More Undoing: A Beneficial Drug Policy

We are more alike than we are different.  Most of us agree, it would be good to restore order in conflicted areas, bankrupt criminals, and protect children.  Right now, evidence demonstrates that our current drug policy does the exact opposite.  It creates chaos, puts kids at risk, and makes criminals rich while it gives them power.

Just as Michael Lewis demonstrated in “The Undoing Project”, traditional ways that we thought were helping us make progress were actually ineffective.  In other words,  why gut instincts are often wrong.  Throughout the book, he explains how Kahneman and Tversky showed us how our mind plays tricks on us causing what they called mental illusions.  I explain more in this post: Mental Illusions Impact Our World.

The most recent mental illusion I learned about relates to our drug policy.  I have been taught that we must prohibit drugs and keep them away because if we take them, we become chemically addicted.  Evidence now demonstrates this is not the whole story and this incomplete belief has created a policy that is problematic.  Rather than our current policy of prohibition, a better drug policy could make it possible to benefit everyone and everything.  Prohibition didn’t work with alcohol and it helped establish the mafia, our current drug policy is doing more of the same – around the world.

In a powerful book, Chasing the Scream: The first and last days of the war on drugs, by Johann Hari, he provides a very persuasive explanation of current problems and what could be a better way.  He explains problems caused by our current “war on drugs” and how we can do more good with a better drug policy. He convinced me legalization is the right policy for many reasons. He also provides evidence that creating more good is more effective than working to eliminate bad.  He also demonstrates how our current policy not only maintains the status quo but actually creates conditions to make it worse while it empowers criminals.  The current policy accomplishes the opposite of paneugenesis. Rather than creating interactions so everyone and everything benefits, current efforts are creating interactions so everyone and everything loses.

In one example, he says drugs should be legalized because they are potentially dangerous.  At first I was confused, however he explains, the mafia does not card or check ID.  Drug dealers also do not check for or make sure what they are providing is pure.  In most cases, the drugs they sell are laced with fillers so they can sell more and these fillers are quite harmful.

Therefore, if drugs and regulations are in place, drugs will mostly be sold by regulated agencies and to people of age.  Also when they are sold, communities will collect tax revenue that can be earmarked to treat problems that may arise.

He explains how countries with other laws make it possible to for people to get drugs but also work to give them a better life through treatment and jobs.  In this way, those that do have a problem with drugs are not criminalized, victimized, and ostracized which makes it difficult to rebuild their life, they are helped.  He suggests drug users are not criminals, but broken people that need help.  If drug users are helped, then they can still work while making efforts to correct their problem.  This then eliminates their need commit a crime to get a fix.  Evidence from multiple countries demonstrates this works.  As they explain in Switzerland, this policy does not cost taxpayers, compared to using prohibition, it creates a positive return.

In a telling sentence, he explains, the opposite of addiction isn’t sobriety, but connection.  We must create good and meaningful or better experiences and doing so will eliminate or make unnecessary the bad.

In other words, this is another example of the green grass theory.  That is do all we can to grow more blades of grass to create a lush green lawn.  Doing this will direct our efforts towards our goal, a lush green lawn, and also make it difficult for weeds to grow. Working to grow blades of grass gives them a better chance to grow and makes it difficult for weeds to flourish.  In a similar way, creating a life with meaning, work and connections with people pushes out the need for drugs and as he shows with extensive real-life experiments around the world, it works.  When people have a reason to live, the drug habit fades away.

I previously posted about Johann Hari and his tremendous TED talk in: Purpose & Connection are Vital. Below is a short interview he had with Bill Maher I thought you might find interesting.

I encourage you to read this powerful book, it is very enlightening.  When you read it, please share your thoughts about the how you will work to generate comprehensive improvements by creating interactions so everyone and everything benefits.

Additionally…

Another huge problem resulting from the war on drugs was how it has been a way to incarcerate blacks and latino’s at higher rates.  Is it legalized slavery?  I am still learning more about this, however if you are interested, the Netflix documentary 13th explains this well (see trailer below).  Please share your thoughts.

Choose to Be Well’r,
Craig Becker

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