Most of the drug education campaigns that I have encountered in my life have centered on the complete prohibition of drug use, similar to the U.S. “Just Say No” advertising campaign. Addiction is presented as a moral failure rather than the result of mental illness and lack of institutional support. Recreational drug users are generally depicted as selfish, useless members of society. However, the aim of public policy should not be stemming overall drug use but reducing drug-related crimes and diseases. In this regard, prohibition campaigns are counterproductive because they ignore the structural root causes of drug abuse and unjustly shift the focus on individual responsibility, which deprives addicts of any gateways except continued drug use. I believe that in order to avoid overdoses and lower addiction rates, the government should make drug possession an administrative offense rather than a criminal one and provide addicts with adequate institutional and societal support.
The importance of legalization and treating drugs as a health rather than a criminal justice issue is confirmed by numerous real-world examples. The American prohibition-based “War on Drugs” has been recognized as a trillion-dollar failure that has exponentially increased drug-related deaths and violence in its four decades of existence (Coyne & Hall, 2017). On the other hand, Portugal’s twenty-year decriminalization policy has led to a consistent decrease in consumption and drug-related deaths (Cabral, 2017). All countries should follow Portugal’s example and establish educational and social rehabilitation programs to support individuals who wish to stop their problematic drug use. It is impossible to repress drugs entirely, and the more effective approach is ensuring that people are educated on their risks and responsible use.
Cabral, T. S. (2017). The 15th anniversary of the Portuguese drug policy: Its history, its success and its future. Drug Science, Policy and Law, 3(0), 1-5.
Coyne, C. K. & Hall, A. R. (2017). Four decades and counting: The continued failure of the war on drugs. Cato Institute. Web.