Effects of prohibition:
* Deprives user of ready knowledge of purity.
Without regulation, it is impossible for a user to be sure that he is even using the drug he thinks it is. It may be another drug entirely or mixed with any number of other drugs or pollutants that may greatly increase risks. It is instructive that the Swiss program which gives unlimited heroin to addict participants has seen zero overdose deaths among participants.
* Deprives user of ready knowledge of dose.
Without regulation, it is impossible for a user to be sure of the potency of the drug being taken. Dosage is a critical factor in whether drug use moves from low risk to high risk.
* Makes drugs more available.
The myth is that legal drugs become more available. This is true for the average person who has little or no interest in the drugs anyway.
But the most critical populations, the young and the heavy users, find a network of dealers which will deliver or provide more points of sale than there are drug stores.
The most determined will always find a way to get drugs, but shrinking the dealers and creating a need to produce IDs or prescriptions makes the process more difficult. Importantly, this minimizes the casual access now possible.
* Promotes feelings of stress and isolation that lead to heavier drug use.
One of the many interesting developments in the Swiss experiment [See: Heroin] was that the participants, who were offered unlimited heroin, used less drugs. Ready access to counselors and the removal of the daily tension, the obsessive need to get "fixed," were no doubt keys.
* Places the drug supply under the control of dealers.
Dealers profit from promoting heavy use. Better to place control of the supply with health care professionals who can help the user control and decrease intake.
* Diverts resources from treatment and prevention.
This has many variations including positive programs for children, and is particularly important because mental health care is so closely linked to addiction and is now so inadequately funded.
* Employs scare tactics and exaggerations that undermine the credibility of authorities and of drug education.
Since credible education is our strongest defense against drug abuse, this is a remarkably self defeating strategy.
This does not seem as if it should be inherent in prohibition, but prohibition has always demonized drugs as an inherent adjunct. This aspect is especially dramatic and absurd now in official statements about even non- psychoactive use of marijuana as medicine or as an agricultural product.
Since official statements are assumed to be correct by many parents and are repeated, there is also damage done to the parent/child relationship.
See: Children and Marijuana
* Prison sentences do more damage to the user and to society than the drug itself.
Long term undercover narcotics agent Jack Cole [See: www.LEAP.cc] says: " "You can get over an addiction but you can never get over a conviction."
See: Prisons do not deter
See: Texas Prisons
* The Iron Law of Prohibition means more potent drugs.
Prohibition means suppliers will produce drugs in their most concentrated and potent forms in order to aid smuggling and enhance profits. This is directly opposed to the trend with legal drugs, which is to gradually replace the most potent drugs with ever milder variations.
* Marijuana is not available as a less dangerous substitute.
Marijuana is the major focus of the drug war. This means that those who abuse a more dangerous drug are deprived of a less damaging alternative. It also means that those addicted to other illegal drugs cannot legally use marijuana as part of the process of recovery.
* Destroys cooperation and research.
Drug users fearful of punishment find it hard to ask for help or to answer questions about their drug use honestly. This takes on an added dimension when a drug using pregnant mother avoids proper pre-natal care or treatment.
If we can understand the dimensions of the problem, better responses to drug abuse will develop.
* Blurs the danger of alcohol.
The artificial double standard we use with alcohol desensitizes the public to the fact that alcohol is by far our greatest drug problem, not because of its legal status, but because of its drug effects on many people.
Note that alcohol Prohibition only decreased use briefly for a year or so, after which use increased steadily over the remaining years. Use had new risks and the side effects of Prohibition on our society were devastating.