A New Stradegy For The War On Drugs

A New Stradegy For The War On Drugs
Posted by FoM on April 17, 2000 at 10:54:16 PT
By James Q. Wilson
Source: Wall Street Journal 
Neither Legalizing Drugs, Nor Trying To Block Supply, Is Likely To Work. There Is A Third Way: Reduce Demand Through Manditory Testing.The current Senate deliberation over aid to Colombia aimed at fighting narcotics reminds us that there are two debates over how the government ought to deal with dangerous drugs. 
The first is about their illegality and the second is about their control. People who wish to legalize drugs and those who wish to curtail their supply believe that their methods will reduce crime. Both these views are mistaken, but there is a third way. Advocates of legalization think that both buyers and sellers would benefit. People who can buy drugs freely and at something like free market prices would no longer have to steal to afford cocaine or heroin; dealers would no longer have to use violence and corruption to maintain their market share. Though drugs may harm people, reducing this harm would be a medical problem not a criminal justice one. Crime would drop sharply.Prices Would Fall:But there is an error in this calculation. Legalizing drugs means letting the price fall to its competitive rate (plus taxes and advertising costs). That market price would probably be somewhere between one third and 1/20th of the illegal price. And more than the market price would fall. As Harvard's Mark Moore has pointed out, the "risk price"-that is, all the hazards associated with buying drugs, from being arrested to being ripped off-would also fall, and this decline might be more important than the lower purchase price. Under a legal regime, the consumption of low priced, low risk drugs would increase dramatically. We do not know by how much, but the little evidence we have suggests a sharp rise. Until 1968 Britain allowed doctors to prescribe heroin. Some doctors cheated, and their medically unnecessary prescriptions helped increase the number of known heroin addicts by a factor of 40. As a result, the government abandoned the prescription policy in favor of administering heroin in clinics and later replacing heroin with methadone.When the Netherlands ceased enforcing laws against the purchase or possession of marijuana, the result was a sharp increase in its use. Cocaine and heroin create much greater dependency, and so the increase in their use would probably be even greater.The average user would probably commit fewer crimes if these drugs were sold legally. But the total number of users would increase sharply. A large fraction of these new users would be unable to keep a steady job. Unless we were prepared to support them with welfare payments, crime would be one of their main sources of income. That is, the number of drug related crimes per user might fall even as the total number of drug related crimes increased. Add to the list of harms more deaths from overdose, more babies born to addicted mothers, more accidents by drug influenced automobile drivers and fewer people able to hold jobs or act as competent parents.Treating such people would become far more difficult. As psychiatrist Sally Satel has written on this page, many drug users will not enter and stay in treatment unless they are compelled to do so. Phoenix House, the largest national residential drug treatment program, rarely admits patients who admit they have a problem and need help. The great majority are coerced by somebody-a judge, probation officer or school official-into attending. Phoenix House CEO Mitchell Rosenthal opposes legalization, and for good reason. Legalization means less coercion, and that means more addicts and addicts who are harder to treat.Douglas Anglin, drawing on experiences in California and elsewhere, has shown that people compelled to stay in treatment do at least as well as those who volunteer for it, and they tend (of necessity) to stay in the program longer. If we legalize drugs, the chances of treatment making a difference are greatly reduced. And as for drug use prevention,. forget it. Try telling your children not to use a legal substance. But people who want to keep drugs illegal have problems of their own. The major thrust of government spending has been to reduce the supply of drugs by cutting their production overseas, intercepting their transfer into the U.S. and arresting dealers. Because of severe criminal penalties, especially on handlers of crack cocaine, our prisons have experienced a huge increase in persons sentenced on drug charges. In the early 1980s, about 1/12th of all prison inmates were in for drug convictions; now well over one third are.No one can be certain how imprisoning drug suppliers affects drug use, but we do know that an arrested drug dealer is easily replaced. Moreover, the government can never seize more than a small fraction of the drugs entering the country, a fraction that is easily replaced.Emphasizing supply over treatment is dangerous. Not only do we spend huge sums on it; not only do we drag a reluctant U.S.military into the campaign; we also heighten corruption and violence in countries such as Colombia and Mexico. The essential fact is this: Demand will produce supply.We can do much more to reduce demand. Some four million Americans are currently on probation or parole. From tests done on them when they are jailed,we know that half or more had a drug problem when arrested. Though a lot of drug users otherwise obey the law (or at least avoid getting arrested), probationers and parolees constitute the hard core of dangerous