Drug Users

Drug users are clearly worse off under prohibition than under legalization. Under prohibition, users have more criminal activity, more health problems and less opportunity to improve their lives.

Drug Users Under Prohibition

Prohibition increases the cost of the drugs made illegal. This causes many addicts, who otherwise could have supported their habit, to rob and steal, or go on welfare, to get enough money.

Under prohibition, users must obtain their drugs from criminals, since organized crime generally ends up distributing illegal substances. Thus, users associate with violent criminals and are more likely to commit crime themselves.

Criminal justice scholars have often noted that there is a psychological barrier to breaking the law. It is much easier for a person to commit a second crime than a first one. Making drug use illegal puts drug users in the position of already having broken a law -- often a law with harsher penalties than violent crimes such as robbery and theft. This makes users more likely to commit other types of crime.

In the black market, there is little recourse for disputes other than violence. If a drug seller commits fraud, or otherwise injures a user, the user's only hope for compensation is violent confrontation. Most "drug murders" are not the result of drug usage, but disputes over drug deals.

Because illegal drugs are sold on the black market, users cannot be sure of what they are actually purchasing. In fact, black market drugs are often tainted ("cut") with other, sometimes harmful, substances. This is the primary reason overdoses are common under prohibition but rare under legalization. Users are more at a health risk because drugs are illegal. Drugs' illegality also tends to make them more concentrated, often a health hazard.

Because drug paraphrenalia is often illegal, intravenous drug users sometimes share needles, leading to increased rates of diseases including AIDS.

Users are also worse off under prohibition because companies cannot perform some drug research, and so are unable to discover less addictive or less harmful alternatives.

Prohibition discourages users from seeking help. If a user seeks medical or other forms of help, he runs the risk of being turned over to the authorities, or of losing access to his drug. Many users are unwilling to face the struggle of overcoming addiction if those barriers remain.

If a drug user does manage to stay out of criminal activity, and avoid health hazards, his life may still be destroyed if his drug usage is found out. Serving even a short prison sentence will disrupt the user's family, make it harder to find a job, and bring the user into contact with the most violent criminals.

Drug Users Under Legalization

Under legalization, the future is much brighter.

Drug users have ready, inexpensive access to their drug, allowing them to support their habit even on a slight income. See, for example, the difference in users who were able to obtain drugs legally through England's Liverpool clinic or through methadone clinics in the U.S.

Under legalization, users buy drugs from stores, never coming into contact with organized crime. Fraud and labeling laws apply, so users can be sure of what they are getting, leading to fewer health problems. Disputes are settled in the courts rather than in the streets.

Drug users will have more choice, and history shows that they will favor less concentrated (usually less harmful) forms of their drug: beer and wine instead of liquor, coca tea instead of powder cocaine.

Drug users who seek help will have no barriers to doing so. There will be no threat of punishment, no penalty for failing.

Drug Users and Society

Prohibitionists rely on demonizing drug users and dealers in order to justify the inhuman treatment proposed for them. In reality, drug users make many useful contributions to society, even when their personal lives falter.

Just a few of the very many drug users who have made large contributions to society:

Of course there are many more, countless examples of people who led productive lives in spite of recreational drug use. With over thirty million users of illegal drugs in the United States alone, it is obvious that drug users are present in every level of society, including doctors and lawyers, teachers and politicians.

As should be apparent from the list above, believing that drugs should be legal is not the same thing as believing that drugs are beneficial. Drugs do destroy many lives. However, prohibition only makes matters worse.

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