I recently got involved in an online debate about drugs. Recreational drugs, that is, not what you get from the pharmacy.
I've always been a firm believer that many of the problems revolving around drugs in our society would be solved by decriminalization. Who is going to come for help when they might get sent to prison?
The illegal nature of hard drugs pushes up their price. This means there is a lot of money in it. Anything that has a lot of money in it attracts corruption of some kind. Drug cartels practically rule parts of Mexico. They use children as mules and there has been some recent talk about horses being worked to death running drugs. Addicts, unable to hold down real jobs, turn to crime to pay for their drugs. Illegal meth labs blow up...I even read one story about somebody who managed, somehow, to blow up a marijuana grow-op. Not entirely sure how.
Portugal has made great progress with a system that decriminalizes drugs and refers users to counseling.
Now, one of the big arguments about legalizing drugs is that people will then go out, try them, and we'll just have more addicts.
I spent some time thinking about this. There is a fallacious belief that if you make something somebody is addicted to unavailable it will cure them.
First of all, the addict does not care to what lengths he or she has to go to obtain their fix. It being illegal is certainly not going to stop them.
Second of all, the lowest recidivism rates of rehab are not gained by saying, for example, that the alcoholic must never have alcohol in the house. They are gained by counseling that teaches the addict how to control the urge of addiction itself.
Which led me to a realization. Being addicted TO is a symptom. Addiction itself is a mental flaw. Tobacco is a highly physically addictive drug...but I have a friend who can smoke when he feels like it and stop whenever he likes. He's not addicted to nicotine.
An addict is not somebody who drinks too much, or smokes too much, or takes crack, or spends food money on gambling. An addict is somebody who does not know how to say no or enough. Treating an addict, therefore, has to ultimately focus on teaching them how. Perhaps one day we'll have some kind of drug or supplement somebody prone to addiction can take, or even therapy to correct a flawed gene that turns somebody into 'an addict'.
Removing the substance to which the person is addicted will only take care of the physical part of the addiction.
A recent study determined that there was a link between a family history of alcoholism and obesity. Many obese people have a flaw in the mechanism that tells you 'You're full now, stop eating'. In other words, many obese people are, in fact, addicted to food. They don't know when or how to say 'no' to that cookie.
I have personally known people who quit smoking and became fat, because the addiction moved from nicotine to food. Which honestly isn't that much better.
Thus. Legalizing drugs would not create more addicts. Because if somebody has the propensity to become an addict...they will become one. To something. It's even possible to become addicted to drinking water.
The war on drugs is treating a specific symptom of addiction...and causing untold cost to our society. It's time to stop. The average person is not going to go out and 'just try' crack. And the only new addicts will be people who would be addicts anyway. Stop the war on drugs, and spend the money on education and working out a way to stop addiction itself.