The Supply-and-Demand Solution to the Drug Crisis

A famous Greek myth recounts the tale of the diabolical King Sisyphus. He was punished for his many murderous actions by being forced to roll a huge boulder up a hill. No matter what method he used, each time Sisyphus neared the top of the hill the boulder would crash back to the ground, ensuring his punishment was eternal.

I’m reminded of the King’s futile actions every time I think about U.S. efforts to stop illegal drugs from entering this country.

These days, there is much talk about “The Wall” the president wants to build along the Southern border to curb both illegal drugs and immigrants from entering the country. But the reality is, no matter what precautions or roadblocks we install drug kingpins, mostly to our south, will continue to devise shrewd alternatives to get their poison into the United States.

Decades ago drug traffickers soaked jeans in liquid cocaine and shipped them to the U.S. in boxes labeled “acid” washed jeans. Using a chemical process, they then separated the cocaine from the fabric and sold it on American streets. U.S. inspectors finally got wise to that scheme. But since then cocaine, methamphetamine, ecstasy, heroin and the deadly fentanyl have been found camouflaged in all sorts of unusual ways.

These Agents Are on The Front Lines of Drug Interdiction – Are We Asking Too Much?


Photographs posted on a U.S. Border Patrol and Customs social media account reveal some almost laughable discoveries. One photo shows plastic wrapped stacks of hollowed out tortillas their centers stuffed with bags of cocaine.  There were baggies of cocaine inserted into handmade tamales. Drugs were found deep inside emptied coconuts that were tightly wrapped in bushel sized packages. Agents discovered decorative green ceramic bananas which when cracked open revealed tubes of white powder and other drugs. And agents discovered footlong orange tubes resembling huge whole carrots full of marijuana. They were stuffed in between real carrots and plastic-wrapped for transport to the U.S.

The Miami Herald reports agents there once discovered more than 6-thousand pounds of cocaine smuggled inside a wooden picnic table.  Another huge shipment of cocaine was hidden inside bags of brown sugar. The FBI found cocaine inside bottles of imported beer.

Gil Kerlikowske, former commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection says illegal drugs come into our country via two pathways. “Well over 90%” slip through southern ports of entry after drug carrying couriers pass undetected. The remaining 10% of drugs, mostly fentanyl according to Kerlikowske, comes in through the U.S. Post Office which is in dire need of better detection technology.

Former Commish Kerlikowske Tells it Like it is – Drugs Mostly Come from the South

With drugs stashed in tortillas, decorative fruit, furniture, clothing and bottled beverages it’s easy to conclude that the potential hiding spots for drug traffickers is endless.

How can customs inspectors keep up with the countless millions of products that come into this country via underground tunnels, trucks, railroad shipping containers or by watercraft every year? How can the border patrol adequately screen the millions of personal cars, pedestrians and commercial trucks that cross into the U.S. past one of the 39 high-volume border crossings with Mexico every year? The answer is: they can’t, especially when some criminals go so far as to hide drugs inside their own body cavities.

For all the drugs we confiscate there are tons more that get though. All our energies to eradicate the plague have been as futile as King Sisyphus’s efforts.

So, what’s a country to do? We can’t just close the border. That would cause major economic, legal and logistical nightmares. According to the trade publication Business Insider, two-way trade across the busiest 25 entry points totals $1.4 billion dollars — per day. A disruption of that flow could be catastrophic.

Southwest Border Crossings Are Uncontrollable – Period

Simply put, the best thing the U.S. can do now is to change tactics and take forceful steps to curb the demand for illegal drugs. Its common sense.  Fewer American drug addicts would surely mean a significant reduction in the drug supply flowing this way. Fewer addicts translates to fewer deaths.

What should be done? First, dedicated and widespread efforts to teach young people that drugs ruin lives. Second, public donations to programs like the Boys and Girls Clubs, organizations that give kids a wholesome, nurturing place to go after school.  Third, a re-dedication of local, state and federal rehab programs for addicts. Programs that don’t just last a month or so, but long-term efforts to help citizens kick drug dependency and find permanent employment and housing.

More than 70,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2017. How much higher does the death toll need to go before we take a different tack?  How much longer can we press our Customs and Border agents to the brink?

Make no mistake, this nation has been involved in a decades long Sisyphean-like exercise when it comes to combating the deadly drug scourge. There is no positive conclusion if we stay the current course. The boulder will always fall back on us and crush us if we let it.



