War on drugs failing, research suggests

  • #1
18,076
7,496

Main Question or Discussion Point

Hong Kong (CNN) -- The global war on drugs is failing, new research suggests, as the price of heroin, cocaine and cannabis has fallen while their purity has increased.
Using seven sets of government drug surveillance data, a team of Canadian and U.S. researchers reviewed drug supply in the United States, Europe and Australia and drug production in regions such as Latin America, Afghanistan and Southeast Asia.
They found that illegal drugs have become cheaper while their potency has increased, indicating that efforts to control "the global illegal drug market through law enforcement are failing."
http://edition.cnn.com/2013/10/01/world/war-on-drugs-failing/index.html?hpt=hp_t3

Can anyone find the original study article? [edit: linked on post 3]
 
Last edited:

Answers and Replies

  • #2
Ryan_m_b
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
5,841
711
Hardly a surprise. The surprise will be if anything is done about it.
 
  • #3
Pythagorean
Gold Member
4,191
255
Here's the article:
Abstract
Objectives - Illegal drug use continues to be a major threat to community health and safety. We used international drug surveillance databases to assess the relationship between multiple long-term estimates of illegal drug price and purity.

Design - We systematically searched for longitudinal measures of illegal drug supply indicators to assess the long-term impact of enforcement-based supply reduction interventions.

Setting - Data from identified illegal drug surveillance systems were analysed using an a priori defined protocol in which we sought to present annual estimates beginning in 1990. Data were then subjected to trend analyses.

Main outcome measures - Data were obtained from government surveillance systems assessing price, purity and/or seizure quantities of illegal drugs; systems with at least 10 years of longitudinal data assessing price, purity/potency or seizures were included.

Results - We identified seven regional/international metasurveillance systems with longitudinal measures of price or purity/potency that met eligibility criteria. In the USA, the average inflation-adjusted and purity-adjusted prices of heroin, cocaine and cannabis decreased by 81%, 80% and 86%, respectively, between 1990 and 2007, whereas average purity increased by 60%, 11% and 161%, respectively. Similar trends were observed in Europe, where during the same period the average inflation-adjusted price of opiates and cocaine decreased by 74% and 51%, respectively. In Australia, the average inflation-adjusted price of cocaine decreased 14%, while the inflation-adjusted price of heroin and cannabis both decreased 49% between 2000 and 2010. During this time, seizures of these drugs in major production regions and major domestic markets generally increased.

Conclusions - With few exceptions and despite increasing investments in enforcement-based supply reduction efforts aimed at disrupting global drug supply, illegal drug prices have generally decreased while drug purity has generally increased since 1990. These findings suggest that expanding efforts at controlling the global illegal drug market through law enforcement are failing.
http://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/3/9/e003077.abstract?sid=0454e683-f092-4ab4-bd5c-c531558e96fa
 
  • #4
Office_Shredder
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
3,750
99
From a health and safety perspective, is purer drugs actually a bad thing? My limited impression has been that a reasonable amount of the danger of taking drugs is that they mix the actual drug with random other crap to save money, and that random other crap can be dangerous as well.
 
  • #5
Ryan_m_b
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
5,841
711
That's pretty much the biggest danger of many drugs. Things like ecstasy, cannabis and other soft drugs aren't very harmful by themselves, or at least are way less harmful than the legal drugs we already have.
 
  • #6
chemisttree
Science Advisor
Homework Helper
Gold Member
3,289
295
That's pretty much the biggest danger of many drugs. Things like ecstasy, cannabis and other soft drugs aren't very harmful by themselves, or at least are way less harmful than the legal drugs we already have.
I cannot believe this comment has been allowed to stand! You guys need to moderate your comments.
 
  • #7
223
4
I don't think there is a single country where ecstasy is in "soft drugs" category, and don't believe that something that causes such violent rush of serotonin in your brain can be harmless. But I absolutely agree that increase in purity should be counted as +.
 
