Wednesday, August 07, 2013

The circular logic of prohibition

We prohibit a ‘bad’ drug on the rationale that it is dangerous, and then construct social policies that assure high risks related to the drug’s use - William L White
That just about sums up the circular logic of prohibition, as illustrated by the current rash of police warning people not to take illicit drugs because you never know what's in them. If that's the main reason not to take them, prohibition is clearly the problem.

These issues are explored in a book by Bill White, Pathways from the Culture of Addiction to the Culture of Recovery.

The book is summarised nicely by blogger David Clark who lists some of the ways prohibition makes drugs more dangerous and describes this as immoral:
In essence, technology is being withheld in order to keep the risk of prohibited drug use high, in the hope it will deter use. This is morally wrong. The price of this approach is that people contract disease and die not because of the drug, but because of the social policy that prevents society from reducing risks associated with its use.
The irony is - and here we revisit the circular logic of prohibition - that the foundation of prohibition is always a 'moral' one (even if you ignore the religious element in the movement). Writes Clark:
The drug and its users are held responsible for a number of problems in society, and the survival of society can be portrayed as being dependent on prohibition of the drug. The drug, dealers and even users are viewed as ‘evil’, corrupting our young people. Anyone questioning these statements is attacked and sometimes characterised as part of the problem that needs to be eliminated.
This stigma then makes it harder for addicts to recover. This prompts prohibitionists to argue for even more prohibition, and the cycle goes on.

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