Voices from the War on Drugs

America has been waging a war on drugs for decades; the battle has affected people from all walks of life. Hear analysis from federal drug officials, as well as the personal experiences of a former drug dealer, a recovering drug addict, a former drug prosecutor and a mother who lost her son to drugs:

National Drug Policy Adviser

Dr. David Murray

Dr. David Murray of the Office of National Drug Control Policy talks with John Burnett about federal money allocation and the latest statistics in drug use — down 23 percent. Murray credits the drop to anti-drug policies put in place by his office.

  • Playlist
  • Embed
    Embed <iframe src="http://www.npr.org/player/embed/9240213/9240380" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no">

Former Drug Smuggler

Jim "Barney" Barnard
Courtesy of Jim Barnard

Jim "Barney" Barnard ran a drug-smuggling business for years, importing from South America and distributing in the United States. Convicted of criminal enterprise, he spent almost eight years in federal prison. He says part of the thrill was figuring out new ways to bring illegal drugs into the country.

  • Playlist
  • Embed
    Embed <iframe src="http://www.npr.org/player/embed/9240213/9240654" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no">

Recovering Drug Addict

Jeffrey Pergament
John Burnett, NPR

Jeffrey Pergament used cocaine every day for 34 years. He's drug-free now and he talks about his struggle to leave a life of addiction.

  • Playlist
  • Embed
    Embed <iframe src="http://www.npr.org/player/embed/9240213/9240218" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no">

Former Drug Czar

Gen. Barry McCaffrey
Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty

Gen. Barry McCaffrey, U.S. drug czar from 1996 to 2001, questions data put out by the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). He says America's drug problem yields more deaths than the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, yet those conflicts get more federal funding.

  • Playlist
  • Embed
    Embed <iframe src="http://www.npr.org/player/embed/9240213/9240865" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no">

Former Drug Prosecutor

Ken Bauman
Deryl Looney

Ken Bauman retired in January after 37 years of service. As an assistant U.S. attorney in Oregon, he prosecuted more than 800 drug cases. He's critical of the politics involved in the selection of the U.S. "drug czar" — the person charged with running the war on drugs.

  • Playlist
  • Embed
    Embed <iframe src="http://www.npr.org/player/embed/9240213/9241000" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no">

Activist Against Drug Use

Ginger Katz
Courtesy of Ginger Katz

Ginger Katz lost her son, Ian, to a drug overdose 10 years ago. She then founded The Courage to Speak, a foundation that works to prevent teen drug use. Katz is one of many people who are not celebrating recent numbers suggesting drug use is down. She warns people that there is still a lot of work to do.

  • Playlist
  • Embed
    Embed <iframe src="http://www.npr.org/player/embed/9240213/9241086" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no">

Audio produced by Marisa Penaloza.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.