The Drug War's Failures

If we're lucky, our grandchildren will recall the global war on drugs of the late 20th and early 21st century as some bizarre mania to which only past generations could succumb.

The world's drug problems are far more severe today than they were a century ago. Not that drug use has increased fantastically - after all, huge quantities of alcohol, opium and other drugs were consumed back then. The real problem is that today's drug control policies foster more harm than good; indeed, they probably cause more overall harm than drug abuse itself.

Like alcohol Prohibition in the US during the 1920s and early 1930s, global drug prohibition has failed to reduce drug abuse even as it generates extraordinary levels of crime, violence, corruption and disease. In 1998, the UN estimated the total value of the illicit drug trade at $400 billion, or 7% of global trade. Critics say the figure is only half that - still a remarkable sum.

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