It has been proven for over 100 years that the war on drugs has not reduced addictive use. In part, this is because it does not emphasize what makes an addict “become” an addict.

What has made the war on drugs fail? Let’s see.

Why isn’t the war on drugs working?

Even if certain substances are banned, consumption continues, and it does so in high-risk situations. The war on drugs, as its name indicates, leaves aside the figure of the user as a person with an addiction or health problem, emphasizing the substance as an active agent.

In reality, the leading role in addiction is embodied by the person, not the substance; a person, with certain characteristics and predispositions, both physical and psychological, who develops in a family and social context that, for different circumstances, promotes, allows or does not limit the consumption of substances .

Beyond the high addictive power of some substances, it is not the drug that generates addiction. This allows us to understand why there are also addictions that do not refer to chemical substances, but to activities or people, as for example, in the case of pathological gambling, as complex and problematic as any addiction; furthermore there may be addictive behaviour linked to shopping, food, work , technology, a relationship, etc.

The war on drugs does not diminish violence

The war on drugs does not put an end to the violence surrounding drug trafficking . In fact, it continues to produce violence, deaths and murders. These are often in the hands of the security forces, as small-scale traffickers are killed, rather than being properly arrested as a result of their criminal act. In addition, there is a high mortality rate among criminal gangs, who murder each other in pursuit of power and control of the drug market.

A clear example that this war has not brought the expected effects is the dry law and the consequent prohibition of the production, distribution and marketing of alcoholic beverages. As an effect, far from promoting health or decreasing the morbidity and mortality rates linked to alcohol consumption, there were deaths caused either by the ingestion of adulterated alcohol or by murders of criminal gangs fighting to manage the clandestine market of alcohol.

The effects of the ban

Another side of the war on drugs refers to terms such as criminalization versus decriminalization, prohibition versus legalization.Criminalizing substance use implies that the user is conceptualized as a person who commits a crime .

In Argentina, this is established by the narcotics law n°23,737 approved in 1989 and in force today. Possession for personal consumption is punished in an attenuated manner from one month to years in prison, with the possibility that the process be left in suspension by the judge and that the consumer be subjected to a curative or educational security measure for the time necessary for detoxification and rehabilitation. Rehabilitation is thus considered to be an accessory to the penalty.

However, the Supreme Court of Justice declared the penalization of possession for personal use unconstitutional (Arriola ruling), but the law has not yet been modified and criminal proceedings against those found to be in possession of drugs, albeit small quantities, continue.

The need to understand the context of consumption

If we consider that the addict is not a delinquent, but a person with a health problem, we will know that it is not in prison where he will be rehabilitated .

Although there are addicted persons who commit crimes, they should in any case be punished for the crime committed and not for the consumption itself.

It is in function of this conception that aims at the decriminalization and decriminalization of the users; thinking of the penalization only for those who commercialize the drug. In any case, it is important to point out that this brings with it that the consumer has to get the drugs from traffickers, which continues to imply risk and illegality.

If the debate revolves around the prohibition or legalization of substances and the elimination of drug traffickers in any way, there is a shift in the focus of analysis toward substances, leaving aside the unique relationship of a consumer with the substances he or she consumes. In this way, the emergence of questions that make one wonder about consumption and symptomize it, a necessary condition for the initiation of treatment, could be hindered.

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