Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know

Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know

Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know

Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know


While there have always been norms and customs around the use of drugs, explicit public policies--regulations, taxes, and prohibitions--designed to control drug abuse are a more recent phenomenon. Those policies sometimes have terrible side-effects: most prominently the development of criminal enterprises dealing in forbidden (or untaxed) drugs and the use of the profits of drug-dealing to finance insurgency and terrorism. Neither a drug-free world nor a world of free drugs seems to be on offer, leaving citizens and officials to face the age-old problem: What are we going to do about drugs?

In Drugs and Drug Policy, three noted authorities survey the subject with exceptional clarity, in this addition to the acclaimed series, What Everyone Needs to Know®. They begin, by defining "drugs," examining how they work in the brain, discussing the nature of addiction, and exploring the damage they do to users. The book moves on to policy, answering questions about legalization, the role of criminal prohibitions, and the relative legal tolerance for alcohol and tobacco. The authors then dissect the illicit trade, from street dealers to the flow of money to the effect of catching kingpins, and show the precise nature of the relationship between drugs and crime. They examine treatment, both its effectiveness and the role of public policy, and discuss the beneficial effects of some abusable substances. Finally they move outward to look at the role of drugs in our foreign policy, their relationship to terrorism, and the ugly politics that surround the issue.

Crisp, clear, and comprehensive, this is a handy and up-to-date overview of one of the most pressing topics in today's world.


The devastation wrought by drugs and drug dealing is familiar from the daily news and carefully documented in academic journals. Illegal drugs get the most attention. A quarter of 14- to 15-year-olds in the United States have already tried an illegal drug. Injection drug use fuels epidemics of HIV and hepatitis. Half a million people are behind bars for dealing. Dependent users commit enormous amounts of crime under the influence or to finance drug purchases, while dealers’ violence strikes innocent bystanders and devastates neighborhoods. International drug trafficking supports corruption, insurgency, and terrorism.

But the problem is not only with illegal drugs. As much as half of all criminal violence and automobile fatalities are caused by drunkenness. When we read that one in twelve adults suffers from a substance abuse disorder or that 8 million children are living with an addicted parent, it is important to remember that alcohol abuse drives those numbers to a much greater extent than does dependence on illegal drugs. And cigarette smoking kills more people than alcohol and all the illegal drugs . . .

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