Intended for healthcare professionals


An alternative to the war on drugs

BMJ 2010; 341 doi: (Published 13 July 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c3360

The self-justifying catalyser of criminalisation

Mr Rolles hits the nail on the head when he writes that a "curiously
self justifying logic now prevails in which the harms of prohibition such
as drug related organised crime and deaths from contaminated heroin are
conflated with the harms of drug use. These policy related harms then
bolster the apparent menace of drugs and justify the continuation, or
intensification, of prohibition."

This is exactly the reason why drug prohibition has been so
persistent. The media and the public have great difficulty to make the
distinction between primary and secondary effects. It's all just "drugs."

The difference with the era of alcohol prohibition is that because of
the large number of alcohol users the problems alcohol prohibition gave
were immediate, and everyone could see they were caused by prohibition,
rather than by alcohol itself.

When drug prohibition was first installed there were very few drug
users, and drug prohibition went largely unnoticed. The problems arose
gradually in the twentieth century as numbers of users, and illegal trade,
grew. The origins of drug prohibition now ly so far in the past that cause
and effect are no longer easily attributable by the public and the media.

Drug prohibition has become the great catalyser of the
criminalisation of society. It is an irony of history that it was the
initial lack of drug users that enabled drug prohibition to stealthily
grow into the worldwide scourge that it is today.

Competing interests:
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

24 August 2010
Harry Bego
Utrecht 3544SG