The Real Cost of Cocaine Demand: “Cocaine Unwrapped”
Cocaine Unwrapped is a 2011 documentary directed by Rachel Siefert. This documentary focuses on several segments of the cocaine supply and demand chain worldwide. The main theme is this: developed countries create the demand for cocaine, yet countries involved in production and trafficking are those being targeted by law enforcement. So the question is indirectly asked: What is the human and social cost of cocaine demand?
Evidence presented in the documentary points to drug demand at fault, rather than supplying markets. In addition, “war on drugs” financing distributed to law enforcement perpetuate arrests and tough prison sentences, instead of being put into treatment programs and prevention. As a result, individuals and communities are placed in a never-ending spiral of poverty, drug production, trafficking, and use.
Moreover, the real cost of cocaine is often the marginalized and indigenous people who suffer from poor drug legislation and law enforcement policies. Meanwhile, white, Western users are casually consuming drugs without thought to its impact on humanity.
The Cost of Cocaine Demand in Urban Communities
In Baltimore, a law enforcement representative bemoans the deteriorated state of his city after the Nixon administration and implementation of the war on drugs. He notes that for black youths, drug culture is a normal part of growing up. Of importance, this event began putting many fathers in prison. As a result, families were left in a worse state both emotionally and financially. Thus, this effect contributes to other members turning to drugs and crime.
The Cost of Cocaine Demand in Columbia and Bolivia
Meanwhile, in South America, there is systematic destruction of cocaine production. Unfortunately, this also includes eradication of coca leaf crops. Some of this eradication is done by hand, but much is still done by spraying poison on crops from the air.
As a result, plants not targeted are still hit and killed. This is affecting the livelihood of those around sprayed areas. Plants that produce fruit and other basic food resources are being damaged and destroyed. There are many who depend on these plants, not only for their own use but also for income and trade. Thus, this strategy contributes to further hardship and poverty among these farmers.
Other results of spraying include health conditions such as skin irritation, respiratory and digestive problems, and fetal deformity. Additionally, the water supply in nearby rivers is contaminated.
Faced with the eradication of the non-harmful and traditional coca plant, Bolivia pleas for one of its social and financial staples were finally heard. After many coca leaf farms were devastated by law enforcement, new laws were eventually enacted. These laws now protect small coca plant crops used for traditional medicine and trade. Still, this change came in the wake of violent confrontations and even fatalities due to encounters with drug enforcement.
The Cost of Cocaine Demand in Mexico
Drug policies, pressure, and financial assistance from the U.S. government have not solved Mexico’s drug cartel problem. Furthermore, the impact of military police presence in Mexican cities is extensive. Indeed, seeing military personnel driving around with semi-automatic weapons is a daily occurrence for those in Juarez and other border cities.
When this policy was enacted, residents hoped for a reduction in crime and executions. However, the opposite has occurred. It seems that engaging in an arms race with drug cartels leads to further crime and violence, as the cartels with the most arms and violent behavior prevail.
Finally, enhanced U.S. border enforcement has led to an increase in street drugs in Mexico. Many inner city youths are addicted to cocaine and other drugs. Of relevance, these children tend to use drugs for escape, as they begin their lives on the street. This is in contrast to how much of the developed world thinks of addiction – homelessness is an end result of a moral issue.
A Better Strategy
If the war on drugs is a failed war, then why are we still fighting? Proponents for drug law reform note than more emphasis needs to be placed on prevention, treatment programs, and rehabilitation. Resources which funnel into the judicial system need to be redirected for these purposes.
Most importantly, developed countries need to take responsibility for the high level of demand for cocaine that they create. Regulating production, supply, and consumption is not enough without addressing the catalyst – demand. Simply put, Westerners do not truly comprehend the cost to human life, communities, and the environment.
Cocaine Unwrapped is currently available on Netflix and Hulu.
If you or someone you know is an addict, please seek help immediately.