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An Overview of the Drug Enforcement Agency



The Drug Enforcement Agency, or DEA, is arguably the foremost organization on the war on drugs. Created in 1973 by President Richard Nixon, the DEA is responsible for the enforcement of the United States drug laws and legislation. The Controlled Substances Act of 1970 made it evident that concern for the drug use in the United States was growing and certain control was necessary in order to help curtail and restrict the use of drugs.

Though drugs had not reached a peak in terms of becoming a problem or concern, the stigma surrounding drugs was more than evident and its effect on society was clear enough to make drug laws a necessity. The DEA was born out of the need for a single agency to enforce the new drug laws. The DEA is also responsible for the scientific and medical determination of categorizing all types of drugs or substances that have potential to become abused and/or an addiction problem.

Currently, the Drug Enforcement Agency is headed by Michele Leonhart, and continues its efforts to end the war on drugs on both the national and international levels.


The history of the DEA is one that is extensive and filled with important advances against the war on drugs. The Drug Enforcement Administration was created with the purpose of becoming the single and unified organization to enforce the drug laws and regulations of the United States, while also conducting the forefront, both on domestic and international levels, against the war on drugs. Though drugs were not at their height, in 1973 President Nixon declared "an all-out global war on the drug menace," and sent the legislation proposing the creation of the DEA.

The new organization hit the ground running, immediately instituting various programs and many field offices across the United States and the rest of the world. By the end of 1974, there were nearly 45 offices opened throughout the globe alone. Instituting a global assault proved essential in later years when the DEA managed to capture Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar in 1984. The DEA developed programs such as the New York Task Force and the DEA Intelligence Program that served as precursors to the one's created throughout the years to help coordinate task force, field agents, and string operations.

Creation and Purpose

The Drug Enforcement Agency is the single federal agency that enforces the United States drug laws and regulations, as well as all involving the illicit use or abuse of drugs and controlled substances. The DEA was established on July 1st, 1973, under President Richard Nixon's administration. The main purpose was to consolidate the various factions or organizations in one, singular department in charge of employing the nation's drug laws and enforcement.

The DEA essentially was the combination of two major organizations, the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Department of Justice (BNDD) and the Office of Drug Abuse Law Enforcement Department of Justice (ODALE), as well other minor or smaller departments of justice. John R. Bartels, Jr. was the first DEA Administrator and oversaw the creation of key programs such as the Diversion Control Program, the DEA Intelligence Program, and the New York Task Force.

All these programs are still functioning today, providing for different aspects as intelligence collection and research and a strong, efficient task force based in New York. The DEA is based out of Arlington, Virginia, across from the Pentagon, but has 21 domestic field divisions throughout the country, as well as 86 foreign offices in 62 countries.


The DEA is charged with the noble effort on fighting the war on drugs, both on the national and global spectrum. However, the organization has been the subject of criticism and debate regarding its overall responsibilities and methods. Certain organizations denounce the DEA as not having the proper authority to schedule drugs according the Controlled Substances Act, and that responsibility is legally reserved for the FDA and the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Secondly, the DEA decisions regarding the placement of certain drugs that may have viable medical applications in the most restrictive of all the provisions is contrary to legal and federal legislation. Another aspect that is also criticized is the DEA's apparent focus of drug operations or busts that are on the large or grand scale and of an international nature or consequence. Many debate whether their concentration on these bigger cases is related to the potential of a larger seizure of goods or assets and publicity.

The DEA's stance on how certain drugs are more vehemently sought after by their operations such as cocaine and heroin is also in question when marijuana and pharmaceuticals are statistically more popular and abused in current times.

DEA Agents

DEA agents of the foremost authority of drug law enforcement personnel. They are actively on the field and fighting the war on drugs on a daily basis. Though the opportunities exist to become a DEA agent and lead the exciting career of a special agent, the DEA selects only those men and women that are the most qualified and have a commitment to fighting the war on drugs. The qualifications for DEA eligibility are fairly strict, and the hiring process can be intense, with the possibility of it lasting over a year to successfully complete.

