Americans migrating from the South to northern cities; and in the 1920s and 1930s, the first marijuana laws were directed against Hispanics coming to the US seeking work.

Although the War on Drugs was initially launched to win votes for politicians (by promising to increase incarceration rates), there seem to be other factors that are perpetuating it. According to the filmmakers, the main three are mandatory minimum sentences (which force judges to hand out 20-30 year sentences for relatively minor nonviolent drug offenses, incentives that reward cops to pursue easy drug busts* rather than more dangerous crimes like murder and rape, and the job-creating potential of the profitable prison-industrial complex.

For me the most surprising part of the film concerned the increase in amphetamine-related arrests (occurring mainly in white men) since the 2008 global economic crash. After losing their jobs, many blue collar whites have turned to amphetamine manufacture and distribution to support their families. Thus a growing number of poor whites are facing the ridiculously long mandatory sentences African and Hispanic communities have been struggling with since the 1990s.


*These incentives also cause police to focus enforcement efforts on the ghetto. This results in much higher arrest rates from African Americans, even though they use illicit drugs at roughly the same rates as whites and other ethnicities.

7 thoughts on “How the War on Drugs Increases Drug Use and Destroys Communities

  1. “part of the film concerned the increase in amphetamine-related arrests (occurring mainly in white men) since the 2008 global economic crash. After losing their jobs, many blue collar whites have turned to amphetamine manufacture and distribution to support their families. Thus a growing number of poor whites are facing the ridiculously long mandatory sentences”

    Why am I not surprised at reading this? I mean, with over 2.3 million mostly Black folks cooling their heels in For Profit Prisons, did anyone think that the situation would not spread to other groups? White folks still don’t get it! The ‘Power Brokers’ don’t need them either! They are as expendable as Black people because with no one spending and retail stores shuttering their doors and manufacturing jobs gone, what else is there for them to do other than what they are doing? Now add into the mix the fact that even more robots are coming down the pike and that means that their ass is grass and so prepare to get locked up in record numbers or blow up with their meth labs.

    Dr. Bramhall, there is a show that comes on called ‘Intervention’ and it is all about people who are addicted to something. And this show focuses on white folks, mostly, who are caught up in the cycle of drug abuse; heroin, alcohol, meth making and prostitution to feed their habit. These people have been jailed numerous times. They’ve lost millions of dollars and even businesses they’ve owned. Some have become homeless and family members call on this show to do an ‘intervention’ to try and save their lives. It is so bad that they’ve got a series on now, titled, “The Heroin Triangle” which is a triangular shaped suburb outside Atlanta, GA that is affluent and this eight part series focuses on bringing help to the rich suburbanites who have gotten themselves caught up in addictions. The focus on these people is to get them into rehab instead of locking them up unlike Black crack addicts who were locked up instead of getting sent to treatment. This is by definition, hypocrisy! But the rich whites are getting rehab while this film here focuses on the poor whites who are incarcerated for using amphetamines.

    No wonder white folks are splintering into groups because some are just now figuring out that if they are not upper middle class, they may as well be Black since they’re getting treated almost as badly as we’ve ALWAYS been treated and they don’t like it, not one bit!

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    • Once again, Shelby, you have pulled all the threads to get at the crux of the matter. And make some really important points that they make in this documentary that I didn’t put in the review. Addiction has always been treated as public health issue in whites. And they make the point at the end of the film that it was just when manufacturing jobs moved off shore that they started a drug war against African Americans (that was always the subtext – even under Nixon it was about locking up Blacks) because they were surplus to needs. Now, exactly as you point out, white people are surplus to needs and they’re getting locked up too.

      Thanks for your great comment. I love Maori TV. They show documentaries about oppression from all over the world that you would never see in the US. I have a feeling YouTube is going to take this video down – people can also see the film at the Maori TV website: http://www.maoritelevision.com/tv/shows/feature-documentaries/S01E001/house-i-live

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      • My comment was typed without my having watched the video because it is indeed blocked here in the states. But, sadly, I already knew what the makers of this film would have to say about drug addicts and how they have been treated and how they are being treated with respect to race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status and the like, however, I will try and watch this video before it gets taken down. And by now, all of us here in the states should know that the information we get is censored like crazy!

        Thanks for posting this, Dr. Bramhall.

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