A new report provided to the United Nations last week made one thing perfectly clear: the war on drugs is not working. The report was the result of years of analysis and review of data done by some of the most experienced drug policy economists in the world. Not only did the experts dub the war on drugs a failure, but they laid out other policies that would be more beneficial.
The report, which was compiled by economists at the London School of Economics (LSE), along with other experts in the field, was titled “Ending the Drug Wars.” The authors admit that the solution will not be easy, but that the drug war as we all know it is ineffective.
“There is no single way to solve this issue,” John Collins, the International Drug Policy Project Coordinator at the London School of Economics, said. “It’s an extraordinarily complex issue. We’ve tried to fix it with a singular approach—the drug war—and that hasn’t worked.”
There is No Drug-Free World
The LSE report states that the expectation that we can create a completely drug-free world is unrealistic. Collins pointed out in the report that the war on drugs mistakenly tried to end all drug abuse. “The system was built largely upon the assumption that by controlling supply it could control and eventually eradicate ‘non-medical and non-scientific’ use of drugs.” In order to do so, countries began “embarking on ambitious targets for demand and supply reduction under the slogan ‘a drug-free world, we can do it!’”
Instead, Collins advises using a different approach to policies. He says in the report, “A clearly emerging academic consensus that moving towards the decriminalization of personal consumption, along with the effective provision of health and social services, is a far more effective way to manage drugs and prevent the highly negative consequences associated with criminalization of people who use drugs.”
While decriminalization is not always the answer, the authors of the LSE report advise that it does allow for better treatment for those that need it, something many people have been saying for years. Whether or not certain drugs become legal, in order to put an end to the vast number of people addicted to drugs in this world, we need to offer effective treatment to these individuals.
Punishment like fines or time behind bars rarely works to change lives or stop the cycle of addiction. What works are treatment programs that get to the heart of the addiction and help individuals develop skills to live sober lives.
The debate about how to handle the drug problems of this world will continue to evolve, and through trial and error, we will hopefully be able to implement more and more policies that work. We do know that treatment can be effective for helping individuals put an end to their addiction, and more programs need to be developed for those in the greatest need.
By focusing on prevention and treatment instead of punishment, we can offer individuals the best chance at success.