The war on drugs may be a trillion-dollar failure. But putting an end to the war is an extraordinarily complex issue because there still isn’t a single definitive way to solve the drug problem.
Five Nobel-Prize winning economists got together to produced the influential “Ending the Drug Wars” report. Published in 2014, the report argues that it’s time to end the ‘war on drugs’ and redirect resources towards effective evidence-based policies underpinned by rigorous economic analysis. While it does call for an end to the “war,” the report does not call for legalization of all drugs — instead the authors ask for “rigorously monitored” experiments with legalization with a focus on public health and a minimization of the illegal drug trade as keys to solving the problem.
The just-say-no/tough-on-crime era that epitomized the anti-drug hysteria of the 1980s and 1990s saw the prison population balloon by roughly 800 percent since 1980, to 2.4 million people, with U.S. incarceration costs estimated at $80 billion annually.
Meanwhile, despite best efforts to fight the opioid epidemic, deaths from drug overdoses increased exponentially between 2002-2014. Now at an all-time high, deaths from overdoses are the leading cause of unintentional death for Americans, rising 14% from 2013 to 2014.
Since 2000, opioid drug overdose deaths rose 200%. Nearly half a million lives have been lost to opioid drug overdoses since then.