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31 August 2012

War on Drugs: What is it good for?

Roughly 50 years since the introduction of the drug control system we find ourselves in today, worldwide regulation of illegal drugs has been found to be largely ineffective.  This understanding has led the Global Commission on Drug Policy to push for national leaders to bring the discussion of drug policy back to the table. In particular, they stress that illicit drug use can no longer be treated as a criminal offence (and it probably never should have been).

The GCDP has been clear in its message to the international community:  “The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world."

The discovery that strict drug law enforcement is positively correlated to the increased spread of HIV/AIDS presents an urgent need for nations to start recognizing drug use and abuse for what it primarily is - a health issue

Some ways in which certain groups already address drug use with this perspective in mind include: Needle exchange programs - Operative substance therapy - Info and education programs - Engaging drug users - Safe-injections sites.

By employing methods such as these, user/ abuser habits and the reasons behind their high-risk behaviour are confronted and attended to. This approach is argued to be more humanistic than prohibitionism/stigmatization and shows better signs of healing the underbelly of our society. It is surprising to think that responding to drug use with violent punishment and imprisonment has been considered the most appropriate response for so long - this goes to show what a barbaric state we still live in

The White House sees little wrong with its approach to tackling the drug problem. It dodges the implications of the GCDP’s findings with its own stats that indicate a job well done for the United States. If their statistics are valid, then I guess the U.S. can rest easy knowing they have all the bases covered. Personally, I find some of their claims hard to believe. 

A large body of research, as cited by the GCDP, finds that despite prohibition of over the last few decades…
  • Illegal drugs have become cheaper and more available
  • HIV/Aids and other health related risks linked to drug use have increased
  • Prohibition policies have made things worse by
    • tipping the market to more potent and risky products (e.g., Ecstasy/ MDMA cut with contaminants like PMMA) and 
    • encouraging high-risk behaviour (e.g., injecting in unsupervised and unhygienic environments) 
The GCDP points out that "One cannot improve health through a war." Indeed, we may want to seek peace--even prosperity--with drugs if we are ever to confront how to improve our situation.

To improve our current situation we must first end the war within ourselves. From there, we can end our wars on others. At the very least, we should get it through our heads that when a state declares war on a concept (like 'drugs' or 'terrorism'), it's a war that cannot be won. 

But really, no one should ever support a war - of any kind.

Why not declare peace towards everything around you?  The promotion of freedom for all to do as they please (so long as it causes no harm to others) is surely a better idea than allowing oppressors to govern touchy matters with guns. As for the so called war on drugs, this issue might be better left to the advice and treatment of health professionals. Let the market, community & family values work out the rest. If only the fear mongering security state could keep its hands out of everyone's pie, the high-risk behaviour might actually be dealt with accordingly. We could even start to see it dissipate. 

For another opinion on treating drug use as a health issue, check out this interview with Dr. Gabor Mate: 

For more background on drug prohibition history, here's a report on the History and Development on the Leading International Drug Control Conventions:

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