Taking Charge of Your Health

Over 40 years ago,
US President Richard Nixon declared drug abuse
public enemy number one, starting an unprecedented global campaign,
the War on Drugs. Today, the numbers are in. The War on Drugs is a huge failure,
with devastating unintended consequences. It led to mass incarceration in the US; to corruption, political destabilization,
and violence in Latin America, Asia, and Africa; to systemic human rights
abuses across the world. It negatively affected the
lives of millions of people. All of this while we waste
billions of dollars every year only to create and fuel
powerful drug cartels while the goal of the War on Drugs
seems less achievable than ever: a world without drugs. How could this happen? The core strategy of the War on Drugs is
“no drugs, no problems”. So almost all of the efforts
in the last few decades have been focused on eradicating
the supply of drugs and incarcerating drug traffickers. But this ignores the most
fundamental of market forces, supply and demand. If you reduce the supply of anything
without reducing the demand first, its price goes up. This might lower sales for many products,
but not for drugs. The drugs market is not price-sensitive. Drugs will be consumed
no matter what they cost. So the effect is to encourage
production of more drugs and recruitment of more traffickers,
which increases availability. This is also known as the balloon effect:
even if drug production or a major supply route is destroyed, the
supply for the end user is not reduced. A perfect example of this is crystal meth. The US Government tried
to stop its production by strictly regulating the sale of
chemicals used to manufacture the drug. This forced big meth producers
out of business, but the unintended consequences were that
thousands of small-scale operations started all over the country, mostly
in small towns and rural communities, using chemicals that weren’t regulated. In response to this, some US states wanted
to reduce the supply of home-grown meth by regulating even more chemicals, which reduced small-scale
meth production drastically. But the supply of
meth still stayed the same. Mexican drug cartels immediately took over
and opened big production operations. Their meth was even better
than it was before, and they had lots of
experience in smuggling. So all these efforts made meth
production more professional, the drug more potent, while
supply wasn’t reduced at all. You can’t win this war on the supply side. Not only are drugs widely available,
demand unbroken, and some drugs purer than in the past,
with a budget of around $30 billion, the US Drug Enforcement Agency has
an efficiency rate of less than 1% when it comes to stopping
the flow of drugs into the US and inside the US. For many minors around the world, it’s
as easy to get illegal drugs as alcohol. But it doesn’t stop here. Prohibition may prevent a certain
amount of people from taking drugs, but in the process it causes huge
damage to society as a whole. Many of the problems we
associate with drug use are actually caused by
the war against them. For example, prohibition
makes drugs stronger. The more potent drugs you can store
in as little space as possible, the more profit you’ll make. It was the same during
alcohol prohibition, which led to an increased consumption
of strong liquor over beer. The prohibition of drugs also led to more
violence and murders around the world. Gangs and cartels have no access to
the legal system to settle disputes, so they use violence. This led to an ever-increasing
spiral of brutality. According to some estimates,
the homicide rate in the US is 25–75% higher because of
the War on Drugs. And in Mexico, the country
on the frontline, an estimated 164,000 have been
murdered between 2007 and 2014, more people than in the war zones
of Afghanistan and Iraq in the same period, combined. But where the War on Drugs might do
the most damage to society is the incarceration of
non-violent drug offenders. For example, the United States, one of the driving forces
of the War on Drugs, has 5% of the world’s total population,
but 25% of the world’s prison population, largely due to the harsh
punishments and mandatory minimums. Minorities suffer
because of this especially. African Americans make up
40% of all US prison inmates. And while white kids are
more likely to abuse drugs, black kids are 10 times more likely
to get arrested for drug offenses. OK, but is there actually
something different we could do? Is there a way out of this mess? In the 1980s, Switzerland experienced a public health crisis
related to heroin use. HIV rates skyrocketed and
street crime became a problem. Swiss authorities tried a new strategy:
harm reduction. They opened free
heroin maintenance centers, where addicts would
be treated and stabilized. Here, people would be given
free heroin of high quality, they would get clean needles
and have access to safe injection rooms, showers, beds, and medical supervision. Social workers help them find housing and
deal with other problems in their lives. The results were a sharp drop in
drug-related crime and two thirds of the people in the
centers got regular jobs, because now they could
focus on getting better insetad of financing their addiction. Today, over 70% of all heroin addicts
in Switzerland receive treatment. HIV infections have dropped drastically. Deaths from heroin overdoses
have dropped by 50%. And drug-related street sex work and crime
has been reduced enormously. So there are methods that are
not only way cheaper, but also actually work, instead of
creating more problems. Drug prohibition led to a system
that bulldozes human rights, costs vasts sums of money, and
creates a lot of human misery, all in pursuit of an unobtainable goal. After 40 years of fighting, it’s time
to finally end the War on Drugs and move on to something better. This video was supported by
the Open Society Foundations and by viewer donations on Patreon. If you want to learn more about
how you can influence drug policy, check out the Stop the Harm campaign. We finally have some merchandise! If you want your own
Kurzgesagt poster, T-shirt, mug, or stickers of little monsters, you can get them now at the DFTBA store! Subtitles by the community

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