Cancel the War on Drugs

We have devoted billions of dollars to a “war” on drugs. A trillion, according to some, a number beyond imagining.

Use of the term “war” has become semantically meaningless. First, you can’t have a “war” unless you can identify an enemy. The enemy can’t be an abstraction such as “drugs”, or “terror”, or “poverty”. The enemy must ideally have an identifiable army that threatens your country. At the least, it must be an enemy that can be defeated. Second, if you have a war, you have to be able to tell when it’s over. There must be some sort of finalization, or surrender, or whatever. There’s no one to surrender in a war on drugs, and it will never be “over” anyway. So the so-called war on drugs was doomed to failure from the first, because there is no specific enemy, and we have no way of knowing if we have won—or lost.

The “war on drugs” has been a complete failure.

How about instead we try defeating addiction by dealing with addiction and its prevention? We can at least identify addicts, and we know who is most likely to become addicted. We have had some success dealing with addiction itself. As a last resort, we should supply the hopelessly addicted with their drug of choice, and a place to use it, so they are unable to disrupt society with crime and bad behavior.

Lest we get too snotty about the weaknesses of addicts, we should remember that nobody starts out wanting to be an addict. Abraham Varese’s book The Tennis Partner, is about real cases of doctors who have become addicted. I myself was once involved with diagnosis of a doctor who denied his addiction. We should also remember that millions of people use addictive substances, but do not become addicts. Addiction is best thought of, and most successfully dealt with, as an illness, not a crime.

Nobody starts out wanting to be an addict.

I contend that most of us failed to become addicted because of two things: we learned the horrible consequences of addiction, and/or we tried the stuff and found we weren’t the addictable type. For most of us, the latter is more true.

Two of the most addicting substances are cigarettes and alcohol, both of which are legal. Addiction to them has horrendous consequences, with a high likelihood of early death. Most of us who drink alcohol do so moderately, with no serious and lasting consequences for our health. But tobacco is guaranteed to compromise your health no matter how little you use, and if you are addicted, your chances of dying from your habit are high.

Then there’s heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine. These are illegal for good reasons: they have severe effects on health and on society. Even so, some people do try them but don’t suffer the terrible consequences that are likely.

But the “war on drugs” has proven to be a complete failure. We have wasted decades and billions trying to stop the flow of drugs, with virtually nothing to show for it. I think the problem was that we tried to stop the supply, rather than the demand. We should turn our attention instead to young people, prevention, and treatment, and spend on prevention, say, one percent (that would be $10,000,000,000) of what we spent on the “war”. I’m sure that cost would be a huge increase over what we spend now, but still far cheaper than our fruitless war. We will not be completely successful, but surely we will be more successful than we have been.

Young males are certifiably retarded
in their prefrontal cortex.

Young males are certifiably retarded compared to young women in the development of their prefrontal cortex, the area where value judgments are made. This is probably why girls are considered more mature than boys, and why more boys get in trouble with the law. But even the boys are not complete fools. The consequences of addiction are grim enough that even scatterbrained boys remember graphic graphic evidence of what can happen, particularly if they see and hear an addict in person. But they often don’t believe that the broken lives of adults have anything to do with themselves.

We should remember that in the past certain crusaders took on the task of educating youth, and both lied about the risks and displayed ignorance that the kids saw through in an instant. Remember the “pot needles” they warned about, and the many lies about marijuana that everyone knew were false? A repeat of such ill-informed attempts will be equally unsuccessful with this generation. The consequences of addiction are quite grim enough without inventing them where they do not exist.

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