  • #8
131
40
Failing for whom? Most of us, to be sure, but those private prisons filled with extremely low-wage workers surely benefit someone!
 
  • #9
phinds
Science Advisor
Insights Author
Gold Member
2019 Award
15,897
5,559
I cannot believe this comment has been allowed to stand! You guys need to moderate your comments.
What is it about the truth that needs moderation? Do you think cigarettes and alcohol are harmless? Do you think they are not drugs?
 
  • #10
Borek
Mentor
28,352
2,738
From a health and safety perspective, is purer drugs actually a bad thing?
Makes me think about side effects of impurities in krokodil. To quote wikipedia:

Since the homemade mix is routinely injected immediately with little or no further purification, "krokodil" has become notorious for producing severe tissue damage, phlebitis and gangrene, sometimes requiring limb amputation in long-term users.
On another forum we have an interesting discussion about possible impurities behind these effects.

As much as I dislike the idea of drugs being available on the streets, if they are there, I prefer them to be pure.
 
  • #11
Office_Shredder
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
3,750
99
  • #12
D H
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Insights Author
15,393
683
"The global war on drugs is failing" -- I disagree with that. The problem is the word "is".

The global war on drugs failed a long time ago. The war on drugs has succeeded, but what it has successfully accomplished is not anywhere close to the intended result. It has succeeded in that it has fostered the creation of extremely powerful, extremely wealthy, and utterly ruthless multinational criminal organizations. The mob organizations helped along by the US experiment with prohibiting alcohol pale in comparison to these new drug rings. It has succeeded in creating a vast number of criminals. The US is a prison state thanks to the war on drugs.

I am not saying that mind-altering drugs are harmless. They are not harmless. There is a cost to society in the very use of these drugs. There is, however, an even greater cost in criminalizing the use, sale, and production of these drugs. The cost to society of the war on drugs is extremely high, and because it has not worked, the benefits are rather low.
 
  • #13
phinds
Science Advisor
Insights Author
Gold Member
2019 Award
15,897
5,559
I am not saying that mind-altering drugs are harmless. They are not harmless. There is a cost to society in the very use of these drugs. There is, however, an even greater cost in criminalizing the use, sale, and production of these drugs. The cost to society of the war on drugs is extremely high, and because it has not worked, the benefits are rather low.
Yep. That seems to be the way we do things in the USA. Sheer ignorance and/or willful stupidity.
 
  • #14
Pythagorean
Gold Member
4,191
255
"Danbury wasn't a prison, it was a crime school. I went in with a Bachelor of marijuana, came out with a Doctorate of cocaine."
 
  • #15
129
28
http://www.independent.co.uk/life-st...al-410086.html

The UK back in 2006 did a study about the relative dangers of various drugs, and ecstasy both fall under tobacco and alcohol. If you look at the death rate for alcohol vs ecstasy, 22,000 deaths for an adult population of 50,000,000 is about ten times the rate as 33 deaths for 800,000.
I don't think that the death rate is a good measure of the danger of a drug. Long-term effects on the brain should also be accounted for. Regular use of cannabis and MDMA have consequences on the brain: Long-term effects of cannabis, long-term effects of MDMA. I support decriminalizing drug use though, but not decriminalizing drug selling. In Portugal every drug consumption is decriminalized (selling is criminalized though, and the sentences are heavy for selling hard drugs) since 1999 and there hasn't been any problems with it.
Regular use of alcohol and tobacco also have negative long-term effects as we all know, so those drugs should at least be equally classified as cannabis is.
 
  • #16
Astronuc
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
18,745
1,790
That's pretty much the biggest danger of many drugs. Things like ecstasy, cannabis and other soft drugs aren't very harmful by themselves, or at least are way less harmful than the legal drugs we already have.
No endorsement expressed or implied.

It's best not to ingest illegal drugs or controlled substances without prescription and appropriate medical supervision.
 
