With the recent death of Whitney Houston, the public has begun to question the legitimacy of the government’s war on drugs. Although the coroners report has yet to be released, Whitney’s troubled past with drug abuse is still well noted and referenced. Even before Whitney’s death, many people have pushed for a better system to deal with drug trafficking and distribution, and even gone as far as suggesting that illicit drugs be legalized, thinking that the legalization will alleviate the war on drugs.
However, as much as the public and criminal system wants to put an end to drug abuse and drug trafficking in North America, legalizing drugs is not the answer. Shortly after Whitney’s death was announced, recording artist Tony Bennett made this comment, “First it was Michael Jackson, then it was Amy Winehouse, and now, the magnificent Whitney Houston. I'd like to have every gentleman and lady in this room commit themselves to get our government to legalize drugs -- so they'll have to get it through a doctor, not to some gangsters who just sell it under the table. Let's legalize drugs like they did in Amsterdam. No one's hiding or sneaking around corners to get it. They go to a doctor to get it” (William Bennett, 2012).
Ignorance is bliss, is it not? What Mr. Bennett failed to see was that many of these singers and actors were killed from overdosing on prescription and over-the-counter drugs and alcohol poisoning, all of those being legal. In fact, Michael Jackson’s death was caused by his doctor’s own carelessness of mixing various prescription drugs.
“In 2007, there were 28,000 deaths from prescription drug overdoses -- five times the number in 1990… Those deaths were driven largely by the abuse of prescription painkillers… and mortality from the prescription drugs exceeds overdose deaths from cocaine and heroin combined” (White House Targets Painkiller Abuse, 2011, medpage).
These shocking numbers give an insight into how the world of drugs is changing, while Mr. Bennett thought legalizing illicit drugs was the way to combat drug abuse, these stats clearly show that legal drugs are already doing more damage than those that are not legal. If these legal drugs are causing so many fatalities, imagine if current illicit drugs were legalized, it would not only make it easier to abuse and misuse those drugs, but also increase the rate at which they are abused.
In order to combat drug abuse, continued law enforcement, and public education on both illicit and legal drugs is needed (William Bennett, 2012). As hard as it may be to hear these cold hard facts, the reason drugs are illegal is because they are harmful, they can destroy and/or end a person’s life, it is not that they are harmful because they are illegal, they are illegal because they are harmful (William Bennett, 2012)
Mr. Bennett also added in his speech that we should learn from Amsterdam and their approach to drug legalization, however the legalization of drugs in Amsterdam and other European countries did quite the opposite of controlling and reducing drug abuse. In Amsterdam, when they legalized drugs there was “an increase in drug addictions and dependency followed by illegal drug trafficking, human trafficking and crime” (William Bennett, 2012). “Since legalization of marijuana, heroin addiction levels in Holland have tripled and perhaps even quadrupled by some estimates” (United States Drug Enforcement Administration).
It is clear from the experiences of other countries, that by allowing the legalization of drugs, it only makes people perceive that society has accepted the notion of drug abuse, and more or less make it easier for people to use and abuse drugs.
One method that has worked is “Sweden’s zero-tolerance policy is widely supported within the country and among the various political parties. Drug use is relatively low in the Scandinavian countries” (United States Drug Enforcement Administration). It is always best to learn from others, and as the stats show, legalizing drugs is not the way to go, it almost always makes things worse, and pushes a country back further than it was before it legalized drugs.
What we need to take from these countries and from our own experiences is that regardless of whether a drug is legal or not, people will abuse them and misuse them. In order to stop these incidences from happening, stronger regulations for prescription drugs are needed, and increased public education regarding the risks associated with legal and illicit drugs.
Do you have any ideas/opinions on the legalization of illiicit drugs?
What do you think should be done to help combat drug abuse?
1. Bennett, William J. "Legalizing Drugs Won't Prevent Abuse." CNN. Cable News Network, 15 Feb. 2012. Web. 13 Mar. 2012.
2. Fiore, Kristina, and Emily Walker. "White House Targets Painkiller Abuse." MedPage Today. 19 Apr. 2011. Web. 13 Mar. 2012.
3. "Speaking Out Against Drug Legalization, Fact 9." United States Department of Justice. Web. 17 Mar. 2012.
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