addicts. Reducing their demand for drugs ought to be our highest priority. Mark Kleiman of UCLA has suggested a program of "testing and control": Probationers and parolees would be required to take frequent drug tests-say, twice weekly-as a condition of remaining on the street. These tests are inexpensive and show immediate results. If you failed the test, you would spend more time in jail; if you passed it, you would remain free. This approach would be an inducement for people to enter and stay in treatment. This would require some big changes in how we handle offenders. Police, probation and parole officers would be responsible for conducting these tests, and more officers would have to be hired. Probation and parole authorities would have to be willing to sanction a test failure by immediate incarceration, initially for a short period (possibly a weekend), and then for longer periods if the initial failure were repeated. Treatment programs at little or no cost to the user would have to be available not only in every prison, but for every drug dependent probationer and parolee. These things are not easily done. Almost every state claims to have an intensive community supervision program, but few offenders are involved in them, the frequency with which they are contacted is low, and most were released from super vision without undergoing any punishment for violating its conditions. But there is some hope. Our experience with drug courts suggests that the procedural problems can be overcome. In such courts, several hundred of which now exist, special judges oversee drug dependent offenders, insisting that they work to overcome their habits. While under drug court supervision, offenders reduce drug consumption and, at least for a while after leaving the court, offenders are less likely to be arrested. Our goal ought to be to extend meaningful community supervision to all probationers and parolees, especially those who have a serious drug or alcohol problem. Efforts to test Mr. Kleiman's proposals are under way in Connecticut and Maryland. If this demand reduction strategy works, it can be expanded. Drug tests can be given to people who apply for government benefits, such as welfare and public housing. Some critics will think this is an objectionable intrusion. But giving benefits without conditions weakens the character building responsibility of society.Prevent Harm to Others:John Stuart Mill, the great libertarian thinker, argued that the only justifiable reason for restricting human liberty is to prevent harm to others. Serious drug abuse does harm others. We could, of course, limit government action to remedying those harms without addressing their causes, but that is an uphill struggle, especially when the harms fall on unborn children. Fetal drug syndrome imposes large costs on infants who have had no voice in choosing their fate. Even Mill was clear that full liberty cannot be given to children or barbarians. By "barbarians" he meant people who are incapable of being improved by free and equal discussion. The life of a serious drug addict-the life of someone driven by drug dependency to prostitution and crime-is the life of a barbarian.'"E-Mail: letter.editor wsj.comPublished: Thursday April 13, 2000Section: A Page: 20Copyright: 2000 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.Related Articles:A Way to Beat Illegal Drugs't Sweep This Under the Rug By Eric E. Sterling to Use U.S. Drug Aid to Fight Guerrillas European Notion Worth Adopting Here In U.S. Just Say 'Maybe' - Newsweek Magazine
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Comment #14 posted by FoM on April 20, 2000 at 16:46:52 PT
Drug War Strategy - Dr. Tom O'Connell's Rebuttal 
Hi Everyone,Here is Dr. Tom O'Connell's rebuttal to this article from MapInc.James Q. Wilson's recommendation that present drug policy be retained and modified by increased drug testing and compulsory treatment ("A New Strategy for the War on Drugs") is best seen as an unwitting example of the vicious thinking which spawned our catastrophic drug war; not as a basis for any rationale public policy.Click the link to read the complete article.
Drug War Strategy
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Comment #13 posted by LSN on April 19, 2000 at 19:09:27 PT
Thanks all
Thanks for all your input. I really find them intelligent and inspiring. Must be the "enlightened" state of mind. I don't get this kind discussion elsewhere.Anyway, I could go on but since this thread is fading away due to new articles, I will perhaps catch up with you guys when another related article comes along.Just before I go, let me throw in my own penny :) which I call the "energy level theory". I think there is a tangible "life energy" in each of us. When this energy is low, we feel depressed. When this energy is strong, we feel good. When this energy is bursting, we go into high. Substances alter the level of life energy (including coffee and tea). Addicts and clinically depressed people have low energy level and low internal ability to generate energy, hence need external substances to pump the energy to level which they can feel normal. Anyway, I thought "energy level" is a convenient concept which I can use to tie up all different sorts of topics from drugs to depression, life, universe and happiness.Actually I find coffee has similar effect to cocaine and grass has similar effect to tea. Any thoughts? (They have been called "stimulants" and "depressants" by mainstream medics. But any ideas how "depressants" can make one high?)Thanks again. See you elsewhere in the future :) Peace!
