Why The War on Drugs Is a Huge Failure

Why The War on Drugs Is a Huge Failure


Over 40 years ago,
US President Richard Nixon declared drug abuse
public enemy number one, starting an unprecedented global campaign,
the War on Drugs. Today, the numbers are in. The War on Drugs is a huge failure,
with devastating unintended consequences. It led to mass incarceration in the US; to corruption, political destabilization,
and violence in Latin America, Asia, and Africa; to systemic human rights
abuses across the world. It negatively affected the
lives of millions of people. All of this while we waste
billions of dollars every year only to create and fuel
powerful drug cartels while the goal of the War on Drugs
seems less achievable than ever: a world without drugs. How could this happen? The core strategy of the War on Drugs is
“no drugs, no problems”. So almost all of the efforts
in the last few decades have been focused on eradicating
the supply of drugs and incarcerating drug traffickers. But this ignores the most
fundamental of market forces, supply and demand. If you reduce the supply of anything
without reducing the demand first, its price goes up. This might lower sales for many products,
but not for drugs. The drugs market is not price-sensitive. Drugs will be consumed
no matter what they cost. So the effect is to encourage
production of more drugs and recruitment of more traffickers,
which increases availability. This is also known as the balloon effect:
even if drug production or a major supply route is destroyed, the
supply for the end user is not reduced. A perfect example of this is crystal meth. The US Government tried
to stop its production by strictly regulating the sale of
chemicals used to manufacture the drug. This forced big meth producers
out of business, but the unintended consequences were that
thousands of small-scale operations started all over the country, mostly
in small towns and rural communities, using chemicals that weren’t regulated. In response to this, some US states wanted
to reduce the supply of home-grown meth by regulating even more chemicals, which reduced small-scale
meth production drastically. But the supply of
meth still stayed the same. Mexican drug cartels immediately took over
and opened big production operations. Their meth was even better
than it was before, and they had lots of
experience in smuggling. So all these efforts made meth
production more professional, the drug more potent, while
supply wasn’t reduced at all. You can’t win this war on the supply side. Not only are drugs widely available,
demand unbroken, and some drugs purer than in the past,
with a budget of around $30 billion, the US Drug Enforcement Agency has
an efficiency rate of less than 1% when it comes to stopping
the flow of drugs into the US and inside the US. For many minors around the world, it’s
as easy to get illegal drugs as alcohol. But it doesn’t stop here. Prohibition may prevent a certain
amount of people from taking drugs, but in the process it causes huge
damage to society as a whole. Many of the problems we
associate with drug use are actually caused by
the war against them. For example, prohibition
makes drugs stronger. The more potent drugs you can store
in as little space as possible, the more profit you’ll make. It was the same during
alcohol prohibition, which led to an increased consumption
of strong liquor over beer. The prohibition of drugs also led to more
violence and murders around the world. Gangs and cartels have no access to
the legal system to settle disputes, so they use violence. This led to an ever-increasing
spiral of brutality. According to some estimates,
the homicide rate in the US is 25–75% higher because of
the War on Drugs. And in Mexico, the country
on the frontline, an estimated 164,000 have been
murdered between 2007 and 2014, more people than in the war zones
of Afghanistan and Iraq in the same period, combined. But where the War on Drugs might do
the most damage to society is the incarceration of
non-violent drug offenders. For example, the United States, one of the driving forces
of the War on Drugs, has 5% of the world’s total population,
but 25% of the world’s prison population, largely due to the harsh
punishments and mandatory minimums. Minorities suffer
because of this especially. African Americans make up
40% of all US prison inmates. And while white kids are
more likely to abuse drugs, black kids are 10 times more likely
to get arrested for drug offenses. OK, but is there actually
something different we could do? Is there a way out of this mess? In the 1980s, Switzerland experienced a public health crisis
related to heroin use. HIV rates skyrocketed and
street crime became a problem. Swiss authorities tried a new strategy:
harm reduction. They opened free
heroin maintenance centers, where addicts would
be treated and stabilized. Here, people would be given
free heroin of high quality, they would get clean needles
and have access to safe injection rooms, showers, beds, and medical supervision. Social workers help them find housing and
deal with other problems in their lives. The results were a sharp drop in
drug-related crime and two thirds of the people in the
centers got regular jobs, because now they could
focus on getting better insetad of financing their addiction. Today, over 70% of all heroin addicts
in Switzerland receive treatment. HIV infections have dropped drastically. Deaths from heroin overdoses
have dropped by 50%. And drug-related street sex work and crime
has been reduced enormously. So there are methods that are
not only way cheaper, but also actually work, instead of
creating more problems. Drug prohibition led to a system
that bulldozes human rights, costs vasts sums of money, and
creates a lot of human misery, all in pursuit of an unobtainable goal. After 40 years of fighting, it’s time
to finally end the War on Drugs and move on to something better. This video was supported by
the Open Society Foundations and by viewer donations on Patreon. If you want to learn more about
how you can influence drug policy, check out the Stop the Harm campaign. We finally have some merchandise! If you want your own
Kurzgesagt poster, T-shirt, mug, or stickers of little monsters, you can get them now at the DFTBA store! Subtitles by the Amara.org community

