These drugs are dangerous and kill people, but Americans and policymakers are largely impervious to deaths — they rarely refer to those hundreds or tens of thousands of deaths as a crisis or epidemic. Thus, these problems, especially with alcohol, take a back seat and leave the industry to get away with its excesses, as the legislator gets a passport for inaction. It all seemed so obvious to me. Prohibition had failed. Over the past decade, millions of Americans have been arrested and, in many of these cases, jailed for drugs. The government has spent tens of billions of dollars a year on drug policies – not only to monitor and arrest people and possibly destroy their lives, but also on overseas operations in which armed forces have attacked and destroyed people`s farms and ruined their livelihoods. In four decades, the price of the war on drugs has risen to more than $1 trillion. The most obvious case is the regulation of adolescents` and young adults` access to drugs. Whatever the regime, it is hard to imagine that the drugs that are now banned would be more readily available than alcohol and tobacco today. Would there be a black market for drugs for youth, or would the regulatory system be as permeable as the current one for alcohol and tobacco? A “yes” answer to both questions would reduce the appeal of legalization. This is a tricky question. Should drugs be legalized even if they are known to increase addiction rates? How can our country avoid higher dependency rates instead of criminalizing? Drug treatment programs may be the answer.
But the United States failed. Terrible. There are many things that could have been done to stop the opioid epidemic in its tracks: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) could have blocked or restricted the use of opioids — to better account for the risks of addiction and overdose, as well as the lack of scientific evidence that opioids are effective even for chronic pain. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) could have reduced the supply of opioids and taken tougher legal action against companies that carelessly proliferated their drugs into unscrupulous prescribers, rather than focusing on players such as the pill factories that are popping up across the country. Let`s take a closer look at the debate about drug legalization, the pros and cons of drug legalization, and what the research says about how drug decriminalization will affect young adults in particular. But with hard drugs, there`s plenty of room to waste – as the opioid epidemic shows. Some legalized drugs are controversial. Some states made the legal news of weed during the last election. They even went through legal mushrooms. There are two sides to the question of whether it was the right decision or not.
Another factor to consider is the appeal of forbidden fruits. For young people, often attracted by taboos, legal drugs can be less tempting than they are today. This is the experience of the Netherlands: after the Dutch government decriminalized marijuana in 1976 so that it could be sold and consumed openly in small quantities, use steadily declined – especially among teenagers and young adults. Before decriminalization, 10% of Dutch 17- and 18-year-olds used marijuana. By 1985 this figure had fallen to 6.5%. As in the past, some observers will no doubt see the solution in much harsher penalties to deter both suppliers and users of illicit psychoactive substances. Others will argue that the answer lies not in more enforcement and tougher penalties, but in fewer penalties. In particular, they will argue that the edifice of national laws and international conventions that collectively prohibit the production, sale and use of large numbers of drugs for non-medical or scientific purposes has proven to be physically harmful, socially divisive, prohibitive and ultimately counterproductive by creating the very incentives that perpetuate a violent black market for illicit drugs.
They will also conclude that the only logical step for the United States is to “legalize” drugs – essentially by repealing and dismantling current drug laws and enforcement mechanisms, just as America abandoned its brief experiment with alcohol prohibition in the 1920s. Then I started reporting on the opioid epidemic. I have seen friends of family members die of a drug overdose. I`ve talked to people who can`t get rid of the years of addiction that often started with legal prescription drugs. I spoke to doctors, prosecutors, and experts about how the crisis really started when big pharma urged doctors and the government to accept their drugs. Caught in the crossfire. Just as alcohol prohibition fueled violent gangsterism in the 1920s, today`s drug prohibition has spawned a culture of drive-by shootings and other gun crimes. And just as most of the violence of the 1920s was not committed by drunk people, most drug-related violence today is not committed by people who use drugs. Murders, then as now, are based on rivalries: Al Capone ordered the execution of rival smugglers, and drug traffickers are now killing their rivals.
A 1989 government study of 193 “cocaine-related” murders in New York found that 87 percent resulted from rivalries and disagreements related to doing business in an illegal market.