Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Prohibition increases murders while anti-drug ads don't work

Just as the Federal Government is about to launch another shock-horror anti-drug advertising campaign, another study has concluded that such campaigns do no good at all because they trigger a self-defensive coping mechanism in the intended targets. This campaign will target cannabis and ecstasy, the two least harmful illicit drugs, and ice.

Health Minister Nicola Roxon justifies the campaign with panic-inducing cherrypicked statistics about youth drug-taking that ignore the fact that use of these drugs is in significant decline. She highlights the use of drugs by very young teenagers but never mentions that, as this is happening under prohibition, maybe prohibition fails to protect youngsters from drug use because unregulated dealers in the schoolyard don't have to ask for ID.

I found some interesting stats about the effectiveness of prohibition in the form of two graphs covering the last century that show the more governments spend on prohibition, the more murders are committed. If that seems counter-intuitive, just think of Al Capone in the 1920s and bikie gang warfare in more recent times, both made rich by dealing in the banned substance. The graphs are part of an interesting empirical analysis of the self-defeating effects of prohibition from Boston University, well worth a read.

This graphically illustrates how prohibition is more harmful than the drugs it fails to control.

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