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Comment #12 posted by dddd on April 19, 2000 at 11:16:16 PT
Let's go for a nickel
"clinical depression"?........I say join the club.I'll bet you that over 99% of everybody could qualify as "clinically depressed". The good way to view this situation is,depression is a necessary part of everyones life...Why? Because if it was completely absent,you would never be able to know,or experience the opposite,which I guess we would call "clinical happiness"..............????
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Comment #11 posted by dddd on April 19, 2000 at 11:05:51 PT
a couple of more pennies
 I think that it is akward to define the term "addiction",or "addict". This word could apply to everyone from the following;*)the heroin user,who will go into severe reactions of the mind and body,when he no longer has what he needs/wants.*)The alcoholic,who can no longer function without what he needs/wants*)The tobacco user,who also has major problems when he no longer has what he needs/wants*)The cocaine user.........same*)The coffee drinker...*)The pain reliever user*)The food abuser....*)The unloved lover....*)The rich person,who is now broke*)etc.. My point is that addiction occurs in numerous form and levels.I think it also involves the terms;need,and want. It is extremely akward to define.How could we compare a severe heroin users addiction,to a coffee drinkers frustrations?tThe heroin user will go through some major nightmarish episodes,when he/she can no longer have the wanted/needed substance. The coffee drinker,or tobacco user will go through similar things,but not as severe.Both the heroin user,and the coffee/tobacco user,could qualify as "addicts"..So I guess what I'm trying to say,is that"addiction",comes in many shapes and sizes. Here's what my dictionary says;addict; to devote or surrender (oneself)to something habitually or excessively....addiction; compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance......etc.......:persistant compulsive use of a substance known by the user to be harmful. I myself am now tempted to continue rambling on far beyond my 2 cents.Although the term "addiction",can be explained in many different ways,If you are saying that you seriously dont understand,,,,then you are probably "addicted" to whatever it is that you are thinking you might be addicted to,and you are trying to escape the reality of it by claiming you dont understand.Hope this all somehow helps..........dddd
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Comment #10 posted by FoM on April 19, 2000 at 07:18:27 PT
My 2 Cents
LSN, I copied your question and I'm not sure how to answer it.Question:But they still don't clear my curiosity -- is addiction and clinical depression made up of the same stuff? Maybe someone else can. I don't know actually what or how they determine if a person suffers from clinical depression? Depression can be a major part of a person's life. Life is depressing at times so where do they draw the line? Even if things are going well a person with chronic depression will be depressed worrying about what will happen next instead of enjoying any reprieve that a bad situation had created.I think I live in a permanent state of depression ( not really depression but I don't have high expectations of life anymore) and it doesn't bother me. I don't have high expectation about life and accept what comes my way with a ho hum way of thinking and now I don't get depressed anymore but when you get to the point I am at you don't get ever really super happy either but that is ok. I bet the Schaffer Library would have what you need but I wouldn't even begin to know where to find the answer but maybe someone reading this thread will be able to. Here are a couple links that might help.Peace, FoM! I believe a person with serious depression can become addicted to a substance a little faster ( looking for relief )then a person who doesn't suffer from it.If a person is addicted to a drug when they stop they will have powerful withdrawal symptoms whether it is physical or phycological in nature or both.Peace, FoM!This is just my opinion from my life's experiences only.
