Knowing the Enemy in the “War on Drugs”

If you’re going to fight a war, you need to know whom you’re fighting.  You also could do with knowing when to stop fighting.  Johann Hari is eloquent in this piece on the so-called “war on drugs”: the time to stop is now.

Yes, it is shocking that he was ditched for pointing out the mathematical truth that taking ecstasy is less dangerous than horse-riding and smoking cannabis is less harmful than drinking alcohol. But this is how the war on drugs has to be fought. The unofficial slogan of the prohibitionists for decades has been: The facts will only undermine the war, so invent some that show how successful we are, fast.

[…]

Imagine a country with no drug dealers killing to protect their patch or terrorizing whole estates. Imagine a country where burglary fell by 60 percent. Imagine a Britain where we spent all these billions treating addicts as ill people who need our help, not hunting them down as criminals who need punishment. We can be that country. We just have to come down from chasing the dragon of a drug-free world – and start looking soberly at the facts.

 

Meanwhile, Drugscope has produced this table of harms:

Table 1 Drug-related deaths in England and Wales 2000 to 2004[4]

Cocaine 575
Amphetamine 384
Ecstasy 227
Solvents 246[3]
Opiates (heroin, morphine & methadone) 4,976
Alcohol 25,000 – 200,000 approx.
Tobacco half a million approx (UK – [1]

(Hat-tip: Dr Grumble)

Note that we’re talking about drug-related deaths here – so the number of people killed directly by, say, Ecstasy is likely to be lower.  Given the vast number of disco-biscuits taken every week in the UK, it’s not a bad record at all.

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