Austere Times Should Cause a Radical Rethink of Britain's Approach to Drug Control:

Albert Einstein defined insanity as "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." How right he was. He also, less famously, observed that "the prestige of government has...been lowered considerably by the prohibition law, and that nothing is more destructive of respect for the government and the law...than passing laws which cannot be enforced." The result of this, he correctly noted, was "the dangerous increase of crime in this country." Although he was speaking about his experience of alcohol prohibition in the 1920s, his observation still rings true for that other great experiment in state led insanity: drug prohibition.

 We have now entered the second century of this disastrous experiment which continues to destroy countless lives, tear apart families and communities, and propagate human rights abuses across the globe. But there are signs of change around the world. Even the traditionally hard-line United States has seen politicians from both the right and left slowly begin to form an unlikely consensus about the failures of this trillion dollar war of choice.

 With Britain in the midst of swingeing budget cuts, the luxury of being able to throw twelve billion pounds a year after these bad policies has disappeared. The fiscal squeeze choking at all levels of society is set to get far worse before it gets better. It will leave almost all aspects of British life worse off for decades. The field of drugs, however, provides a bizarre case where a well managed fiscally conservative approach could bring about a far better social outcome than the status quo.

 Traditionally we have been presented with a choice between either militant prohibition, or unregulated legalisation as the only available options. The reality is far more nuanced. We need just look to some pioneering states that departed from the status quo and pursued better and more creative solutions than the two mentioned above. If there is any overarching lesson to be gleaned from their experiences, it is that there is no single solution, no silver bullet. There is instead a full spectrum of workable policies that can contribute to a successful and multifaceted approach to this complex problem. For example, two immediate and pragmatic steps that the government can and should take are the following:

 Firstly, it should decriminalise the simple possession of all drugs. Criminalising use has never provided a successful deterrent, while ending it would save significant amounts of police time and resources, which could then be refocused on crimes like theft and assault. The recent evidence from Portugal, which decriminalised all drugs a decade ago, suggests that drug use has stayed more or less flat (even falling amongst younger people), while the negative aspects of drug use decreased markedly as users have developed a trust for, and greater access to, state-run treatment and healthcare programs.

 Secondly, there should be a widespread roll out of legally proscribed Heroin on the NHS. This is already taking place in parts of Britain, and is established government policy in Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland. All have witnessed significant decreases in crime, disease and cost to the taxpayer, as a direct result. The program has the additional benefit of bringing users into contact with trained medical professionals who can then shepherd them into life saving treatment and help them gain control of their addiction while building stable lives.

 As a student and historian of international drug control, I view the notion that our prohibition model is the result of informed science and rational debate as an insipid lie. Prohibition is instead the product of a centuryís international legal sausage-making whereby professional moralisers and self-serving bureaucrats set the terms of the debate. When the failures of their approach became apparent during the ensuing decades, the response of the control bureaucracies was, time and again, to batten down the hatches and push on with the same approach regardless.

 Now, with the daily tit for tat of the drug war still playing out on our streets, a growing number of countries are willing to break from the failing status quo. Britain, similarly, has a serious opportunity to fundamentally reshape its failed approach to drugs and effect significant savings and social improvements in the process. The tragedy, however, is that her leaders seem more comfortable with repeating the same mistakes over and over, knowing full well that they will achieve the same failing results. Doing this in the face of an enormous economic crisis really is the definition of insanity.

 John Collins is a PhD candidate in International History at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

j.collins@lse.ac.uk

 

Comments

It is criminalising use, which creates victims, by chasing people, especially the younger users who will use regardless of what any law or adults will say, to use in the shadows of prohibition, away from anybody who can reach them if and when they mess up and by then it's too late, whilst in those shadows are the most unsavoury elements of society, where the young and naive are preyed upon, whilst given no real advice on usage, dosages and safe use. As well as the significant impact of prosecutions which can hold a young person who uses soft drugs in a sensible manner, back from social mobility and impede or destroy employment prospects, but their peers who are Alcohol abusers stroll on in life, accepted by the law, employers and society even though compared to cannabis or MDA complex use etc, Alcohol will destroy them, fast.

Criminalisation and prosecutions which often have fiscal consequences to a soft drug user, where in times of economic adversity, can destroy an individual or family, simply because a person chose to use a soft drug, which in reality are safer than Alcohol in regular usage.

Every way one wishes to cut it, it is prohibition and criminalisation of soft drugs which causes the most damage to people, in many instances, people are caused a lot of damage by what prohibition does to them, then those damages are then blamed on the soft drugs, not what has been done to them by criminalisation, prosecutions, denial of an individuals rights and in more instances than people realise, the system abuse they are subject to.

Yes, good article, the social choir is singing the same tune, politicians don't want to hear but is time they did listen, prohibition and criminalisation policy must change.

Alcohol is the biggest drug problem, is the most dangerous drug, worse than Crack Cocaine etc because it's available everywhere, advertised everywhere, accepted everywhere so destroys so many lives, including killing kids as young as 9-10, leaving teenagers with damaged Livers in mid/late teens etc, so safer less toxic recreational substances are required to offset, to mitigate and lessen the destructive consequences of having Alcohol as the only legal recreational drug.

As society evolves, so too must policy!

Society is very different to 40 years ago when the UN convention driving prohibition policy in England and sister states of the UK ushered in the Misuse of Drugs acts, such policy is outdated and completely destructive and costs so much money provided by taxpayers, to cause all the damage it does to society and individuals.

Yes, prohibition is insane, and it creates the victims the state purports to be acting on behalf of to keep them from harm, prohibition and criminalisation does nothing else but create victims, doesn't prevent harms whatsoever, it causes and encourages the harms users suffer from.

That is the reality, politicians are living in an isolated dreamworld regards drug use and should be guided by the ACMD and Professor Nutt's independent body as well as all the medical professionals, scientists, sociologists, well, practically everybody except those who allow themselves to be guided by propaganda instead of truths and facts, as much as realities, everybody who knows what they are actually talking about, say the same thing, a new approach to simple drug use is required, one of tolerance and a legal and regulated industry, which brings money into the economy and keeps people informed and away from nefarious drug dealers etc.

 

If they want to pockle their brains with Alcohol, those of Westminster 'village', that's their prerogative, but they do not actually have the right to impose their extremely destructive drug of choice, Alcohol, many of them are hopelessly addicted to but all too often are in complete denial of that addiction to Alcohol as so many in society are also in society in denial as the the addictive and destructive nature of the legal drug Alcohol, on the rest of society!!!

Only the brain dead and delusionally brainwashed idiots who are clueless as they reiterate nonsense propaganda which is contrary to the facts think criminalisation of drugs is a good idea.

And a vast majority wants to see change, even many police, even ACPO say change is required, but politicians still insist on obstinately insisting on maintaining  stagnant and outmoded, failed, policies regards drug use and especially legalisation of less harmful to non toxic and safer soft drugs.

May the great goddess bring them to greater wisdom!

Peace. : )

 

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