Not Even Pyrrhic

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

Drug Enforcement Agency Headquarters, ca 1973: The build-up to the War on Drugs.

Drug Enforcement Agency Headquarters, ca 1973: The build-up to the War on Drugs. Source: Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Source: Getty Images

If you've ever lived in Baltimoreheck, if you've ever watched The Wire — you have a pretty good idea of what the so-called "War on Drugs" looks like. It looks, frankly, like a war on poor people. Every battle costs money, lives, futures — it is a devastating cycle that feeds on despair. Of course, this is a war that's been going on in earnest for thirty-five years now. Ben Wallace Wells, a contributing editor to Rolling Stone, has an update on how he thinks that war is going — and his particular take makes Iraq look like a success. Don't worry, though, we're getting another take on this, too — a doctor who's an expert on drug policy thinks that if the war did fail, it's not because of criminalization — it's because of policy failures. Listen, it's practically impossible not to be drafted into this particular war — if you're on the front lines in any way — in the criminal justice system, enforcement, public health, or a drug user, what's your take on this long and costly war?

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It seems we have never learned the lessons of our experience with Prohibition. Perhaps we don't want to. It seems that conservative politicians always need "bad guys" to be at war with. If we legalized drugs would society really go to hell? I don't think so. WE have successful models of drug legalization.

Sent by Ross | 2:52 PM | 1-16-2008

It seems more than a little bit disingenuous for Jonathan Caulkins to say, as he did in today's Talk of the Nation broadcast, that the "War on Drugs" hasn't been used as an official term in ten years. In July, Drug Czar John Walters called illicit marijuana growers in California "violent criminal terrorists" who aim to cause mass casualties in our country. (You can find the quote on the Office of National Drug Control Policy blog, "Pushing Back.") Walters and others in official capacities consistently use and encourage the rhetoric of war--and worse, the tactics of war--in their efforts to control drugs and drug users.

Sent by SSH | 4:20 PM | 1-16-2008

We need treatment on demand. Alcohol is also a dangerous drug. This is a healthcare issue. If an addict could get treatment when she wanted treatment (not when the court mandates it), that would make a huge difference.

Sent by Joy T | 4:48 PM | 1-16-2008

This is a great topic. Anyone interested in drug rehabilitation should check out Narconon, the world's most effective rehabilitation center, with an 80% non-recidivism rate.

Sent by Aaron Nicholson | 1:56 AM | 1-17-2008

Ross,
Corporations were behind Prohibition (along with hatchet wielding widows). They wanted more productive, sober workers. Do you want your car built/repaired by someone who's high? How about your pilot? Or the mechanic who fixes the plane?

People taking "recreational" drugs are just as much a danger (sometimes more) as someone who is drunk! Look at the DUI laws now. Anything over .08(ml/Dl?) is "legally intoxicated and you go to jail. That is 2 beers in 1 hour! It used to to be .10 (3 beers).

I consider myself conservative. And I'm all for drug legalization. But, with an age limit! (Just like tobacco and alcohol.)
If your OVER 65, don't drive, and aren't babysitting (anyone's) children, go ahead! Snort coke! Smoke pot. Shoot up. Heroin, meth, PCP, ...whatever.
Overdose and save Social Security for someone else!

Sent by Harold | 10:50 AM | 1-17-2008

The 'War on Drugs' concept is quite interesting to me. The government wants to end recreational drug use and uses scare tactics to do so (we've all seen the ridiculous weed commercials). There are so many different types of prescription pharmaceuticals on the market and so many people have become addicted to them because, in many cases, they are so much stronger. How many people overdose by smoking too much weed? None. I think the difference is that so many politicians receive contributions by these big drug companies so these misconceptions continue.

The 'War on Drugs' is a joke. It is a waste of taxpayers' money and completely futile. Besides, as long as we keep producing and prescribing prescription drugs, any attempt to have a 'drug-free America' is pointless.

Sent by Kristine | 3:30 PM | 1-17-2008