100 Replies to “Why The War on Drugs Is a Huge Failure”

  1. I’m underage in a illegal state smoking on my back porch. Yeaaaa, I agree the drug war isn’t really stopping it lol

  2. So im 18 and grew up in suburban michigan and i can tell you its actually far easier for minors to get illegal drugs than it is to get alcohol

  3. American bureaucracy profits way to much for harm reduction. C'mon without drugs to fight what would the poor ole wealthy ATFs DEAs FBI, corrupt police precincts, judges, DAs, politicians, border patrols do without jobs. They gotta feed thier dat families and stand in the lime light as the "Good Guys."

  4. I have an idea. Except, it's the polar opposite of Harm Reduction. Step One: Legalize all the drugs. Step Two: Deny any government funded healthcare/welfare services to people using drugs (With the exception of Marijuana, Tobacco Products, Alcohol, or Caffeine). Step Three: Let natural selection run its course.

  5. The main thing that boils my blood is that people are being hurt, killed and severely punished due to a legal technicality. Imagine if legal/illegal drugs were reversed and that smokers and drinkers and it's sellers were being brutally dismembered or put away for 20 years. People would also be justifying that those who smoke/drink alcohol are scum and should be eradicated.

  6. I'm torn between the method Switzerland used because of the financial cost of providing all of the free services to help. Where would all this money come from?

  7. Setting an example based on experiences in Switzerland does not count. Everything is different there. An 8.5 million nation is not comparable to a 330 million one.

  8. America:The war to drugs is a failure.
    China:Well…I don't think so.
    (Chinene goverment has put great efforts to make sure every single one in the country konws the concequences of using drugs, which cut down the need of drugs.

  9. America:The war to drugs is a failure.
    China:Well…I don't think so.
    (Chinene goverment has put great efforts to make sure every single one in the country konws the concequences of using drugs, which cut down the need of drugs.

  10. I agree that the drug war is bad and it has failed but the drug cartels have killed so many people and have ruined many lives in countries like Mexico, that it’d be unacceptable to just legalize drugs and let those murders and rapists walk free and without punishment.

  11. Been contemplating this for a while. In the united states the largest reasons for the significant homicide rate over other developed countries is overwhelmingly our gang problem and our struggle with dealing with mental health issues such as drugs/the deconstruction of male self esteem.

    Ive seen many people argue about the tools of murder without discussing the roots.

    I dont find it unreasonable to try and curtail the problem with aid rather then crackdowns. Im not a fan of anyone having drugs, i find them abhorrent. But anything has to be more successful then what is happening now in my beloved country

  12. So U.S cant stop these drugs illegally coming in their country but can and will stop immigrants and build walls. Nice.

  13. Man, this channel looks at all sorts of things. From wormholes to loneliness to the war on drugs to ants… pretty much any subject under the sun.

  14. As long as people keep fiending the drugs are going to keep comeing. And the United States is one of the biggest fiends.

  15. We are so fckt.
    They control everything you know
    The same way a Zoo is control
    Switzerland is the Best Zoo for Us❤️

  16. Reagan's motivation wasn't intended to cause more problems. But it did put families at risk because they have no ability to get their loved ones into treatment. All they have is hopes and dreams waiting for their son's and daughters to hit rock bottom. Do you really think a drug addict is willingly going to enter a treatment program?

  17. I agree with the logic but I hate the idea of hard working people's tax going into drug addicts who most likely brought it upon themselves. There WILL be lots of people who abuse this system.

  18. Government in future: What about this, "It's free real estate"
    Drug Addict: Yay!
    Drug Addict: I feel lame, I will leave
    Government: Yay, we are big brain

  19. Switzerland is a saving money jar for many powerful people of this world through ages. so you better make a budget to spent some money on free drugs for addictited citizens there than mess and lose quiet'n'safe place for hiding your money

  20. I don’t think harm reduction would work in the USA like it did in Switzerland because of the huge population difference

  21. Love how all the knowledge to begin fixing these issues are at the access of common people yet the government with it’s vast wealth and resources can’t seem to even conceive a solution 🤔🤔🤔

  22. In high school, it was way easier for me to buy drugs (not just weed, more serious stuff) than it was to get alcohol.

  23. So you are saying that a majority of prisoners are African American? They have jobs that pay literal pennies, and they get punished if they don’t respect the people that treat them like animals? Sounds like we’re back in the 1800’s again.

  24. its incredibly far fetched to compare Switzerland and America on the same scale. without advanced public care and experience, the results won't be same. And even if that is possible in America, crime rate and security risks are immense compared to switzerland. While it is ideal to use more humane aproaches to drug prohibition, urging to adopt such policies without any realistic preparations would be irrational.

  25. You can't completely remove something from the world by force that has already grew big,through the support of bad and rich people

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