  1. Diane Dimond on September 30, 2019 at 1:24 pm

    Reader Stephen Vaughn writes:

    Right you are, Diane. And that’s not even the newest fentanyl derivatives.
    Hydroxymethylfentanyl, known as ohmefentanyl, is one of the most potent examples of any synthetic opiate.
    Ref. from online citation.

    You state that 75,000 Americans died of drug overdoses last year. What’s the minimum amount of ohmefentanyl needed to kill 75,000 people?

    1) The volume of the Empire State Building.
    2) The volume of the pressurized cabin of a 747.
    3) The size of a cargo shipping container.
    4) Three 25¢ pieces.

    Trick question! None of the above. It’s less than any of the amounts suggested.
    The amount of ohmefentanyl just over the weight of two quarters – 50¢ in change – is enough to kill as many people as we lost last year from opiates.
    That’s about three lipstick’s weight in a new lipstick.

    Could someone smuggle three lipsticks into the United States over a year?

    What you say?

    Keep up the good writing, Diane.

    Stephen A.. Vaughn MD PhD

  2. Diane Dimond on September 30, 2019 at 1:26 pm

    Reader William Donnelly writes:

    Dear Diane,

    This was a great editorial, your analogy of comparing the “War on Drugs” to King Sisyphus’s punishment was spot on. I have felt that we spend millions fighting this epidemic, yet the demand is still there. Drugs are following the Law of Supply and Demand, trying to stop the Supply is futile; the demand is High, so the price for the product rises with a the War on Drugs because new means of supplying the demand are implemented to circumvent the War.

    As you stated it would be productive to go after the Demand side; reduce the demand and the supply will dry up, we will also have a more productive citizenry. Stop people from using drugs or help them to get off the drugs and back to a productive life, drug related problems are a major source of crime, which is expensive to the country.

    Why must everything be a War, we can solve problems peacefully.

    Thank you for the great editorial, hopefully this changes peoples attitudes.

    Bill Donnelly

  3. Diane Dimond on October 1, 2019 at 11:21 am

    Reader Kurt K Guy writes:

    Do you think the pervasiveness of legalizing marijuana is a good idea? Local and State Governments seem to think it’s a great solution to a lack of financial discipline.

    I for one think it’s a horrible idea. Legalization of drugs is not going give America a “sustainable competitive advantage” (Warren Buffett).

    I prefer your solutions/suggestions.

    • Diane Dimond on October 1, 2019 at 11:22 am

      Reader Charlene Faris replies:

      Kurt, am with you! I despise the pervasiveness of marijuana here….so many accidents, people acting strange, let st goes on and on. The stupid stuff is everywhere, cracks me up the way so called cannabis is cure all for any ailment for humans and pets alike. I would not touch that crap with a ten foot pole. Do not believe in it, period. Here in So. Calif. Mostly gonna be zombies. When was released two years ago, heard a police chief on local news stating there was not a measurement…very scary.

  4. Diane Dimond on October 1, 2019 at 11:22 am

    Reader Kyla Thompson writes:

    Great column!

  5. Diane Dimond on October 2, 2019 at 9:17 pm

    Reader Mary S writes:

    Good Morning!

    I am writing to thank you for your article dated 9/30/19, entitled “Wall can’t fix drug problem”*

    My name is Mary Grace Siracuse. Our son Pierce died June 30,2019 from a drug overdose. Pierce was 23 yrs old. He had been in several rehab’s and sent to jail several times. He graduated from the Salvation Army Adult Rehab Program and the City Drug Program.
    Then he was cut loose. The only forms of follow up were continued probation and a slew of unpaid fines for traffic violations. Within 2 weeks of graduation, he was gone.
    Although Pierce was very bright and EXTREMELY well spoken, he only had a tenth grade education. I think you can see how daunting the task of “getting back into the world” after months of constant supervision,meetings,etc. could be for him!
    Your comments regarding educating youth on the dangers of drugs,providing safe and accessible after school programs and LONG TERM Rehab. are spot on!
    I would also like to add Nar Anon and other support groups for loved ones and family,so that they are not making the situation worse through miseducation .

    Thank you,
    God bless.
    Mary Grace Siracuse

    * DD note – different news outlets use different titles for the same column.

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