This story begins with Supreme Court Justice Robert Wakefield (Michael Douglas) trying a case. Next for him, he's off to Washington, where he meets with the Chief of Staff (Albert Finney), and is appointed, by the President, as the new drug czar, which is direct focus on the fight on drugs.
Well, ironic as it may seem, Robert's daughter, Caroline and her preppie boyfriend, Seth are freebasing at Robert's house in Cincinnati.
A few nights later, Caroline, Seth and many of their friends are getting high from weed, pills, and crack. One of their friends passes out, and begins to turn blue. Caroline, Seth, and the guy's girlfriend decide to handle the situation by putting the guy in the car, driving him to the hospital, and just leaving his unconscious body outside the entrance of the hospital. The plan almost seems successful, but the three are stopped almost immediately by a cop in the hospital parking lot.
Caroline spends the night in jail, and after being interviewed by a guidance counselor, we learn that Caroline is third in her class, does volunteer work, etc., mainly an exceptional student and the most unlikely person to be freebasing.
Caroline finally returns home, where Judge Daddy lays it down rough, cutting off everything except school. After Caroline leaves the room, Robert and his wife, thinking Caroline only drank and did some grass, talk, and she says that Robert is being too hard on Caroline. Robert explains, as the new drug czar, he would set a bad example if he allows his family memebers to get away clean.
Robert dedcides to go across the country, to the big drug areas, and try to figure out the best way to crack down. He meets with General Salazar, whom he considers as his Mexican counterpart, in El Paso, Texas. The two talk, and Salazar explains that the best way to get rid of the drug problem is to let people shoot up and O.D., problem solved. Robert is obviously not too happy about that theory.
Robert flies home, and has a fight with his wife in the car. She labels him a hippocrite, since he needs three brandys before dinner. He says he needs them to take the edge off, or else he will be bored to death. His wife drops him off at the house, and drives away, angry. Robert, a bit surprised, goes into the house to talk with Caroline, who is freebasing at that very moment.
He goes into her room, trying to find her, but sees she isn't there, until he hears a lighter and puffing from her bathroom. He tries to open the door, but it's locked. She finally opens the door, and she is sweating profusely, giggling, and rolling her eyes. Robert gets very pissed, and searches her bathroom for the drugs. He finally finds the pipe, the coke, and the lighter above her linen cupboard. He gets very upset, and watches as his daughter enjoys her high.
Caroline is sent to rehab, where she explains her problems. She also goes to a retreat right outside of Cincinnati, but later escapes, to end up in the ghetto, trying to score some stuff. She has sex with a dealer, who shoots some smack into her toe. Caroline is now a crack whore. Robert receives the news that she left the retreat, and begins looking for her. He drives around the ghetto, but doesn't find her.
Robert and his wife are awoken one morning by the phone. It's Robert's aide, who informs him that General Salazar was indeed in cahoots with the cartels, and he has been arrested. At that moment, Robert's wife discovers that her necklace and their camcorder have been stolen. Caroline came and took them for drug money.
Robert finally decides to go find her himself. He goes to her school, and grabs Seth right out of class, and brings him along. They go to the dealer she was having sex with earlier, but he's really pissed and threatens Robert with a gun.
Robert and Seth go to another place. The man inside won't let Seth in, but Robert, now pissed beyond belief, kicks open the door, to reveal a middle-aged man, standing above Caroline, naked and drugged in bed. Robert tells the man to leave, which he does. Robert then goes over to Caroline, and begins hugging her. Caroline, now semi-awake, looks up at him, and smiles. Robert begins crying. Seth, watching all of this at the doorway, leaves.
Robert is now about to accept his new post as drug czar, and gives a speech at the White House. Suddenly, a crisis of conscience occurs, and he says that he is supposed to wage war on drugs. But, if the drugs affect his family, how does he wage war with his family?
Robert then shockingly say he can't do it, and turns down the position, and leaves the White House.
Caroline, all cleaned up now, is at a rehab meeting, and explains her situation. In the crowd are Robert and his wife. Robert explains before everyone that he is there to listen and to understand.