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America's Drug Wars
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The Latest Battleground
A police boat lands on an island park in Miami where about two hundred people have gathered. This is the latest battleground in the war on drugs. There are no lights here, but plenty of color. Almost everyone has a glow stick, a fluorescent toy, laced into sneakers, packed into ponytails, strewn on the sand. The dark island is dotted in blues, reds, and greens.

A Web site said there would be a rave there tonight.

Aladio Paez read that Web site. He's an undercover officer with the Miami police department. His specialty is the drug ecstasy.

"One weekend doesn't go by where someone does not end up in the hospital," says Paez. "Sometimes they don't make it out of the hospital. I have seen kids die on ecstasy overdoses. I have seen kids die trying to come down from ecstasy and overdosing on a bunch of other drugs."

Once an underground urban drug, ecstasy is now part of mainstream middle-class America. Once again, big seizures are big news. Again, laws setting mandatory minimum sentences are moving through Congress. Again, dogs are trained to sniff out a new drug.

While teenage drug use gets the headlines, it is hardcore adult users who drive up the social cost.

Next: The Instant Fix of Sentencing Guidelines >