Is it time to scale back the war on drugs?
No, but the war analogy is not a particular useful one. Wars have defined ends, and we know that even if we were to prevent all drug use from happening among today's generations, we'd still have to educate the next generation about the dangers of drugs. Fighting drug addiction is more akin to our efforts against cancer—something we should continually prevent, treat, and recover from. But even that analogy is not perfect. Unlike cancer, there is a market for drugs. Finding a smart way to reduce that market—by cutting its demand and supply—is the shortest route out of the $193 billion in costs that society each year incurs as a result of drug use in America.
What are some smart ways to reduce supply and demand? Fortunately, although they are hardly audible over the much sexier debate about legalization, we do know what can work to reduce drug use and its consequences. Our challenge remains in scaling up these interventions and having the will to fully implement them:
This is but a small list of the strategies that do work to reduce drug use and its consequences. It remains to be seen whether we will fully use these interventions to their full potential or instead throw up our hands and abandon all efforts as if nothing can ever work. Let's hope it is the former. As George Washington law professor Jeffrey Rosen once wrote about these interventions, "The relative simplicity of the solutions, it turns out, is at the core of their radical potential."
About Kevin Sabet Former Senior Policy Adviser to President Obama's Drug Czar
Neill Franklin Retired Cop and Executive Director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition
Aaron Houston Executive Director of the Students for Sensible Drug Policy Foundation
David G. Evans Special Adviser to the Drug Free America Foundation