FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Hate Drugs? You Should Want to End the Drug War

by TONY NEWMAN

Many people hate drugs. It is easy to see why. Most families have had a loved one with a problematic relationship to alcohol or other drugs.  People who struggle with drug problems can cause incredible pain to themselves and their loved ones. Broken marriages, loss of jobs, incarceration and even dying from an overdose are all possible tragic consequences of serious drug problems.
While it might be counterintuitive, people who hate drugs should be at the forefront of ending our nation’s failed drug war. The drug war makes all of the problems I mentioned above much worse.
Drug War = Mass Incarceration and Lack of Treatment
Let’s start with people struggling with drug misuse or addiction. Our drug war doesn’t keep drugs out of the hands of people who want drugs; drugs are as plentiful as ever. But getting caught with drugs can land someone in a cage for many years. Spending time behind bars is not the way to help someone who has a drug problem and most likely will make that person more traumatized. The sad fact is that we spend 50,000 dollars a year incarcerating someone for a drug offense, yet at the same time there is not enough money to offer treatment to people who want it.
Drug War = More Overdose and More Dying
 
People who have lost a loved one to an overdose feel an unimaginable pain and often want to wipe drugs off the face of the earth. Tragically, the drug war leads to many such deaths.  Despite 40-plus years trying to eliminate drug use, there is an overdose crisis in this country right now. Overdose is now neck-and-neck with car accidents as the leading cause of accidental death in the country. Most people who experience an overdose are with friends when it happens and would survive if someone called 911. But because of our drug war, people often don’t call 911 because they are too afraid that the police will show up and arrest them. It is outrageous that we discourage people from calling 911 to save a life because of laws that pit their interest to help someone who is ODing against their motivation to not be arrested.
Another way to save people who are overdosing is to provide them with an antidote called naloxone, which can reverse the effects and restore normal breathing in two to three minutes if administered following an opioid overdose. Unfortunately our society does not come close to doing enough to make naloxone available to people who use drugs and their friends and families.
Drug War = Unsafe Neighborhoods

People who live in neighborhoods with drug dealing out in the open and with violence associated with the drug trade are some of the most vocal supporters of the drug war. Of course people want and need to feel safe in their neighborhoods. But most “drug-related” violence stems not from drug use, but from drug prohibition. That was true in Chicago under alcohol kingpin Al Capone, and it is true now. The killings and violence in many U.S. cities are not from marijuana or other drug use, but because prohibition makes the plants worth more than gold, and people are willing to kill each other over the profits to be made.

Drug War = More Danger for Our Children

Many people may know the drug war is a failure but are afraid to change course because they worry about their children and want to keep them safe. Ironically, the drug war is a complete failure when it comes to keeping young people from using drugs. Despite decades of DARE programs with the simplistic “Just Say No” message, 50 percent of teenagers will try marijuana before they graduate. Young people often claim it is easier for them to get marijuana than alcohol because drug dealers don’t check IDs. Young people also feel the brunt of marijuana enforcement and make up many (and in some places most) of the arrests for marijuana offenses. Arresting young people will often cause more damage than drug use itself. Teenagers need honest drug education to help them make responsible decisions. Safety should be the number one priority. We have dramatically reduced teen smoking without tobacco prohibition and without a single arrest.

Drug Abuse is Bad. The Drug War is Worse

There is no doubt that drugs have ruined a lot of people’s lives. It is understandable why many people hate drugs and want to protect their families. But when you look at the greatest harms from drugs, the drug war and prohibition almost always make the problem much worse – and make our families and communities much less safe. We need the people who hate drugs to actively join the movement to end the war on drugs. Because the war on drugs is a war on all of us.
 
Tony Newman is the director of media relations at the Drug Policy Alliance (www.drugpolicy.org)
More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

Weekend Edition
September 23, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
The Meaning of the Trump Surge
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: More Pricks Than Kicks
Mike Whitney
Oh, Say Can You See the Carnage? Why Stand for a Country That Can Gun You Down in Cold Blood?
Chris Welzenbach
The Diminution of Chris Hayes
Vincent Emanuele
The Riots Will Continue
Rob Urie
A Scam Too Far
Pepe Escobar
Les Deplorables
Patrick Cockburn
Airstrikes, Obfuscation and Propaganda in Syria
Timothy Braatz
The Quarterback and the Propaganda
Sheldon Richman
Obama Rewards Israel’s Bad Behavior
Libby Lunstrum - Patrick Bond
Militarizing Game Parks and Marketing Wildlife are Unsustainable Strategies
Andy Thayer
More Cops Will Worsen, Not Help, Chicago’s Violence Problem
Louis Yako
Can Westerners Help Refugees from War-torn Countries?
David Rosen
Rudy Giuliani & Trump’s Possible Cabinet
Joyce Nelson
TISA and the Privatization of Public Services
Pete Dolack
Global Warming Will Accelerate as Oceans Reach Limits of Remediation
Franklin Lamb
34 Years After the Sabra-Shatila Massacre
Cesar Chelala
How One Man Held off Nuclear War
Norman Pollack
Sovereign Immunity, War Crimes, and Compensation to 9/11 Families
Lamont Lilly
Standing Rock Stakes Claim for Sovereignty: Eyewitness Report From North Dakota
Barbara G. Ellis
A Sandernista Priority: Push Bernie’s Planks!
Hiroyuki Hamada
How Do We Dream the Dream of Peace Together?
Russell Mokhiber
From Rags and Robes to Speedos and Thongs: Why Trump is Crushing Clinton in WV
Julian Vigo
Living La Vida Loca
Aidan O'Brien
Where is Europe’s Duterte? 
Abel Cohen
Russia’s Improbable Role in Everything
Ron Jacobs
A Change Has Gotta’ Come
Uri Avnery
Shimon Peres and the Saga of Sisyphus
Graham Peebles
Ethiopian’s Crying out for Freedom and Justice
Robert Koehler
Stop the Killing
Thomas Knapp
Election 2016: Of Dog Legs and “Debates”
Yves Engler
The Media’s Biased Perspective
Victor Grossman
Omens From Berlin
Christopher Brauchli
Wells Fargo as Metaphor for the Trump Campaign
Nyla Ali Khan
War of Words Between India and Pakistan at the United Nations
Tom Barnard
Block the Bunker! Historic Victory Against Police Boondoggle in Seattle
James Rothenberg
Bullshit Recognition as Survival Tactic
Ed Rampell
A Tale of Billionaires & Ballot Bandits
Kristine Mattis
Persnickety Publishing Pet-Peeves
Charles R. Larson
Review: Helen Dewitt’s “The Last Samurai”
David Yearsley
Torture Chamber Music
September 22, 2016
Dave Lindorff
Wells Fargo’s Stumpf Leads the Way
Stan Cox
If There’s a World War II-Style Climate Mobilization, It has to Go All the Way—and Then Some
Binoy Kampmark
Source Betrayed: the Washington Post and Edward Snowden
John W. Whitehead
Wards of the Nanny State
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail