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War Against Drugs

NCJ Number
Journal of Drug Issues Volume: 12 Issue: 1 Dated: (Winter 1982) Pages: 115-122
T Szasz
Date Published
8 pages
The prohibition of certain drugs and the persecutions of users of these drugs constitutes a type of scapegoating and a use of coercion which is in direct opposition to the concept of individual liberty.
Over the last 20 years State and Federal government officials have made many extreme statements regarding the dangers of certain drugs and the need to wage 'war' against them. However, this war against drugs merely represents a new variation in humanity's longstanding passion to purge itself of its alleged impurities by staging vast dramas of persecutions of scapegoats. Early religious wars like the witch hunts have been followed in more recent years by racial or eugenic wars like Nazism. We are now experiencing a medical war waged against people who used drugs which have been officially defined as dangerous. The officially persecuted drugs, especially heroin, cocaine, and marijuana, have been declared to be 'public enemy number one.' However, culturally accepted drugs, particularly alcohol, tobacco, and mind-altering drugs legitimated as psychotherapeutic, pose a much graver threat and cause much more demonstrable harm than do the prohibited drugs. Although the official position is that dangerous drugs represent an external threat like that of a natural disaster, no one is compelled to use any of these drugs. The so-called drug problem really consists of the problem posed by the drugs' pharmacological properties, by the temptation presented by certain drugs, and by the political and economic issues associated with the prohibition of certain drugs. Drug use and drug laws are part of a power game reflecting the perennial confrontation between authority and autonomy. The choice to side with authority and view drug abusers as helpless individuals or to view people as autonomous individuals capable of responsible choice is ultimately a choice between different moral perspectives. Notes and a list of 10 references are provided.


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