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This article is intended to give an overview of several arguments for and against drug prohibition. Supporters of prohibition claim that drug laws have a successful track record suppressing illicit drug use since they were introduced years ago. In the year period following the first international convention restricting use of opium, heroin and cocaine, the United States' use of illicit drugs other than cannabis was consistently below 0. With illicit drug use peaking in the s in the United States, the "Just Say No" campaign, initiated under the patronage of Nancy Reagan, coincided with recent past month illicit drug use decreases from Sweden is an excellent example.
Drug use is just a third of the European average while spending on drug control is three times the EU average. For three decades, [nb 1] Sweden has had consistent and coherent drug-control policies, regardless of which party is in power. There is a strong emphasis on prevention, drug laws have been progressively tightened, and extensive treatment and rehabilitation opportunities are available to users.
The police take drug crime seriously. Governments and societies must keep their nerve and avoid being swayed by misguided notions of tolerance.
They must not lose sight of the fact that illicit drugs are dangerous — that is why the world agreed to restrict them. Criticizing governments that have relaxed their drug laws, Antonio Maria Costa, speaking in Washington before the launch of the World Drug Report in Junesaid:. After so many years of drug control experience, we now know that a coherent, long-term strategy can reduce drug supply, demand and trafficking.
If this does not happen, it will be because some nations fail to take the drug issue sufficiently seriously and pursue inadequate policies. Many countries have the drug problem they deserve.
One of the prominent early critics of prohibition in the United States was August Vollmerfounder of the School of Criminology at University of California, Irvine and former president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police. In his book The Police and Modern Societyhe stated his opinion that:. Stringent laws, spectacular police drives, vigorous prosecution, and imprisonment of addicts and peddlers have proved not only useless and enormously expensive as means of correcting this evil, but they are also unjustifiably and unbelievably cruel in their application to the unfortunate drug victims.
Repression has driven this vice underground and produced the narcotic smugglers and supply agents, who have grown wealthy out of this evil practice and who, by devious methods, have stimulated traffic in drugs. Finally, and not the least of the evils associated with repression, the helpless addict has been forced to resort to crime in order to get money for the drug which is absolutely indispensable for his comfortable existence. The first step in any plan to alleviate this dreadful affliction should be the establishment of Federal control and dispensation — at cost — of habit-forming drugs.
With the profit motive gone, no effort would be made to encourage its use by private dispensers of narcotics, and the drug peddler would disappear. New addicts would be speedily discovered and through early treatment, some of these unfortunate victims might be saved from becoming hopelessly incurable. Drug addiction, like prostitution, and like liquor, is not a police problem; it never has been, and never can be solved by policemen. It is first and last a medical Why recreational drugs should not be legalized, and if there is a solution it will be discovered not by policemen, but by scientific and competently trained medical experts whose sole objective will be the reduction and possible eradication of this devastating appetite.
There should be intelligent treatment of the incurables in outpatient clinics, hospitalization of those not too far gone to respond to therapeutic measures, and application of the prophylactic principles which medicine applies to all scourges of mankind. Stephen Rolles, writing in the British Medical Journalargues:.
Consensus is growing within the drugs field and beyond that the prohibition on production, supply, and use of certain drugs has not only failed to deliver its intended goals but has been counterproductive.
Evidence is mounting that this policy has not only exacerbated many public health problems, such as adulterated drugs and the spread of HIV and hepatitis B and C infection among injecting drug users, but has created a much larger set of secondary harms associated with the criminal market. These now include vast networks of organised crime, endemic violence related to the drug market, corruption of law enforcement and governments. The United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime has also acknowledged the many "unintended negative consequences" of drug enforcement.
The editor of the British Medical JournalDr. Fiona Godlee, gave her personal support to Rolles' call for decriminalisation, and the arguments drew particular support from Sir Ian Gilmoreformer president of the Royal College of Physicians, who said we should be treating drugs "as a health issue rather than criminalising people" and "this could drastically reduce crime and improve health".
