The Drug War is not winnable, because its leaders attempt to ignore the inescapable facts of supply and demand. There is demand for drugs, legal or not. Making them illegal merely creates a black market, which increases crime. The answer is to remove drug laws, but that's only a partial answer. The next part is education. Raising people's awareness as to what drugs can do is critical. Drug problems should be treated as medical problems, not criminal ones. Certainly children should be shielded from indiscriminate drug use, but that's the job of parents, not governments.
Before the "Food and Drug Act" passed in 1906 in the United States anyone of age could walk into a drugstore and get whatever they required, including cocaine, without a doctor's note. The discussion occured between the consumer and pharmacist, who could advise about the pros and cons of particular drugs.
The United States engaged in the horrible "social experiment" of prohibition in the 1920's. We should have learned our lesson then.
Is there a correlation between repressive drug laws and widespread drug abuse? Conversely, where there are no drug laws, are there few drug abuses?
The U.S. War On Drugs has been a massive failure across the board; there is no real regulation of street drugs, and almost no way to really stop the suppliers. Remember also that Prohibition was intended to remove the horror of Alcohol from our streets, ushering in the largest organized crime era in our history. To properly combat illegal drugs, we need to cut off the sources and make it unprofitable to sell them here. This would be an undertaking larger than Prohibition, the War On Drugs, and the War On Poverty combined, and so I do not see it happening in the current political climate.
I think the previous post hit the nail on the head when she mentioned the escalation of extreme violence with the drug trade. Murder and death are commonplace with drug trafficking these days, and decriminalization may be one way to affect a change in this matter. Many countries that have legalized drugs to some degree (such as Holland and the Scandinavian nations) have little problem with violent crimes, nor have their populations been reduced to brain-dead ne'er-do-wells.
#8 makes a good point. Drugs of various sorts have been around as long as there have been people looking for ways to relieve pain or boredom. There is ample evidence that the ancient civilizations in Central and South America used cacao pulp to make fermented beverages as well as in combination with various spices. (I would suggest that dark chocolate as a potential legal drug of the future?!) The frightening new aspect is the enormous escalation of violence connected with the transportation and sale of drugs.
No one seems to have mentioned all the problems associated with drug wars. This is a real problem. The problem is so bad in places like Mexico that life has become so cheap. All for the sake of drugs. The police at times are even scared to tackle the problem of drug lords and the casualties are great. Even recently a piles of dead bodies was place in the middle of the street in a Mexico City to send a message of who is really in control. The governments of the world need to collaborate to make any strides on this level.
I tend to agree with the above posts that drugs are not a new thing in any society; only the type of drug used and the effects of its use have changed. The most commonly used drug today is tobacco, although many would prefer to think of it otherwise. Alcohol also is something of a drug, in that it tends to modify ones perception of reality when taken in sufficient amounts. The major change one sees today is the intensity of effect produced by "recreational" drugs; as well as the increased frequency of their use. Call me a cynic, but my belief is that one day, these "stylish" drugs will lose their allure; but when this happens they will be replaced by newer more fashionable means of altering ones perception. LSD only came about in the last 50 years; and crack cocaine even sooner. Sadly, as long as society demands these things, someone will find a means to produce them.
I think a more modern look at drug use (or abuse) would be to shift the focus from illegal drug use and on to the abuse of prescription drugs. Though this isn't a completely new idea, it is definitely one that would be unique to society in the past 100-500 years. Consider, first, the ease with which people can even obtain a prescription for almost anything. Consider how quickly parents (and doctors) seek to medicate children who's behavior seems unfit for traditional classroom learning. Consider the Internet's involvement in making prescription drugs available for people without prescriptions.
I think if I was writing a paper or leading a discussion in "modern drug use," I'd focus on the abuse of technically legal drugs.
We must remember that it is only recently that drug use has come to be seen as something really terrible. For example, Sherlock Holmes is portrayed using cocaine as a way to stimulate his thinking. It was only as the use of drugs became something that was done by the masses that we came to worry about it a lot more. Our desire to get rid of drugs has also been driven by our impulse to try to perfect society. We think that we can prevent people from doing harm to themselves (drugs, tobacco, alcohol) even though it seems that human nature is not consistent with this goal.
There was a very interesting article in a recent issue of The New Yorker about Portugal's decriminalization of drugs. In addition to a discussion of Portugal, the writer contrasts how drugs are viewed in American society, posing the question of whether decriminalization packaged with help and treatment is a better approach. The author points out that historically, our attitude toward drug use has become judgemental only when drugs are used by people considered lower class, and in fact, our laws, until quite recently, reflected that with a much higher penalty for the use of crack than for the use of cocaine, both being essentially the same substance, with the latter being used by wealthier people. Here is a link to the abstract:
Society seems to have always had problems with drugs. As society changes, the popularity of the drug of choice changes.
No longer are drugs only the choice of the lost and forgotten, drugs have a "place" in every SES and race.
The problem with drugs today is the fact that those who the youth look up to (the professional athletes, actors/actresses, singers, etc.) are more commonly being caught with drugs. Most youth today do not see a problem with doing drugs, or trying drugs, if their favorite singer or actor is doing them.
Too many television shows seem to popularize drug use as well. This, again, could make youth believe that drug use is okay.