The Harms of Drugs Versus the Harms of the War on Drugs

Some wars are worth fighting. Compared with Osama bin Laden, the various drug cartels and illegal drugs have killed more people than were killed in the entire history of Islamic terrorism. How many law enforcement officials ave died attempting to apprehend these people? Consider these figures: The 2005 report of the National Survey on Drug Use and Health estimated that 10.4 million Americans (4.3% of the population) have used methamphetamine at least once. This represents an appalling increase over previous years. Remember, here we’re only considering one class of drugs and not cocaine, prescription drugs, crack, or a number of others out there. We have a war on our hands that we cannot afford to lose.

Noam Chomsky’s well-documented argument against continuing the war on drugs is simply wrong. History and science are replete with examples of the dangers of illegal drugs to public health and any economic system. Furthermore, forgotten is the reason why the public is denied access to thousands of drugs by the U.S. FDA. These reasons are the same reasons why more lethal drugs, e.g., the methamphetamine and cocaine groups, are also illegal, namely, there is insufficient evidence to prove the long- and short-term beneficial effects of the drug.

Medicinal advantages are alleged by many who have chosen marijuana and smoked it for years. A handful of studies would seem to confirm this claim. Perhaps with sufficient study this will prove true. But for now, we need those studies. We already have too many examples of drugs moving from the legal into the illegal as public awareness accompanied diligent business and government efforts. Remember when the drink _Coke_ also included the _real thing_? How about when opium and then hashish became popular among writers and intellectuals? Let’s remember how cigarette companies insisted for years that cigarettes did not cause cancer. In short, there are sound scientific reasons to protect the public from these drugs.

What about economic reasons? Add up lost work efficiency, sick days lost, the loss of resources to support other activities, the literal flow of resources out of the U.S. economy into other circles, and health care costs of all shades. We have a good example of the possible costs by using Philip Morris (the world’s largest manufacturer of cigarettes). On the one hand, legal action against Philip Morris makes regular headlines. On the other hand, in countries without the type of consumer protect provided here, Philip Morris is making a killing, e.g., China.
Do we have any moral responsibility for the health of the people of China? – a good question of another article. In short, the economy suffers significantly on all fronts when illegal drugs proliferate.

What about our right to privacy or to make our own decisions about what we will and won’t put into our bodies? Again, if someone is willing to wave their rights to special medical care subsidized by the government down the road, give up their driver’s license, perhaps be required to pay a special premium on a health care policy, and accept a complete prohibition on the personal possession of fire-arms or other dangerous weapons, then we can talk. Otherwise, the evidence is clear: what many do in private becomes an expensive public problem sooner or later.