Danny Kushlik, head of external affairs at Transform, said the intervention of senior medical professionals was ificant. He said: "Sir Ian's statement is yet another nail in prohibition's coffin. The Hippocratic oath says: 'First, do no harm'.
Physicians are duty bound to speak out if the outcomes show that prohibition causes more harm than it reduces. A report sponsored by the New York County Lawyers' Associationone of the largest local bar associations in the United States, argues on the subject of US drug policy:. Notwithstanding the vast public resources expended on the enforcement of penal statutes against users and distributors of controlled substances, contemporary drug policy appears to have failed, even on its own terms, in a of notable respects.
These include: minimal reduction in the consumption of controlled substances; failure to reduce violent crime; failure to markedly reduce drug importation, distribution and street-level drug sales; failure to reduce the widespread availability of drugs to potential users; failure to deter individuals from becoming involved in the drug trade; failure to impact upon the huge profits and financial opportunity available to individual "entrepreneurs" and organized underworld organizations through engaging in the illicit drug trade; the expenditure of great amounts of increasingly limited public resources in pursuit of a cost-intensive "penal" or "law-enforcement" based Why recreational drugs should not be legalized failure to provide meaningful treatment and other assistance to people who use substances and their families; and failure to provide meaningful alternative economic opportunities to those attracted to the drug trade for lack of other available avenues for financial advancement.
Moreover, a growing body of evidence and opinion suggests that contemporary drug policy, as pursued in recent decades, may be counterproductive and even harmful to the society whose public safety it seeks to protect. This conclusion becomes more readily apparent when one distinguishes the harms suffered by society and its members directly attributable to the pharmacological effects of drug use upon human behavior, from those harms resulting from policies attempting to eradicate drug use.
With aid of these distinctions, we see that present drug policy appears to contribute to the increase of violence in our communities. It does so by permitting and indeed, causing the drug trade to remain a lucrative source of economic opportunity for street dealers, drug kingpins and all those willing to engage in the often violent, illicit, black market trade. Meanwhile, the effect of present policy serves to stigmatize and marginalize drug users, thereby inhibiting and undermining the efforts of many such individuals to remain or become productive, gainfully employed members of society.
Furthermore, current policy has not only failed to provide adequate access to treatment for substance use, it has, in many ways, rendered the obtaining of Why recreational drugs should not be legalized treatment, and of other medical services, more difficult and even dangerous to pursue. In response to claims that prohibition can work, as argued by Antonio Maria Costaexecutive director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimewho drew attention to the drug policy of SwedenHenrik Tham has written that sometimes it's domestically important to stress drug policy as successful; in the case of Sweden, where this notion is important, such claims serve "the function of strengthening a threatened national identity in a situation where the traditional 'Swedish model' has come under increasingly hard attack from both inside and outside the country.
However, available systematic indicators show that the prevalence of drug use has increased since aroundthat the decrease in drug incidence was particularly marked during the s and that some indicators point towards an increase during the s.
They noted that unlike most of Europe, Sweden did not have widespread and lingering youth unemployment until the early s financial crisissuggesting that unattractive future prospects may contribute to the increase in drug use among the young. The professor emeritus in criminology at the University of Oslo, Nils Christiepointed out Sweden as the hawk of international drug policy in a book. He said that Sweden is serving the role of being welfare alibi for, and lending legitimacy to, the US drug war.
In it was the third, as USA withdrew some of its funding. An editorial in The Economist argued:. That presumption may be wrong. There is no correlation between the harshness of drug laws and the incidence of drug-taking: citizens living under tough regimes notably America but also Britain take more drugs, not fewer.
Embarrassed drug warriors blame this on alleged cultural differences, but even in fairly similar countries tough rules make little difference to the of addicts: harsh Sweden and more liberal Norway have precisely the same addiction rates. Antonio Maria Costa's conviction that "countries have the drug problem they deserve" if they fail to follow the "Swedish Model" in drug control has also been criticised in Peter Cohen's work — Looking at the UN, smelling a rat.
