Government's Addiction to Prohibitionby Will Grigg
Feb. 16, 2014
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The death, by heroin overdose, of Oscar-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman inspired media discussion of what has been called the “heroin epidemic.” Little, if any, attention has been devoted to the fact that such an epidemic, if it exists, underscores the patent futility of the war on drugs.
Commentator Tom McPherren points out that the US government has spent a century attempting to enforce heroin prohibition. While the addiction rate has remained virtually unchanged since 1914, the social costs – measured in prosecutions, imprisonments, and the deaths of people who avoid seeking treatment out of fear of arrest – have soared.
Actor and comedian Russell Brand, a recovering heroin addict, drew on ample personal experience when he observed that no addict “is even remotely deterred by prohibition. What prohibition achieves is an unregulated, criminal-controlled, sprawling, global mob-economy, where drug users, their families, and society at large are all exposed to the worst conceivable version of this regrettably unavoidable problem.”
Brand cites the recent experience of Portugal and Switzerland, where relaxation of prohibition and an emphasis on treatment have resulted in dramatic decreases in violent crime and drug-related deaths.
Personal drug addiction is a self-destructive tragedy. Government addiction to prohibition is a societal plague.