The war on drugs was lost the moment it started but it continues relentlessly, morphing into a narrative favored by dystopian novelists.
One of the growth areas of academic finance in recent years has resulted in psychologists winning Nobel prizes for economics. The ways in which we are different to the rational, utility-maximising caricature of the textbooks has been usefully explored by researchers and has yielded a stream of insights that have guided policymakers in many jurisdictions.
Researchers are fond of finding weird anomalies in human behaviour that conflict with standard predictions, coming up with theories about why we behave in this way and then suggesting policy “nudges” that lead to better outcomes for both individuals and societies.
Each year, drug use rises. The range and availability of drugs rise. Terrorists rely on valuable income from drugs. The United Nations estimates that up to 85 per cent of Afghanistan’s poppy cultivation is under the control of the Taliban, with half of its income coming from heroin – and most of the world’s supply of that drug is from those fields. Even waging actual war doesn’t work.
In the UK, the Royal College of Physicians, the Faculty of Public Health and the Royal Society for Public Health have joined the calls for decriminalization. All these bodies are keen to stress that they do not condone drug taking but have just looked at the facts and concluded that the current legal framework is not fit for purpose. It simply doesn’t work: drug use is not deterred. Drug users need education and treatment, not legal sanction.
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