In its report, the Global Commission on Drug Policy stated that "The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world". Controls and prohibitions help to keep prices higher, and higher prices help keep use rates relatively low, since drug use, especially among young people, is known to be sensitive to price.
The relationship between pricing and rates of youth substance use is well-established with respect to alcohol and cigarette taxes. There is literature showing that increases in the price of cigarettes triggers declines in use. The DEA argues "Legalization has been tried before—and failed miserably.
Alaska's experiment with legalization in the s led to the state's teens using marijuana at more than twice the rate of other youths nationally. This led Alaska's residents to vote to re-criminalize marijuana in Drug Free Australia has cited the Netherlands as an example of drug policy failure because it is soft in approach. They argue that the Dutch idea of going soft on cannabis dealers, thereby creating a "separation of markets" from hard drug dealers has failed to stem the initiation to drugs such as heroin, cocaine, and amphetamines, saying that, inthe Netherlands had the third highest cannabis and cocaine use in Europe.
It has been suggested that drug law reform could reduce the use of hard drugs as it has in countries such as the Netherlands. The BCS figures, published in Octobershowed that the proportion of frequent users in the 16—24 age group i. American teenagers are drinking and smoking less and doing fewer drugs than their predecessors in more than 40 years of tracking.
Use of marijuana is down among 8th- and 10th-graders, though it is flat among high school seniors, according to the annual Monitoring the Future survey of American teens. The US Drug Enforcement Agency's " Marijuana Sourcebook" argues that recent research supports the gateway hypothesis that certain drugs such as cannabis act as gateways to use of 'harder' drugs such as heroin, either because of social contact or because of an increasing search for a better high. In the American Journal of Public HealthAndrew Golub and Bruce Johnson of the National Development and Research Institute in New York wrote that young people who smoked marijuana in the generations before and after the baby boomers did not appear to be likely to move on to harder drugs.
Researchers from the independent Rand Drug Policy Research Center in Santa Monica, California, looking at data from the National Household Why recreational drugs should not be legalized on Drug Abuse between andconcluded that teenagers who took hard drugs did so whether they had first tried cannabis or not.
A twin study of same sex twin pairs which adjusted for additional confounders such as peer drug use, found that cannabis use and associations with later hard drug use existed only for non-identical twins. The study suggested that a causal role of cannabis use in later hard drug usage is minimal, if it exists at all, and that cannabis use and hard drug use share the same influencing factors such as genetics and environment. Advocates of prohibition argue that particular drugs should be illegal because they are harmful.
Drug Free Australia for example argues "That illicit drugs are inherently harmful substances is attested by the very nomenclature of the 'harm reduction' movement.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDCduringthere were 15, drug-induced deaths; only slightly less than the 18, alcohol-induced deaths. Marijuana is far more powerful than it used to be. Inthere were six times as many emergency room mentions of marijuana use as there were indespite the fact that the of people using marijuana is roughly the same. Ina recordAmericans entered substance abuse treatment primarily for marijuana dependence, second only to heroin—and not by much.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, "Studies show that someone who smokes five ts per week may be taking in as many cancer-causing chemicals as someone who smokes a full pack of cigarettes every day. For example, smoking one marijuana cigarette deposits about four times more tar into the lungs than a filtered tobacco cigarette. The short-term effects are also harmful. They include: memory loss, distorted perception, trouble with thinking and problem solving, loss of motor skills, decrease in muscle strength, increased heart rate, and anxiety.
Marijuana impacts young people's mental development, their ability to concentrate in school, and their motivation and initiative to reach goals. And marijuana affects people of all ages: Harvard University researchers report that the risk of a heart attack is five times higher than usual in the hour after smoking marijuana. Many of the deaths from using cannabis, other than from car accidents while intoxicated or violence and aggression,   are more likely to figure in the longer term, just as with tobacco, where both nicotine overdose and cannabis overdose are extremely rare or nonexistent.Why recreational drugs should not be legalized
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Arguments for and against drug prohibition