After 40 years, is war on drugs worth fighting?

WASHINGTON - Gina is in Phoenix House, a treatment center on Long Island for opiates and crack. Her addictions have landed her in jail and nearly killed her.

She even used drugs while pregnant.

"Sitting in jail and not having your daughter, I think that's the worst pain I ever felt in my life," Gina told CBS News correspondent Sharyl Attkisson.

Her parents are heroin addicts who met at rehab. Dad Ralph is currently clean.

"We have to stop this cycle; it's insanity," Ralph said.

Meth lab seizures drop when funds dry up

Two generations: casualties long after President Nixon declared the war on drugs 40 years ago.

"We must wage what I have called total war on public enemy number one," Nixon said in June 1971.

We set to find out just how much has been spent on that war - and the results.

Back in 1971, the federal drug control budget was $155 million. Today it's more than $15 billion a year or, after inflation, 17 times higher than in 1971.

There have been peaks and valleys in drug use over the years. But in recent decades, as the drug-fighting budget has ballooned, drug use hasn't gone down - it's gone up.

Many groups call for decriminalizing drugs and putting more emphasis on treatment.

One of them is the Global Commission on Drug Policy, made up of international politicians and business leaders. It claims the "war on drug has failed."

It estimates cocaine use is up 27 percent, opiates up 34 percent.

In 1989, the first President Bush named Bill Bennett the first so-called "drug czar." Today, he told us fighting the war is worth it.

"It's like the war against ignorance or barbarism or anything else that's horrible or persistent," Bennett said. "When you let up the pressure, things get worse and when you keep the pressure on, often things can get better."

Addict Ralph isn't so sure.

"This war on drugs, I look at it from a civilian's point, right okay. There's still a lot of heroin, there's still a lot of drugs on the street. What did it do? Second question is: if there wasn't a war on drugs, how much more drugs would've been in here?" he said.

He also worries it could claim a third generation like his granddaughter.

  • Sharyl Attkisson On Twitter»

    Sharyl Attkisson is a CBS News investigative correspondent based in Washington.

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