Argument: War on Drugs cannot be won; drugs will always exist

Issue Report: War on Drugs


Ethan Nadelmann. National Review Online. July 1st, 1996: “2. Drugs are here to stay. The time has come to abandon the concept of a “drug-free society. We need to focus on learning to live with drugs in such a way that they do the least possible harm. So far as I can ascertain, the societies that have proved most successful in minimizing drug-related harm aren’t those that have sought to banish drugs, but those that have figured out how to control and manage drug use through community discipline, including the establishment of powerful social norms. That is precisely the challenge now confronting American society regarding alcohol: How do we live with a very powerful and dangerous drug — more powerful and dangerous than many illicit drugs — that, we have learned, cannot be effectively prohibited?

Virtually all Americans have used some psychoactive substance, whether caffeine or nicotine or marijuana. In many cases, the use of cocaine and heroin represents a form of self-medication against physical and emotional pain among people who do not have access to psychotherapy or Prozac. The market in illicit drugs is as great as it is in the inner cities because palliatives for pain and depression are harder to come by and because there are fewer economic opportunities that can compete with the profits of violating prohibition.”