Once hired, DEA agents attend basic training for a period of 16 weeks, where they are tested mentally and physically through a rigorous training program structured to mold them in to the best possible DEA agents. DEA agents are eligible to receive excellent benefit packages, as well as the possibility of earning close to $100,000 after only four years of service.

Impact of Drug Trade

The Drug Enforcement Administration is considered as the foremost organization in the world when it comes to combating illegal drugs and controlled substances. One of its main roles is to enforce and implement the Controlled Substances Act in order to provide for a strict guideline of restrictions regarding certain drugs and chemicals. Furthermore, the DEA is well-known for its efforts against the illicit drug trafficking of narcotics and seizure of illegally obtained assets as well as illicit drugs.

However, the overall effect that the agency has upon the war on drugs is of some dispute. Though their efforts have produced certain results, drug trafficking is still a problem not just within United States borders, but a the global spectrum as well. Their actual effective seems to be of a minimal impact when regarding the amounts of drugs being illegally bough and sold throughout the world. The DEA's attempts to enforce stricter laws and more stringent control policies seems to be in vein when drug cartels and illegal organization still manage to traffic illegal drugs and make millions in the process.

Diversion Control System

The Diversion Control System is a program and also division extension of the DEA. Under the Office of Diversion Control, the Drug Enforcement Administration is addressing the current and growing problem of the abuse and misuse of legal controlled substances and pharmaceuticals. The abuse of potentially addicting substances such as Percocet, Vicodin, Morphine, and Oxycontin is becoming more prevalent and a problem in the United States.

The Office of Diversion Control essentially exists to find a necessary balance between the ready availability of such substances, while also regulating and imposing certain restrictions that may help reduce the amount that they are abused or used for other purposes than legally and/or medically intended.

The Office of Diversion has various responsibilities that include the registration of all applicants with DEA, the research and study of new chemicals or those not currently under control, implementation of the laws and regulations concurrent with the Controlled Substances Act and DEA policy to pharmaceuticals and legal controlled substances, investigation of diversion use and its various criminal activities, and the recommendation of new laws and legislation that may help prevent or reduce diversion use of pharmaceuticals and other controlled substances.

Careers in DEA

The DEA offers great opportunities for careers and jobs for those with an interest in combating the war on drugs. Not all careers in the DEA deal with explicitly being on the field, dealing with drug cartels and kingpins on a daily basis. The DEA offers a wide array of careers choices that employ different aspects of law enforcement that may be in line with certain peoples interest. Recruitment possibilities exist at many levels, including Diversion Investigator, Forensic Specialist, Intelligence Research Specialists, and even opportunities exist for college students interested in the possibility of interning for the agency.

The DEA proves to be a great career experience while providing for an excellent environment to work, especially if traveling is of interest, for it is required to be willing to relocate at any given time. However, the DEA does only choose the most qualified and determined candidates, enforcing their drug policies and regulations to all their employees; furthermore, strict qualifications and strenuous hiring process must all be successfully completed in order to be considered for hire in a career for the DEA.

War on Drugs

The War on Drugs is used to describe the efforts of various countries around the globe to stop the illegal trafficking of drugs and controlled substances through the implementation of strict laws and regulations, and in some cases, military and law enforcement involvement. The war on drugs was first coined by President Nixon in his address regarding the passage of the Controlled Substances Act, where he "declares war" on the use and trafficking of illicit drugs and substances.

The war on drugs still rages today, causing for much concern among the leading governments in the world, with the United States being the self-appointed chief. Currently, there is much debate and controversy regarding the war on drugs, as more statistics and facts seem to prove that the efforts of organizations such as DEA are not only insufficient, but are not deterring or curtailing the drug trafficking in the United States alone.

Current events involving Mexico's problem with drug cartels and illegal drug trafficking seem to prove that the DEA, as noble as their efforts may be, have done been able make these drug kingpins fear the United States' war on drugs, and furthermore, their drugs are still on making their way on to American streets.

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