During the past decade the increase in drug use and drug addiction in the United States has been viewed with growing alarm. Drug addiction has been compared to a contagious disease, an epidemic which is raging in our cities and towns. Although the rhetoric has become more dramatic, the drug problem is certainly not a new one. This paper is concerned with the historic failure of United States policies to eliminate or even to contain drug abuse and drug addiction. It is the central thesis of this paper that drug addiction is a social disease, and as such is symptomatic of a greater dysfunction within the general society. In this view, the failure of United States drug policies is a logical consequence of its larger political and economic system, that is, the capitalist system. By extension, no rehabilitation strategy can succeed until this system is replaced by one with nonoppressive, collectivist goals.

To support this thesis, this paper will contrast United States drug policy since 1949 with the drug policies and concomitant social and political changes which successfully eliminated drug addiction in China following the 1949 revolution. Such a comparison is made to emphasize the class-biased nature of current drug policies in the United States, and to reaffirm that such bias is not accidental or shortsighted, but rather is inevitable under the present capitalist economic and political system.