DRC Net's Online Library
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Comment #9 posted by dddd on April 19, 2000 at 03:32:49 PT
On the subject of addiction; One could have a nagging habit of smelling a certain flower every time it was blooming.I think that perhaps this could fall under the term "addiction",if one felt the desire to sniff this blossom each time they saw it. At the other end of the spectrum,we might start with the tobacco "addict".While the flower smeller may not have much of a problem during the winter,with the absence of smellable flowers,the tobacco junkie has a "need to have" situation crawling up the backside of his/her exsistance,(please know that "him",is interchangeable with her),([if I wasn't a Man,I'd be a Woman])).....anyway...we suffer the same terminology problems with "drugs",as we do with "addiction". So the long and the short of it to attempt to answer LSNs' inquiry as to the true nature,and definition of "addiction",,,,I guess I would try to sum it up in the following way; An addiction is something you dont just want to do,,,,you also kind of need to do.....And it can range from "kind of wanting",,,to,,"really needing". I hope all my strange writings somehow helped in your quest for the essence of the meaning of's an akward term to define..........dddd
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Comment #8 posted by dddd on April 19, 2000 at 02:58:16 PT
First things first
It seems to me,that in order to coherently discuss this matter,we need to step back and define exactly what it is we are talking about.I think this is a major problem. The term "drugs",has been tossed about,and lumped together in a most damaging way.Heroin,is nothing like LSD,and crack,is not even close to marijuana.Yet somehow the term;"drugs",has been,and is being used to cover all that has been deemed "illegal",,and this is the worst part of trying to talk about it. It's like trying to discuss the dangers of always eating bacon,and calling it "the food problem". This concept,which I hope you agree,is obvious,is one of the major stumbling blocks in trying to have a relevant discussion on this matter. Who can we blame for this strange distortion of conceptual terminology,and simplification of appearances?I think the main suspect would be???????????????????????????dddd
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Comment #7 posted by LSN on April 18, 2000 at 21:27:33 PT
Hi FoMThanks for the links. But they still don't clear my curiosity -- is addiction and clinical depression made up of the same stuff?I don't think I can get good answer from "mainstrem" sources.Maybe "enlightened" people in an "enlightened" state of mind :) What's your view?
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Comment #6 posted by LSN on April 18, 2000 at 21:22:13 PT
Cheers FOM
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Comment #5 posted by Kanabys on April 18, 2000 at 10:20:49 PT
Idiots abound
>>The first is about their illegality and the second is about their control. People who wish to legalize drugs and those who wish to curtail their supply believe that their methods will reduce crime. Both these views are mistaken.According to who? YOU??? Your an idiot, look overseas!>>Under a legal regime, the consumption of low priced, low risk drugs would increase dramatically. We do not know by how much, but the little evidence we have suggests a sharp rise.You don't know much, idiot! Look again overseas (Netherlands)>>When the Netherlands ceased enforcing laws against the purchase or possession of marijuana, the result was a sharp increase in its use.There was a small increase due to curiosity and then it leveled and is now much lower per capita than the stupid USA!! Curiosity doesn't always kill the cat.This is the type of article that should be burned in the author's underwear!!!
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Comment #4 posted by FoM on April 18, 2000 at 08:04:16 PT
Web Site On Addiction
Hello LSN,When anyone asks about addiction I always post this web site because I found lots of informative information in it.PBS's Special - Close To Home Addiction as a Disease By Janet Firshein have this web site on my link page below. I hope you find information that will help you.Peace, FoM!
My Drug Policy Links Page
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Comment #3 posted by LSN on April 18, 2000 at 01:03:02 PT
The nature of addiction
Can someone point me to literature on the nature of addiction?I think it's obvious that the worst part of drug use is addiction -- causes depression and emotional losses. But aren't some people not addicted and some people are? Are healthier (physically and mentally) people less prone to addiction?I thought people with clinical depression are also in a certain form of addiction -- perhaps addiction to something more abstract -- self esteem, love etc.Don't these things have something in common to drugs -- aren't the feelings that drug can create exactly these?
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Comment #2 posted by LSN on April 18, 2000 at 00:48:27 PT
Control Freak
IMO, Richard Cowan's rebuttal is not effective because he falls into the same type of argumentative, statistical trap as James Wilson.We should say, even if drug use increase, so what? For the sake of liberty, let people do what they want to do. Safeguard everyone's right is the first prerogative.What America and the world need to fight is the police state, and the control freaks of those think they are above the rest. The effectiveness of mandatory testing and the negative impact it causes can move the debate to the next stage.In fact, Wilson's own worst mistake is his last sentence:"John Stuart Mill, the great libertarian thinker, argued that the only justifiable reason for restricting human liberty is to prevent harm to others. Serious drug abuse does harm others."
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Comment #1 posted by observer on April 17, 2000 at 11:18:35 PT
rebuttal here...
Richard Cowan's rebuttal to this gem may be found here:
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