  • #17
lisab
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
1,887
616
That's pretty much the biggest danger of many drugs. Things like ecstasy, cannabis and other soft drugs aren't very harmful by themselves, or at least are way less harmful than the legal drugs we already have.
I would not say they aren't harmful. Ecstasy has been linked to suicide -

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3152632/

The rate of past year suicide attempt among adolescents with lifetime ecstasy use was almost double that of adolescents who had used other drugs only, and nine times that of adolescents with no history of illicit drug use.
Personal note: I'm unfortunately familiar with this issue because a family member -- who absolutely loved ecstasy and did it often -- committed suicide.
 
  • #18
93
9
Excellent! Perhaps something will finally be done about it.

Just as the prohibition was entirely unsuccessful in its endeavor, so will our generation's crusade be unsuccessful. People should be free to ingest whatever herbs or chemicals they want, so long as they do so without putting others at risk.

Yes -- drugs have harmful effects at times and CAN put other people at risk. This is why there are laws that make driving drunk illegal. The same could be instituted to make the world a safer place, if drugs were legal.

But as the current system stands the government is literally ensuring the existence of drug cartels, as making something illegal which is in high demand only makes it extremely profitable to be the supplier.

We ought to focus on education and voluntary direction rather than brute force through the hand of the state.
 
  • #19
Pythagorean
Gold Member
4,191
255
From a health and safety perspective, is purer drugs actually a bad thing? My limited impression has been that a reasonable amount of the danger of taking drugs is that they mix the actual drug with random other crap to save money, and that random other crap can be dangerous as well.
It depends on the drug. Some drugs are, themselves, lethal, so purity is a health issue (like moonshine making you blind). Some drugs, like alcohol, cause people to engage in more risky behavior, so they are a safety problem. Other drugs have dirty manufacturing processes so that more pure means less byproduct, such as happened often with drugs like MPPP (the impurity, MPTP, is known to cause a variant of parkinson's disease.)
 
  • #20
phinds
Science Advisor
Insights Author
Gold Member
2019 Award
15,897
5,559
Excellent! Perhaps something will finally be done about it.

Just as the prohibition was entirely unsuccessful in its endeavor, so will our generation's crusade be unsuccessful. People should be free to ingest whatever herbs or chemicals they want, so long as they do so without putting others at risk.

Yes -- drugs have harmful effects at times and CAN put other people at risk. This is why there are laws that make driving drunk illegal. The same could be instituted to make the world a safer place, if drugs were legal.

But as the current system stands the government is literally ensuring the existence of drug cartels, as making something illegal which is in high demand only makes it extremely profitable to be the supplier.

We ought to focus on education and voluntary direction rather than brute force through the hand of the state.
Well said.
 
  • #21
russ_watters
Mentor
19,398
5,541
Just as the prohibition was entirely unsuccessful in its endeavor, so will our generation's crusade be unsuccessful.
"Unsuccessful" (failed) is poorly defined in this thread/the article. Do you think drug use would go up or down if it were made legal? Did alcohol use go up or down with prohibition and its repeal?
People should be free to ingest whatever herbs or chemicals they want, so long as they do so without putting others at risk.
So does that mean you would eliminate the FDA, getting rid of all food and pharmaceutical drug regulation?
This is why there are laws that make driving drunk illegal. The same could be instituted to make the world a safer place, if drugs were legal.
Could be? You don't think such laws already exist?
 
  • #22
Pythagorean
Gold Member
4,191
255
"Unsuccessful" (failed) is poorly defined in this thread/the article. Do you think drug use would go up or down if it were made legal? Did alcohol use go up or down with prohibition and its repeal?
The effect on the substance use alone is not really where the issue lies though. Rather, it's the way in which we force markets into the black, enable tax evasion, the mixing of hard crime with "soft" crime, treat addicts as criminals instead of patients, etc.

By stigmatizing drug use (which is exactly what language like "war" does), we push all drug participants into the arms of the "enemy", increasing their rank and increasing our prison populations.

Personally, I think drugs are a health issue, not a military issue.
 
