What are the differences in the behavior of drug users in the Netherlands and drug users in the US?

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The Netherlands and the United States provide an interesting case study with regard to behavioral drug use. The United States has some of the strictest laws regarding drug use, while the Netherlands have some of the most lenient. The United States has championed supply-side policy, which aims to curtail drug usage through law enforcement involvement, interdiction, and eradication. Essentially, the United States employs harsh punishments combined with a strangling the supply of drugs to drive up prices and create a barrier to usage.

Economists believe that there is ample evidence that the demand for drugs is inelastic, which means supply-side policies do not have a material effect on drug use behavior.

On the other hand, the Netherlands have worked to destigmatize drug use by making access to treatment centers easy and cost-effective.

A study titled “Dutch Drug Policy: A Model for America?” written by Dr. David F. Duncan and Dr. Thomas Nicholson evaluated these policies and came away with three major conclusions. First, alternatives to extreme drug policy yield positive results, and a libertarian approach can help rehabilitate drug users. Second, the libertarian approach does not necessarily lead to increased drug use. Finally, the libertarian approach has drastically reduced the spread of AIDS through contaminated needles.

Another study titled “Cross-national comparison of adolescent drinking and cannabis use in the United States, Canada, and the Netherlands” examined the drug use rates among 10th graders. This study contends that stricter laws related to alcohol have led to lower drinking rates among Americans versus Dutch citizens. However, marijuana use remains fairly consistent between the two nations, which infers that stricter marijuana policy has no material impact on lowering the rate of marijuana use.

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