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It will entail some unsettling policy and political tradeoffs. We will have to accept certain policies and law enforcement strategies that foster considerably less harm, but at the cost of giving a wink and a nod to certain illegal behavior. Despite tens of billions of dollars spent on interdicting drugs from abroad, the supply of drugs has remained steady. The plummeting street price of many illegal drugs over the last few decades is compelling evidence that interdiction has not done much to stem supply.
Drug overdoses have increased almost six-fold in the last thirty years.
They are now the leading cause of accidental death in the United Sates, having surpassed motor vehicle accidents for the first time in Portugal regulates drugs today much like how alcohol was regulated during Prohibition in the United States. Since , possession of any drugs for personal use has not been a crime in Portugal but selling drugs can still land you in prison.
But one has to be clear-eyed that decriminalization rests on accepting an uncomfortable legal inconsistency. As a consequence, coffee-shop cannabis costs about what illicit cannabis costs elsewhere in Europe and the United States and is not aggressively marketed. This has probably helped to contain cannabis consumption and abuse. If the United States were to widely legalize or decriminalize drugs, consumption of and dependence on drugs would likely increase—at least for a time—while the price and social stigma would decrease.
Advocates of legalization argue that tight regulation of drugs through government monopolies, perhaps modeled after the state liquor stores, and high taxes on drugs would offset some of this increase. That was the hope when the manufacture and sale of alcohol became legal with the end of Prohibition. But the alcohol example is a sobering one.
Taxes on alcohol have plummeted in the decades since Prohibition ended in the s and now are much lower than in most European countries.
Eight Questions for Drug Policy Research | Issues in Science and Technology
State liquor stores lost out to private ones as a powerful and well-connected liquor industry asserted itself. The authors dismiss claims that shifting resources from law enforcement to prevention programs would stem the expected increase in drug consumption and abuse that would come with legalization or decriminalization.
Prevention sounds nice in theory, but the reality is that even the top school-based prevention programs have only a limited impact on substance abuse.
These programs are not able to tackle the proven risk factors for substance abuse—a single-parent family, a parent or sibling who is a substance abuser, and socializing with peers who use drugs. As for the projected fiscal benefits of legalization or de-criminalization, they have been vastly overstated. Legalizing marijuana could provide a tax windfall for some cash-strapped states, but perhaps at the cost of empowering a powerful commercial marijuana industry bent on increasing consumption through Madison Avenue-style marketing campaigns.
One alternative is to permit users to grow their own marijuana and to form small consumer-oriented co-ops. But that likely means sacrificing those projected billions in marijuana tax revenues. Kleiman, Caulkins, and Hawken challenge the conventional wisdom on other fronts. In their view, drug courts are no panacea for the drug problem, despite all the recent hype about them. As for treatment, most people with a substance abuse problem recover fairly rapidly—actually over a period of months or years, not decades—and without intensive professional intervention.
Small doses of warning and encouragement from relatives, friends, and family doctors can go a long way toward helping to bring a drug or alcohol habit under control. Wading into the messy policy swamp that lies beyond slogans for decriminalization or legalization, Kleiman, Caulkins, and Hawken make a number of sensible policy recommendations for winding down the war on drugs. But didn't Holland legalize cannabis? What's the difference between " or How much of the increase in consumption after legalization would reflect increased problem use rather than increased casual and beneficial use?
Can't the effects of marketing be reined in by regulations and taxes? What about legal availability without free trade? Couldn't that work? Couldn't you just let users go to physicians for their recreational drugs, and make it the doctor's business to try to prevent the development of problem use patterns? But isn't it impossible to make someone better off by coercing behavioral change?
If people want drugs, doesn't depriving them of drugs make them worse off by definition? If someone chooses to harm himself with a drug, why is that any of anyone else's business?
Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know
But wouldn't any increase in addiction to newly-legalized drugs be matched by a decrease in alcohol abuse? Isn't everyone with an addictive personality already addicted to something? Should we go back to Prohibition, then? Or legalize the other drugs? Does that mean that we're stuck with our current alcohol problem? Are higher taxes the only practical route to a smaller alcohol problem? If not alcohol, should we prohibit tobacco? How is drug enforcement unlike enforcement against other crimes?
Why are illegal drugs so expensive? Does enforcing prohibition more aggressively drive up prices still higher? Do high prices discourage drug use? Or will addicts always get their high? Are Higher Prices Good or Bad? Does reduced availability discourage drug use?
Does catching drug kingpins make drugs less available? What are precursor chemicals and precursor controls, and how do they affect the price of drugs? What is money laundering and can we stop the flow of drug money? Why have crack dealers been punished more harshly than powder-cocaine dealers? What is the difference between flagrant and discreet drug selling, and why does it matter?
Does the existence of flagrant selling prove the police are corrupt? Can street drug markets be broken up? What are Designer Drugs? How does the internet complicate drug control? Should the police be able to confiscate drug dealers' assets? What are risk factors for drug use? Protective factors? Do drug Can we persuade children not to use drugs?
Why do high expectations for prevention persist? Can we design prevention specifically to address the next drug epidemic?
- Rethinking the War on Drugs.
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