  • #23
russ_watters
Mentor
19,398
5,541
Well, that's another issue with this thread/article: the term "war on drugs" is mostly just used by legalization proponents and doesn't have any real meaning. It isn't a particular policy initiative. Basically, it doesn't exist. It is used because it is easy (but lazy) to argue against a negatively connotated catchphrase.

This discussion and even much of the article are mostly just meaningless activist slogans that don't reflect a specific reality or logic.
 
Last edited:
  • #24
882
34
"Unsuccessful" (failed) is poorly defined in this thread/the article. Do you think drug use would go up or down if it were made legal? Did alcohol use go up or down with prohibition and its repeal?
Does it matter whether or not drug use goes up or down? I'm interested in why you would say drug use should be illegal in the first place. I can't think of anything, really...You mentioned the FDA, and that's fine and good. They do the important job of making sure that distributers don't give out bad food and medicines. But it's not illegal for me as a private citizen to consume rancid beef. It may be bad for me, but it's not illegal.

If the point is to minimize the negative impact on society, then surely breaking up a large portion of the cartels supported by this prohibition, as well as the abolition of the idea that drug users are all criminals, will serve to better society. How many people out there do you think are really itching to get addicted to heroin or cocaine, but don't because "it's illegal"? Alcohol use also became safer with the end of it's prohibition.

The very concept, to me, is insane. "Drugs ruin your lives and the lives of those around you. So, if we catch you doing them, we'll throw you in jail and fine the heck out of you, pushing you into a subculture of even more drugs and violence...for your own good". Think about that, people are being arrested and jailed for using! Not only producing or distributing. And the number of drug users (of any kind, really) has shown absolutely no indication of trending downward.

Maybe the article isn't totally persuasive, but the fact remains that we've been spending millions and millions (more like billions?) of dollars per year since the early seventies busting small time guys and ruining the lives of countless users (as if they weren't in a bad way with their drug use, now you throw arrests and prison on top?). I'm not sure how we would safely legalize (or decriminalize) drugs, but I know that what we've been doing isn't working.

It isn't a particular policy initiative. Basically, it doesn't exist.
It exists whether the government added a "war on drugs" specific bill or not. It exists because drug prohibition enforcement become a major focus in law enforcement, drug prohibition and our efforts in other countries to halt the trade cost tax payers billions of dollars, as do the prison costs of putting and keeping tens/hundreds of thousands of non-violent offenders behind bars.

It may be a catchphrase, but that doesn't mean it doesn't address something important.
 
Last edited:
  • #25
russ_watters
Mentor
19,398
5,541
This thread has been annoying me since I first saw it, but I was on vacation and didn't get a chance to respond before it faded. Now that it is back...

The basic problems are:
1. There is no "war on drugs". There is just a wide collection of anti-drug law enforcement.

2. Failure is poorly/improperly defined. It seems to be drug use up = failure. But if we're talking about repealing drug laws, then a proper comparison would be to compare the two: if legalizing drugs makes use go up more, then anti-drug laws were making a positive impact.

3. "Focus on prevention" is another meaningless catchphrase. They are not mutually exclusive and indeed prevention has no teeth unless coupled with enforcement. Opening up treatment centers does no good if no one chooses to go.

4. As I indicated before, the "let people put whatever they want into their bodies" is a very deep rabbit hole. Ironically, it is some of the same people using that argument who then violate it with food and drug restrictions. And while we're at it, we should then apply the same freedom of choice to product safety regulation. If you want pot to be in a unique regulatory black hole, so be it, but legalization proponents should at least be aware of/open about just how deep a black hole and stark a contradiction such positions are.
 

Related Threads for: War on drugs failing, research suggests

  • Last Post
2
Replies
49
Views
6K
  • Last Post
Replies
8
Views
2K
  • Last Post
3
Replies
61
Views
8K
  • Last Post
Replies
19
Views
3K
Replies
2
Views
565
  • Last Post
Replies
7
Views
2K
Top