Sign In

Article Information

  • Drug Panics in the Twenty-First Century: Ecstasy, Prescription Drugs, and the Reframing of the War on Drugs

    In Part I of this Article, I offer a concise overview of the history of drug policy in the United States and the common narratives offered to explain its arc. In Part II, I describe the portrayal of a perceived epidemic of Ecstasy9 use at the beginning of the twenty-first century and the current portrayal of a similarly perceived epidemic of prescription drug abuse. In Part III, I document the policy responses to these perceived epidemics and demonstrate that the policy responses were tempered as compared with our responses to similar perceived epidemics in the twentieth century. In Part IV, I argue that this tempered response may be explained in part by how persons linked to these drug epidemics have been portrayed, but that the tempered response—and, perhaps, the more sympathetic portrayals themselves—are likely better explained by growing American ambivalence about the ability of expensive criminal justice measures to combat the problems associated with illicit drug use. I conclude that the shift in response to drug panic stems less from a lack of belief that drugs are a problem and more from weariness brought on by the mounting the costs and consequences of the War on Drugs.